Very few things in life are as satisfying as popping open a can of ice-cold fizz on a hot day. Until recently, if you wanted that can to contain any alcohol, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything but beer or some super-sweet hard lemonades. But that was then. Now there are plenty of seltzers, hard teas and even hard kombuchas to choose from, packaged in artful cans that are just popping off the shelves. They are big on flavour, but often easier on the calories. Here, we present seven tasty and refreshing alternatives to try this summer.


Hard (Or Spiked) Seltzer

This fizzy drink has taken the US market by storm, and the rest of the world is following suit. It’s basically flavoured carbonated water with alcohol, popular with health-conscious Gen Z’ers, but there’s a wide variety in quality. Often, hard seltzers have an alcohol base of fermented cane sugar, but they can also be made with other grains, resulting in different flavour profiles. There are hundreds of brands to choose from: we like CACTI, a 100% Mexican agave hard seltzer; PRESS, a brand producing a blood orange seltzer with chilli; and Ficks, a Californian ‘craft’ seltzer company using a fermented orange juice base instead of malt liquor.

Hard Lemonade

Mike’s Hard Lemonade has been around for over 20 years, and even this established brand has recently jumped on the ‘healthier’ seltzer bandwagon with their ‘Lemon Life’. If you find the hard seltzer flavour underwhelming, but don’t want a sweetness overload either, seek out interesting crossovers that pack more flavour but go easy on the sugar. Austin, Texas-based Luck Spring’s Hard Lemonade weighs in at just 100 calories, without any artificial ingredients. Fifty West offers a hard lemonade that is brewed like a sweeter hard seltzer with Meyer lemons and natural flavours. Floyds Spiked Lemonade promises a clean and crisp taste, nothing overly sweet.

(Sparkling) Hard Tea

Another booming segment of the FMB (Flavoured Malt Beverage) category is hard teas, perfect warm-weather thirst quenchers with a nice boozy kick. Instead of sugar bombs that don’t even taste much like tea at all, interesting infusions are popping up across the board. Wild Leaf Craft Hard Tea is brewed with tea leaves grown in the rainforest, available as Black Tea with Lemon & Honeysuckle and Green Tea with Apple & Honey. Loverboy is a zero-sugar tea blended with botanicals and juices, sweetened with monk fruit. Their White Tea Peach flavour is ‘kissed with lavender’. And of course, someone has already come up with a matcha variety: the Boozy Tea with pineapple and chamomile, by Owl’s Brew.

Spiked Coconut Water

 Your favourite third-quencher reimagined: spiked coconut water is refreshing with an alcoholic twist. According to the founders of Osena, their Spiked Coconut Water promises “the same benefits of its hard seltzer counterparts, but also promotes the added benefits of electrolytes due to its coconut water base.” Pakkā Hard Coconut Water contains four ingredients: water, alcohol from cane sugar, coconut and sea salt, and is just 5.5% alcohol by volume and full of flavour. To add to the tropical feel, Mighty also offers pineapple-flavoured hard coconut water. [Photo left: Elizabeth Malazita]

Hard Kombucha

You take brewed tea, sugar and SCOBY (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), and the result is kombucha – a fizzy drink with a tangy taste. As with all yeast fermentation processes, some alcohol is produced, around 0.5% to 2% alcohol for many types of ‘booch’. Hard kombucha is made with the same ingredients, but with different amounts of sugar, different yeasts and a different length of fermentation. More fermentation rounds (with more added sugars and yeasts) result in an alcohol content that is comparable to beer. It’s low in sugar, with a crisp flavour. StraingeBeast presents four ‘beasts’, bursting with organic fruits, spices and herbs, while Bootleg Booch offers two flavours, pink apple and ginger. JuneShine has a range of four flavours, including ‘The Midnight Painkiller’, a dark twist on the classic painkiller tiki cocktail featuring activated charcoal.

Sparkling Wine (Spritzers)

Don’t write off wine in a can! Those sparkling wine bottles can get extremely heavy, and what if you’re the only non-beer drinker in your group? Right… either go for the bottle solo, or stick a few of these cans in the cooler. Expand your mind a little with fun wine spritzers, too. Oregon-based Union Wine Co. offers great rosé bubbles, but also a wild Riesling Radler, with Oregon Riesling, hops and grapefruit. Urban winery The Infinite Monkey Theorem sells a carbonated Riesling, as well as a rosé, but also has a Peach Bellini with Palisade peach juice. Pampelonne (“The best drink you never knew you wanted.”) blends French rosé in wine cocktails such as the Blood Orange Spritz.

Craft Cider

 A couple of years ago, craft cider (aka ‘hard cider’) was touted as the next big thing in drinks, but it never really gained mass appeal. However if you’ve never tried craft cider – made in small batches from freshly pressed apples – you really should. It’s complex, slightly bubbly, and not overly sweet. Or, in the words of Pat Knittel, one of the four craft cider producers featured in this story: “One can find so many more interesting, subtle and delicious expressions of the apple from a small producer making cider from real fruit and not concentrate.”

[Opener photo: Jules Davies/Underwood (Union Wine Co.), Teaser photo: The Infinite Monkey Theorem]

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