On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe debate what “the drink” of this summer might be. Warmer weather means brighter flavors — as seen with popular RTDs and cocktails that took the market by storm last year. Do current trends suggest that we will see the rise of bolder, more flavorful sips?
For this Friday’s tasting, your hosts try classic flavors from High Noon’s variety pack: Pineapple, Grapefruit, Black Cherry, and Watermelon. Could this hard seltzer be “the drink” for summer 2022? Tune in to learn more.
Or Check Out the Conversation Here
Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe
A: And this is the Friday “VinePair Podcast.” We’re talking summer drinks — or the drink of the summer. So here’s the interesting thing. We put a poll out to the staff on Slack asking what they thought their drink of the summer would be. Choices ranged from hard seltzer and specific brands of hard seltzer — we’ll get to that in a minute — to the Aperol Spritz and the Espresso Martini. That was actually the drink of the summer last summer, which is crazy.
A: Hard Mountain Dew, yes.
Z: I think we all ruled that one out a couple of weeks ago.
A: The frozen Grasshopper, which Tim is a big proponent of. And then also canned wine. Canned wine actually got the most votes among the staff, which I thought was really interesting. People think that it’s going to become even more prevalent than it already is. The New York Times also, which I think is such f*cking bullsh*t because they never are right on any of their predictions, they think it’s going to be the Spiked Shirley.
J: Dirty Shirley?
A: The other Dirty Shirley. I just think that’s dumb.
J: They’re trying to be hip.
A: I’m not going to drink a spiked Shirley Temple, I’m not doing it. I’m not drinking Sprite, grenadine and vodka. If you do, I’m gonna look at you and be like, “Oh, hi. How are you?”
Z: Was The New York Times looking for the drink of summer for 17-year-olds? I’m confused.
A: They’re acting like, “Oh, it’s all the rage in New York.” I’ve not seen it once, to be clear. Not once. I think the person who runs the Dining section of The New York Times doesn’t like alcohol. The pitches they accept are just like, “Really? Who convinced you of this?” Anyways.
J: Wait for our Dirty Shirley feature on VinePair. It’s coming.
A: Adam was wrong. But anyway, I’m curious about this. Because every summer has a summer song, has a destination, and it definitely has a drink. What drink do you both think will be the drink of the summer?
J: I’m sorry, do you mean like a cocktail or a specific drink?
A: The drink everyone’s talking about. You see it everywhere. Four or five years ago, it was the Aperol Spritz. It was on all these menus. Everyone was ordering it. It kind of just came out of the blue and happened. A little bit before that, it was rosé. Everyone’s drinking rosé. It was all about summer. The summer of rosé, everyone said. After the Aperol Spritz, it was White Claw, then it was Covid. Then Covid was the drink of two summers. And then last summer, as we came out of Covid, you had the Espresso Martini, which really saw its explosion in summer and then really catapulted throughout this entire year. But I think what’s interesting, it can be anything, right? The drink of the summer really tends to go across all areas of alcohol. Sometimes it’s a spirit. It’s always a cocktail. I don’t think you can say it’s tequila during the summer. Just a bunch of people shooting tequila this summer. But it could be a tequila-based cocktail. Often, it’s also a cocktail, besides the Aperol Spritz, that can have multiple different base liquids in it. As we’ve learned from the “Cocktail College” Espresso Martini episode, not everyone uses vodka as their base. Some people use tequila. I feel like that’s the move among Gen Z. Other people use Cognac, amaro, etc. It’s a cocktail in name and somewhat in flavor profile, but there are a lot of different variations of it. It can be wine, it could be a beer, it could be one brand. Zach throwing out White Claw is very true. It wasn’t hard seltzer. It was White Claw that summer. Everyone was drinking White Claw, and there weren’t any laws. I think it’s interesting and I’m curious, as we’re moving into mid-May, if either of you might have a prediction.
J: Well, I have a few thoughts. I think we’ve seen this thing with the Martini coming back, but it can’t possibly be a summer drink. That is just ludicrous for a Martini to be a summer drink. It’s just like gaining popularity.
A: I 100 percent agree.
J: It’s everywhere. And variations on a Martini are everywhere. I was one of the people who said canned wine would be the drink of the summer just because, after the past few years, the convenience and the portability of it when everyone’s out will be very good. But I also think that tequila-based seltzer drinks will be very popular.
A: Interesting. So you think it’s tequila-based seltzer?
J: I do. I mean, we’ve seen this explosion in tequila. People love it. Young people love it. And I feel like the young people are the ones who are really deciding.
A: Do you think there’s one brand yet?
J: I don’t know. I can’t think of many more than Onda.
A: There are Two Chicks, which I know have a tequila-based seltzer. I don’t know if they only have tequila-based, I think they might also have vodka. But I’ve definitely seen that they are tequila-based. The only one that I really know is Onda.
J: I don’t know. They’re good.
A: Does Onda have the distribution yet? I think what allowed for White Claw was that it was everywhere. It was ready to go. It was just so easy to find that when all the memes started happening and the comedy posts and everyone screaming “Ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws,” everyone was able to grab it. I think that was also the beauty of the Aperol Spritz. It was already there and ready to go. So it wasn’t the bars having to say, “Oh shit, now I have to find this.” That’s why I’m not going to say it’s going to be a specific brand yet because I haven’t seen one tequila-based hard seltzer that we’re really getting pitched a lot.
J: True, but I feel like a lot of the big brands are launching them.
A: True. So maybe it’s Ranch Water.
J: That makes a ton of sense, yep.
Z: So my prediction is in this vein, but it’s also maybe a little bit more specific because it’s a specific flavor of this kind of drink. I think this is going to be the summer of watermelon and tequila. I think that’s either a watermelon Margarita or a lot of these tequila-based seltzers that are watermelon flavored. We talked a lot about fruit and it possibly being a big thing in the summer of 2020 and drinks. I think we talked a lot about blackberry in particular, and that kind of didn’t really happen for a variety of reasons. Obviously, predicting what was going to happen in 2020 was a fool’s errand in a lot of ways. If you think about the combination of flavor trajectories we’re on right now, where you see a lot of interest in lemonade and watermelon that can pair well. You see a lot of interest in Ranch Water and tequila-based seltzers. And also, of course, in Margaritas still. Watermelon plays really, really well in that category. It’s such a distinctive and fun and very evocative flavor profile for people, whether you’re getting it with actual watermelon juice or whether you’re getting it with with “natural flavors.” That’s where I think we’re going.
J: I like it.
A: I have two predictions, but I’ll give you my first one because I think it’s the more right one: I think we are going to see a return to the world of Bacardi Breezers and sort of Smirnoff Ice.
J: Mike’s Hard.
A: And Mike’s Hard. OK. It’s going to be the summer of very aggressively flavored malt beverages, which is why I do think Hard Mountain Dew will play in there. We’re seeing this return to the early 2000s. That’s what all the spring and summer lines and fashion were this last year when they were debuting what was going to come out. That’s what they’re all using for inspiration. That was all really, really big then. If you’re saying that the youngest generation of drinking age drives the drink trends, those were drinks that they saw, but they were definitely not drinking them. That’s when they were 6 or 7. They are now going to be interested in those drinks in their mid- to late 20s, and it feels fun to be drinking them. I do think there is going to be a lot of that on the market. It’s going to be the summer of flavored malt beverages. The other one that I just always think is going to happen, but I’ve been wrong now twice is, that I do think it’s going to also potentially be the summer of the Cosmo. But I’ve thought about that for two summers and it was big during that time as well. And I don’t think that it’s going to happen. I keep saying it’s going to happen and it doesn’t. If I was betting on a bottle of really nice wine with Zach, I would bet on it being flavored malt beverages.
Z: This is not an area I’m comfortable betting.
J: That’s a whole sweeping category.
A: Like the ridiculous ones.
A: Bacardi Breezers was insane. It had a really aggressive flavor. They were very sweet. They were syrupy. I think that’s where we’re going. That’s what the Mountain Dew was. I think that is what people are going to want this summer because they’re looking for these things that remind them of childhood, like the suburbs.
J: They’re drinking them ironically.
A: Right, drinking them ironically. Oh, I can’t wait to go to Chili’s and have a Lime-a-Rita. I really think that that is going to come back hard this summer, especially if you look at the trends in dining. Some of the trendiest restaurants, especially in New York and L.A., are all these restaurants that are playing to restaurants in the suburbs. They’re mimicking TGI Friday’s. They’re mimicking, you know, the Bloomin’ Onion and sh*t like that. So I think those types of things are going to then fall into this Bananarama-type stuff. Maybe it’s the summer that Bols liqueurs come back and all those really neon-looking liqueurs where you could have a Blue Hawaii and stuff.
Z: Or a Midori Sour.
A: All the signs point there in terms of what else is happening in the culture, and you see these brands releasing these liquids. The brand that probably could be the most set up to really have a huge windfall is Smirnoff Ice because it’s still there. It never went away. I don’t think I’ve seen a Bacardi Breezer in a long time. But some of these other brands that were really, really ubiquitous in the early 2000s, especially right around the turn of the century, are still here, including Smirnoff Ice.
J: And Mike’s Hard, too.
A: Come on, man. If it’s Mike’s Hard, you always have to say the Mark Anthony Group just had another f*cking hit.
J: And that’s marketing Mike.
A: It just seems to me to be something that is just ready to pop off again. I want to be clear, besides White Claw, you don’t really always want to be a drink of the summer. Because you’re a hit and you’re a flash in the pan. If you think about songs of the summer, a lot of those bands are one-hit wonders. Yes, there are some people that are able to create the song of the summer and they are some of the most famous artists and they have lots and lots and lots of other hits, but a lot of them are one-hit wonders.
Z: I don’t know if this is one area where your music analogies carry over. Do you know what still sells a sh*tload? Rosé. Do you know what still sells a sh*tload? Aperol. Those drinks do not go anywhere. They were incredibly helped by their summer or summers.
A: I think you’re totally wrong. You could say rosé, but the rosé sales, of course, are doing well. But it’s a category. Especially when talking about specific cocktails, you’re wrong. The Aperol sales are actually going down. For Aperol as an aperitif, people are looking for different kinds of aperitifs now. Yes, it’s the aperitif category, but we’re not talking about that right now. We’re talking about the Aperol Spritz. You’re seeing a lot of different spritzes now. But again, I’m saying the Aperol Spritz, in terms of its ubiquity on cocktail menus, is not there like it used to be. If you look at the Espresso Martini, it will have its time, and then it will go away.
Z: I think there’s a mistake here in saying that, just because it’s not at the high watermark that it was at its absolute peak, Aperol sales in 2022 compared to 2012 are pretty markedly up.
A: Yeah, but I mean, Smirnoff Ice sales are still high from where they were in the early 2000s. They had a pop, and then there are people who still drink Smirnoff Ice. That doesn’t mean that it’s culturally relevant anymore. With a lot of the bands that were one-hit wonders, there are people that still listen to those bands and would argue with me and say, “Oh, they actually had multiple hits. I went to all their concerts. I love Blues Traveler.” But they really had one hit, maybe two. That is just the truth. But there are people that will, yes, still book Blues Traveler and still go to a Blues Traveler concert.
Z: They’re still making a living singing “Runaround.” He might not be all over MTV anymore. But no one is.
A: There are still a lot of people on MTV. They’re just artists that are relevant to today’s generation. That’s what I’m saying. These drinks will stay relevant, but drinks that everyone’s talking about — that’s what I’m saying.
Z: Well, sure. But no drink is going to stay the drink that everyone talks about forever. That’s why we talk about trends.
A: Bordeaux has.
Z: Burgundy and Bordeaux were way out of fashion for decades, Adam. Nothing is trendy all the time.
A: I think you’re totally wrong, but that’s cool. You can disagree with me here, but I definitely don’t think that that’s correct. I definitely don’t. I mean, I think that there are lots of different trends that come and go. And then there are certain wines, certain styles of beer, certain styles of liquid that have staying power.
Z: No one would say that grand cru Burgundy was the drink of the summer. Like, what the f*ck?
A: Zach, that’s what I’m saying. You don’t want to always be the drink of the summer. They’re the drink of all the time.
Z: You’d rather be the drink of the summer than never be the drink of anything, if your option is to be completely ignored forever. I don’t know. I think it’s better to have a pop if you’re something that’s a niche, potentially, as some of these drinks we’re talking about. Again, we’re not talking about wines that have literally been celebrated for centuries. That’s just not a fair comparison here.
J: I do think that drinks of the summer do benefit from that over the long term. There are still some people who think that Aperol Spritz is the drink of the summer.
A: Yeah, totally.
J: It’s not the drink of the summer for them.
Z: And if nothing else, you can have your retro moment 20 years down the road. If you’re never the drink in the summer, no one is going to quasi-ironically drink you in 20 years.
A: That’s what I’m saying. So you can come back, but you don’t always want to be the drink of the summer. Now, if your goal is long-term sales for the next decade because you’ll have a pop, then you’ll have to hope that pop comes back. I mean, that’s what’s happened to lots of these brands. It doesn’t mean that it’s not a great thing for you in the short term and potentially in the long run. But it does mean that, yes, you are not going to be guaranteed that you are the biggest thing for the next five or six summers. You are the thing that everyone talks about right now. I mean, that’s how trends work.
Z: Then I guess maybe we’re just disagreeing, but not really. I guess my point is, I think you’re right that there is an inherent risk if you are one of these brands or one of these categories, I guess they can be sort of grouped together in thinking that your high water mark is the new normal. You should play that plan that way. But again, I think that even if the water level recedes, it’s going to recede to a level that was higher than it was before you had your moment. Rosé sales in this country have grown greatly over the last 15 years. And even if they’re no longer at their absolute apex, and I’m not even sure of that, they’re certainly not going back to where they were in the early 2000s. It’s like that genie is out of the bottle.
A: Everything’s pink, and now there’s a lot of garbage on the market. But what I’m saying is, in terms of trends, you look at the one place where we put the most emphasis on it being really important, and the biggest flash in the pan in our culture is everything that happens in the summer. That’s all I’m saying. Trends where you’re the drink around Thanksgiving, a lot of those drinks have continued to be those drinks for years and years and years. Because they are trends that have this weird staying power. Champagne is the drink of holidays, whatever, for the winter. No one’s going to predict that trend. There’s something about the summer and what happens in fashion, music, art, and drinks where it can be a boom time for you as a brand, but it doesn’t mean that you have staying power throughout the rest of the year. And it also doesn’t mean that you won’t be unseated next summer. That’s what I’m saying.
Z: I totally agree. Summer trends are far more fickle than any other. I agree with that. All right. Let’s drink something. I need a drink after all that.
A: So with that, why don’t we try one of the drinks that everyone is saying will be the drink of this summer, which is another seltzer, but it’s a different seltzer. It’s actually been around for as long as White Claw has, but a lot of people think it’s going to have its moment this summer, including a large portion of our staff. And that’s High Noon. Have you guys ever had it?
J: I have, yep.
A: OK. I’m not being paid to say this. I think High Noon is one of the better, if not the best, hard seltzer on the market now, especially in terms of flavor. I’ve only had one of them, though. I’ve only ever had the Grapefruit. So we’ll see. We’re going to try all of them. I opened my side where Pineapple’s first.
Z: OK. Is that where you want to start? OK, I guess.
A: Well, unless we start with Watermelon. I’ve only ever had Grapefruit, so I guess I’ll start with Pineapple.
J: I think High Noon is so good and so interesting, though, because it’s vodka soda. You have to get it at a liquor store versus White Claw, which is malt-based.
A: I mean, immediately when you popped the Pineapple, I smelt pineapple. It smells like Dole canned pineapple.
J: But that’s the best.
A: But that’s the best.
Z: So these are made with actual fruit juice, correct?
J: Yes. And sparkling water.
Z: My only qualm in saying that this could be the drink of the summer is that it’s hard for me to believe it’ll be the drink of the summer in Washington State. Because do you want to know how much I paid for my 8-pack? $32.
J: Yeah, mine was $29.
J: They were very expensive.
Z: Oh, my God. Here, we have crazy liquor taxes, and it’s made with vodka. The shelf price is $17 and then it was another $10 in taxes, like straight liquor taxes and then sales tax on top of that. These are $4 a can. I’m not sure I can get with that.
A: I got to say, though, I’ve never had the Pineapple. This is pretty good.
J: Yeah, it’s good. What do you think, Zach?
Z: I agree. Again, given the aforementioned issue, would I be perhaps inclined to buy another pineapple-flavored seltzer that’s non-alcoholic and put vodka in it? Maybe, for home consumption. But obviously, the can is a little handier in certain locations. It certainly tastes good. I was thinking back on our horrific experience with Cacti and how truly foul that pineapple-flavored seltzer was. This is night and day.
A: I do think that there is something to what happens to these flavors, especially when you’re trying to achieve real fruit flavor, when it’s not malt-based. It tastes a lot cleaner. I’m not getting that aspartame aftertaste, which I think is what makes it more delicious. OK, to the Grapefruit.
Z: The other piece of it is also that you have, not a high-calorie count here, but they’re a little bit higher than some of the others. That, again, just gives you a little bit of a buffer that they have actual sugar in them. And yeah, I agree. They don’t have that gross, just pure chemical taste.
A: I like this one, too, but I like the grapefruit.
J: Yeah, it’s also very good. Coming back to the price thing, though, I think about a can of wine. It’s like $5. Or you get an Aperol Spritz, and that’s like $12 or $15? I don’t know. I get who’s drinking this and what’s the occasion. And I think that people assume this will be cheaper because you can get White Claw for much cheaper. But they’re very different.
A: They’re very different.
Z: I think the other thing to note is that these are also a 12-ounce can instead of a 16-ounce. There’s definitely a category of seltzer drinkers who are just going to shy away from the cost here and be like, “It’s not better enough for me.” Or, “I’m just used to drinking malt-based seltzers and I don’t really care.” But for people who might want something in this sort of style but will be willing to pay for a little higher quality, there is obviously a market for these. Although I will note, too, that you’re right. They are harder to find in states where it’s hard to get liquor in grocery stores because you have to go to a liquor store to get them.
A: I like the Watermelon a lot.
Z: You’re so far ahead of us, Adam. Slow down.
A: While you guys are talking, I need to drink a little after that last argument, I just felt like I had to calm myself down. I moved through. I’m not at the Black Cherry yet, don’t worry. I think the Watermelon is really good, though.
Z: The flavor of the summer, baby.
J: It’s not my favorite.
A: Watermelon’s not your favorite, or?
J: No, I do like watermelon, but I feel like watermelon flavor is hard to achieve. Because you think of watermelon, and I feel like, unless it’s a very sweet one, it’s kind of green tasting.
Z: This has a lot of watermelon rind characters, which I actually really like. Pickled watermelon rind is a thing I really enjoy eating. This is definitely not bubblegummy or a super sweet watermelon flavor.
A: A lot of times when you do watermelon, you get that Jolly Rancher flavor. This doesn’t have it. It has a little bit of that for me, but it’s not bad. It’s very rare that, even in the world, we eat really, really ripe watermelon. And then when it is ripe and sweet, it’s a different taste than what sweet, confectionary watermelon tastes like.
J: It’s like how banana flavor is completely different from a banana.
A: Oh, banana flavor.
J: It’s so good.
Z: I just wish I could find watermelons that still had seeds in them.
A: I’m fine with the no seeds.
J: Yeah, why?
Z: They don’t taste as good. The no-seed ones taste way worse.
A: I guess that’s true.
Z: In breeding them to be seedless, they have bred for that at the expense of the quality of the actual taste of the fruit.
J: It doesn’t surprise me at all that you have thoughts about watermelon, Zach.
Z: I have thoughts about lots of other fruits as well. That’s for a different podcast.
A: On the next watermelon podcast… I hadn’t thought about that. I hadn’t thought about the difference between seedless and with seeds. I guess that’s what it tastes like now.
Z: Plant breeding has brought us many things, including the fact that Brussels sprouts are way, way better than they used to be. But watermelon has gotten worse, in my opinion.
A: So Brussels sprouts have been changed?
Z: The reason people always hated Brussels sprouts was that they always had a really sulfurous smell when you cook them, especially if you boil them. And they actually were able to breed variants of Brussels sprouts that taste much better. And those are ubiquitous now. The sort of gross cabbagey, sulfury Brussels sprouts that many of us experienced as kids are no more.
A: What do you think about Black Cherry?
Z: It’s my least favorite.
A: It’s not for me. I like black cherry soda.
Z: Yeah, me too.
A: I don’t really like this, though.
J: I think it’s OK. I would drink it. It wouldn’t be my first pick of this pack.
A: I’d trade it in the pack. But that’s what the variety pack is good for, trading.
Z: What would your first pick be, Adam?
A: I’d stay at my side of the package, the side that I opened. Probably pineapple, actually, I really liked pineapple. I really did. I was a big Spindrift Grapefruit person. I think that’s why I tried the High Noon Grapefruit and was like, “Yeah, this tastes good, like Spindrift Grapefruit.” But I never had the pineapple and now I think I’d go for pineapple. It also feels very beachy to me.
Z: Yeah, I agree that those two are the best. And I think that I might opt for pineapple if it were actually the middle of summer. But it’s like 50 degrees and raining in Seattle right now.
A: They’re both quite good, though, and I would encourage people to try them. They’re one of the better performers on the show so far. I still don’t think it’s going to be the drink of the summer. At this point, I feel like it’s almost too ubiquitous. I think High Noon is doing quite fine. They probably are consumed all the time. I don’t know if it’s going to be the summer when everyone discovers it.
J: They are called Sun Sips, right?
A: Yeah, it’s pretty good.
J: Tell us what you think the drink of the summer will be.
A: Please email us at [email protected] Let us know what drink you think will be the drink of the summer.
Z: Tweet at Adam, he loves that.
J: Yes, and then you can have a bet with Adam.
A: You can tweet at me, but I never respond because I’m not on Twitter. It’s an old avatar, and I got my handle when Twitter first started. I tweeted a little bit then, back in my music days.
Z: We should ask your homeboy Elon Musk. Are you sure you’re not gonna get back on?
A: He’s not my homeboy.
Z: I’m a few High Noons in, and I’m a little feisty. It’s Friday. What do you want?
A: It’s Friday. Well, you guys have wonderful weekends. And I’ll see you back here on Monday.
J: See you Monday.
Z: Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.