Five Hard Seltzers, Ranked

Tasters thought SeekOut seltzers would be a good fit for holiday parties.

Hard seltzer is a summer drink. However, WW staffers have noticed a number of new seltzers cropping up in the cold season and reason it’s easy to argue for hard seltzer as a winter drink too. After all, come January, the calorie-restricting faithful will look to 100-cal cans for salvation.

Opinionated WW staff formed a panel for a blind taste test, marking subjective scores on our office whiteboard in an attempt to quantify collective tastes. Ranked from favorite to least, here they are:

Flying Embers: 5% ABV, 95 calories per 12-ounce can

The fanciest brand name, in the fanciest can, proved to be the best-tasting drink. Flying Embers’ Pineapple Cayenne smelled the worst—but still won the blue ribbon. Our panel of judges agreed the drink tasted “like an angry pineapple,” but wasn’t actually spicy. The Ojai, Calif., brand uses fermented cane sugar to achieve that 5% ABV, which may account for the off-putting scent.

Topo Chico: 4.7% ABV, 100 calories per 12-ounce can

The most seltzer-forward and recognizable name brand, Topo Chico’s Exotic Pineapple, gave off the greatest fizz upon opening. Where Flying Embers’ pineapple flavor possessed a rank smell and a delightful taste, Topo Chico had the most textbook pineapple smell imaginable. It tasted like a pleasant “sweet fizz” and seemed the most at home for everyday use.

SeekOut: 5% ABV, 100 calories per 12-ounce can

This semi-local seltzer held strong in the rankings because all tasters agreed they could see themselves buying it again, especially during the upcoming holiday season. Though not totally a deterrent, the easygoing Blackberry Lemonade flavor was mistaken by all for cranberry. However, the overall tastelessness factored positively. Tasters thought it would be a good fit to bring to parties. Made by 2 Towns Cider in Corvallis, SeekOut gets its 5% ABV from fermented fruit juice.

Pacific Sparkling: 5% ABV, 100 calories per 12-ounce can

Our panel was drawn to the idea of a Cucumber Mint flavor seltzer, but we collectively agreed that the reality smelled like alfalfa. The result was a fizzless, highbrow-tasting beverage that was, at once, compared to a mojito and an old martini. Crafted with the “water of the Cascades,” by Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, Pacific Sparling gets its 5% ABV from malt liquor, but we respected its upfront admission of that. The panel decided this hard seltzer was best suited for a spa experience, as it tasted vaguely like health food.

Upper Left: 6% ABV, 100 calories per 12-ounce can

Our taste test was blind, so we had no control over our only Portland-made brand Upper Left coming in last—though still with good rankings in taste. The Cotton Candy-flavored seltzer was just a little too intense for our panel, and we found its lack of fizz disappointing. One panelist complained that it made her mouth numb, “but not in a good way.” Still, we agreed it would make sense at a college party, where more adventurous drinkers might take to the experimental flavor.