The hard seltzer landscape continues to evolve at breakneck speed in the United States. This time last year, many still questioned whether the lightly flavored boozy water would remain popular in the colder months of fall and winter or if the nation’s obsession with seltzer was just a summer fling.
As it turns out, this is a meaningful relationship, and the category continues to build and expand at a lightning pace. With sustained interest driving record sales, we’ve seen a flurry of new brands enter the space, and existing brands are increasing their range of flavors throughout the year.
While berries, citrus, and tropical fruits served as the most common flavors among early hard seltzers, imbibers can now enjoy complex combinations of fruit, spices, and other aromatic ingredients. This new array not only spoils us for choice but provides some ideal opportunities to drink to the season.
From orchard fruits mixed with baking spices to unexpected left-field offerings, these are the eight best hard seltzers to drink this fall.
The range of aromas that creep out of this can is divine. Expect tart, juicy fruit; sweet baked cherries and vanilla; and a spray of candied lemon. While the nose suggests a black cherry seltzer with hints of lemon, it’s a 50:50 split on the palate. The combination evokes classic desserts like black cherry cheesecake or cherry cobbler, all without the sweetness or calories.
Crook & Marker brews its hard seltzers using a base recipe of ancient grains: quinoa, amaranth, millet, and cassava root. That recipe leaves a subtle grain note on the nose and finish. It’s not unpleasant, and in any case, is almost impossible to detect among the intense fruit flavors on show. The effervescence here is also notable. This can holds the finest, best-integrated bubbles we’ve tasted in a seltzer.
Barefoot’s wine-based seltzers are an exciting avenue for those yet to find their place in the hard seltzer world. The lineup serves fuller flavors and a richer mouthfeel than seltzers from many other large-scale brands. In the case of its Cherry & Cranberry, those flavors are a vibrant nod to the Thanksgiving table, with tart cranberry backed up by luscious cherry. At 4 percent ABV, it’s also among the most sessionable on the market.
Sipping on San Juan Seltzer’s All Natural Oregon Pear is a stunning recreation of biting into a perfectly ripe pear. There’s a suggestion of vanilla, too, which adds depth and the impression that the pear could have been baked into a fall dessert. This is the most intensely flavored among the brand’s impressive lineup. We recommend seeking out the Fuji Apple and Huckleberry flavors, too.
Milwaukee’s Press Hard Seltzer specializes in pairing fruits with interesting aromatic ingredients. Combinations include pear and chamomile, grapefruit and cardamom, and apple and cinnamon. The latter showcases juicy apple in its freshest form, but it’s the cinnamon we should discuss. The aromas are those of cinnamon sticks and not cheap cinnamon powder, which can easily overpower. Cinnamon also leads the palate, followed by a refreshing burst of apple.
Willie’s Superbrew includes fresh fruit in its recipes, lending this seltzer a sparkling pale gold hue. Pear and cinnamon aromas are joined by a slightly funky kombucha note. It’s all about the cinnamon on the palate, and the kombucha note is much less apparent. This won’t just appeal to hard seltzer drinkers (or even hard kombucha drinkers). With its full-bodied mouthfeel and generous depth of flavors, this is ideal for those who enjoy hard cider or even fruited light ales.
Never has a hard seltzer release inspired so much intrigue and anticipation among the VinePair staff, all of whom had one question on their minds: What does a pumpkin spice hard seltzer taste like? Well, exactly as you might imagine. This is an unmistakable mix of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and pumpkin cheesecake, cut with clean, effervescent water. The palate is surprisingly well balanced, and it’s hard to imagine a better execution of this bizarre but oddly captivating flavor combination. You need to appreciate all things pumpkin spice to enjoy this seltzer, but if you do, this is a must buy.
This release is unlikely to win over hard-seltzer-skeptic cocktail drinkers. Admittedly, it also takes a few sips to come to grips with exactly what it is you’re tasting. Rather than being an Old Fashioned highball, this is a hard seltzer that subtly showcases the classic notes of the cocktail. Think orange zest, cacao nibs, caramel, and a spicy kick of bitters. Each sweet and spiced sip dilutes any notion that an Old-Fashioned-flavored hard seltzer is a harebrained idea. Instead, this is an intriguing combination that’s ideal for fall.