I found myself bouncing on a noodle last week in the fortifying waters of Lake Cumberland, just off the edge of my friend, Bryan’s retro “Barbie boat,” after we’d anchored in a picturesque cove on a scorching Kentucky summer day. I’d jumped into the water upon arrival to relieve myself from the blistering heat, stupidly not considering I’d need a libation to accompany my buoyant bliss. “Can someone toss me a Truly?” I yelled back to the boat, and my friend, Megan, came through with the toss. She launched a mango hard seltzer into the air, and I watched in slow motion as it catapulted toward me in all its fizzy, lightly sweetened boozy goodness, ready for the cracking. “Ahhh,” I sighed, post-first sip, “tastes like summertime.” Spiked seltzers have taken the alcohol industry by storm in the past few months, particularly White Claw, with skyrocketing sales and 32-plus varieties (with more every day!). People who love hard sparkling water really love them, and the converse goes for the aversion. So, what is the appeal? Who’s drinking them and why? I love them, I’m not sorry, and I’ve got the answers for you when it comes to, as my editor put it, “alcohol’s answer to La Croix.”
Hard seltzers are flavored malt beverages made from fermented sugars, gluten-free grains, seltzer water and a “hint of fruit flavor.” Created by giants in the beer world including Anheuser-Busch (owner of Bon & Viv), small boutique producers and local craft beer companies (try Braxton Brewing Co.’s Vive Hard Seltzer), these carbonated fruity concoctions in a slim can have shattered every notion many of us have ever had when it comes to warm weather drinking, tequila chasers, low-calorie, gluten-free options and, dare I say, a replacement for beer?
According to the Chicago Tribune, White Claw sales have surpassed those of every craft beer aside from Blue Moon this summer, as sales are up a whopping 210% in six months (that’s $389 million). And beyond the heavy hitters such as White Claw, Truly and Bon & Viv, there’s Wild Basin, Henry’s, Smirnoff’s Spiked Sparkling Seltzer and Malibu’s sparkling premixed drinks. Even Natural Light is creating its version — try the “Catalina Lime Mixer,” coming soon. I could not make this up. Flavors range from go-to fruits such as black cherry, lime and mango, to more niche yet delightful pairings such as Bon & Viv’s Pear Elderflower, Wild Basin’s Lemon Agave Hibiscus, Vive’s Dragon Fruit and more. Creators will surely continue to come up with new flavors during this carbonation craze, as the new tagline of memes goes, “Ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws,” a saying coined by the viral video of comedian, Trevor Wallace, who once drinking White Claw became an immediate forever fan.
As it has with other trends in the beverage world, Louisville’s spirits community has become entrenched in the sensation, as well. We have our own private Facebook group, Louisville Hard Seltzer Snobs. “I started the group because I was tired of seeing people ‘drink shaming’ hard seltzer in beer groups,” said founder, Levi Beckley. “How you imbibe is your personal preference.” The group will host private meetups to share favorite products, make trades and further develop its palates for hard seltzer.
“The fact that this group started less than a week ago and it’s almost to 4,000 members is a perfect example of how much hard seltzer, specifically White Claw, has taken over our hearts, minds and palettes,” said Russ Meredith of another private group, Phish Fans Who Love White Claw. Both Beckley and Meredith have been heavy hitters in the bar and spirits world in Louisville and beyond. Despite their access and developed taste, it’s worth mentioning that they’re choosing hard seltzer.
“I like White Claw because it’s relatively low-cal, refreshing, and in the words of Dave Chappelle playing Samuel L. Jackson, ‘It get’s ya drunk!’” said Zack Pennington, co-owner of soon-to-open NoraeBar in NuLu.
So, how do folks like to drink their spiked seltzer? Some, simply sitting by or floating in a pool. Others, like my friend Mario, use it as a mixer and make a “Gin & Clawnic.” Some even shotgun it (it burns… do not recommend). In Louisville, you can procure it at Chill Bar and Nachbar, or even at the MXC (Most Extreme Claw) Night at The MerryWeather where WCs are $3 on Mondays. Versatile. Fizzy. Refreshing. Crack one open and see for yourself. Cheers! •