Top 10 award-winning hard seltzersBy Kate Malczewski
The hard seltzer category is booming, with high demand from consumers and ample choice. But in a crowded market, which products pass the taste test? We share some of the highest-scoring cans from our recent blind-tasting competition.
Hard seltzers first took the US by storm several years ago, and have since made their way to the UK and beyond.
The category is rapidly expanding as large producers and independent brands alike develop their own takes on alcoholic sparkling water – and in a growing market, flavour and quality are key to keep consumers coming back for more.
Our inaugural Hard Seltzer Masters competition sought to test the standard of products currently available.
The blind tasting was held via Zoom due to Covid-19 restrictions, chaired by The Spirits Business editor Melita Kiely. Also judging was David T Smith, spirits writer, consultant and co-founder of the Craft Distilling Expo.
Wine Sorted packaged the samples anonymously and shipped them to our judges’ homes to ensure impartiality.
Though the hard seltzer category is relatively young, our tasting showed that there is ample quality, creativity and innovation to be found.
Click through to discover 10 hard seltzers that won Master medals in the Hard Seltzer Masters 2021.
Whisp Cucumber & Mint
Price: £2.50 (US$3.50) per 250ml can
The Cucumber & Mint flavour from Whisp Drinks took home a Master medal in the Malted Hard Seltzer category and ultimately earned the title of Taste Master, sweeping the competition.
Our judges were impressed by its “delicious combination of flavours”. “The cucumber is fresh, mint is light and they complement each other perfectly – a fantastic product, perfect for summer,” the panel commented.
Whisp is a newly launched brand founded by personal trainer Harriet Cuming. The 4% ABV hard seltzer targets mindful drinkers and uses British ingredients.
Shape Raspberry & Mint
Price: £2.00 (US$2.80) per can
Shape Beverages also stood out in the Malted Hard Seltzer category with its Raspberry & Mint flavour, picking up a Master medal.
Judges noted that raspberry aromas came through on the nose, while the palate delivered a hint of “subtle mint”. The overall verdict? “Light and sippable.”
Made in Quebec, Shape’s hard seltzers clock in at 4.2% ABV and 90 calories each.
Jose Cuervo Playamar Grapefruit
Price: £8.71 (US$12.30) per four-pack of 340ml cans
Jose Cuervo was awarded a Master medal among the Spirit-Based Hard Seltzer entrants for its Tequila-based Playamar Grapefruit.
Marrying “lovely grapefruit flavours with some residual agave”, our judges said the hard seltzer was “bright and effervescent”, with “great balance”.
The producer launched its first hard seltzers in August 2020, inspired by the flavours of Tequila-based cocktails.
Amass Sun Sign
Price: £15 (US$21.15) per four-pack of 355ml cans
In the Flavoured – Other category, spirits producer Amass Botanics claimed a Master medal thanks to Sun Sign, made with sweet orange, vanilla and oak.
Our judges compared the 5% ABV liquid to an Aperol Spritz, enjoying its notes of “prominent mandarin, woodiness and some spice”.
The Los Angeles-based brand recently launched its botanical-infused hard seltzer range in the UK.
Berczy Peach & Raspberry
Price: £2.30 (US$3.20) per can
Berczy joined the Master medallists in the Spirit-Based Hard Seltzer category with its Peach & Raspberry flavour.
The 4% ABV liquid garnered praise for its “nice peachiness” on the nose and “jammy” raspberry flavours. Judges noted that it was not “overly sweet”, and had a “good balance”.
The brand donates 1% of its sales to non-profit organisation UKHarvest, which aims to eliminate hunger and food waste in the UK.
Flying Flamingo Peach
Price: £2 (US$2.80) per 250ml can
Thanks to its “inviting fruity nose”, Flying Flamingo Peach from Irish producer Pearse Lyons Brewing & Distilling landed a Master medal in the Fermented Hard Seltzer category.
Our judges found the product to be “punchy and peach-forward”, ultimately dubbing it “delicious”.
The three-strong Flying Flamingo range sits at 5% ABV and comes in at 70 calories per can.
Clean & Press White Peach & Mango
Price: £2.50 (US$3.50) per 200ml can
Scotland-based Brewdog Distilling Co impressed our judges with its White Peach & Mango flavour, taking home a Master medal among the Flavoured – Mango hard seltzers.
The panel noted that while “mango is not an easy flavour to work with”, the hard seltzer was “made to a very high standard”, with “good synergy” between both of its namesake fruits.
Launched last summer, the Clean & Press range is made with Scottish sparkling water and Brewdog Distilling’s Rogue Wave vodka. Each expression has an ABV of 5%.
Surfers Mint & Lime
Price: £1.69 (US$2.40) per 250ml can
In the Spirit-Based Hard Seltzer category, Dutch producer De Kuyper Royal Distillers made waves with Surfers Mint & Lime, earning a Master award.
Panellists found the two flavours to be “a nice refreshing combination”; Smith noted that it delivered a “good balance of flavours” with “lovely freshness from the mint”.
The hard seltzer sits at 3.5% ABV. With 49 calories, it contains no added sugar.
De Kuyper has also tapped into the RTD trend with its Fizzy Favourites range, launched last autumn.
Two Brooks Lime Cooler
Price: £2 (US$2.80) per 250ml can
London-based brand Two Brooks claimed a Master title thanks to its Lime Cooler, a standout in the Fermented Hard Seltzer category.
Our judges appreciated its “light and well carbonated” mouthfeel, finding it “zesty, minty and refreshing”.
Two Brooks debuted its collection of hard seltzers last summer, looking to target millennials “who want their drink choices to reflect their lifestyle”.
58 Gin Grapefruit
Price: £29.95 (US$42.20) per case of 12 cans
East London producer 58 Gin wowed our judges in the crowded Spirit-Based Hard Seltzer category with its Grapefruit flavour, snagging a Master medal.
Tasters called the product “light” and “crisp”, “with classic hard seltzer character”.
58 Gin’s hard seltzers have an ABV of 4%; each one is made with sparkling water, natural fruit flavours and a shot of the distillery’s flagship gin.