Truly vs white claw

Contents

We compared leading hard seltzer brands White Claw and Truly — and the winner was clear

  • We may be approaching the official start of fall, but consumer demand for hard seltzer — the unofficial drink of summer — is showing no signs of stopping.
  • White Claw has solidified itself as the leading brand in the category, and the beverage has amassed so many enthusiasts that it has started selling out in certain parts of the country.
  • Business Insider tested White Claw and one of its biggest competitors, Truly. In the end we couldn’t deny that Claw is the law.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

There may be a temporary White Claw shortage, but that doesn’t mean we can’t compare the top-selling hard seltzer brand with one of its main competitors: Truly.

Even as the days grow shorter and the air turns brisker, demand for the unofficial drink of the summer is showing no signs of stopping. While White Claw is “working around the clock to increase supply given the rapid growth” — according to Sanjiv Gajiwala, senior vice president of marketing at White Claw, speaking to Business Insider last week — we figured we’d see if it’s worth the wait.

Looking strictly at ingredients, White Claw and Truly are nearly identical. Both are brewed using a mix of seltzer water, a gluten-free alcohol base, and a touch of flavor. A can of each sets you back just 100 calories and contains 5% alcohol by volume. The only difference comes down to carbs — while White Claw has 2 grams, Truly has just 1.

Read more: White Claw says it’s ‘working around the clock’ to increase production of the wildly popular hard seltzer amid complains of shortages across the US

What Truly lacks in carbs it makes up for in flavors. The brand boasts 13 total flavors across variety packs of tropical, citrus, and berry, as well as a rosé-flavored water. Meanwhile, White Claw keeps it simple with five core, fruit-based flavors and its limited-edition flavorless offering called “Pure.”

A group of fellow Business Insider colleagues and I recently sampled select flavors from both brands and found that when it comes to hard seltzer, there’s a reason White Claw is flying off shelves. Despite its structural similarities with Truly, White Claw just tasted better all around. The group unanimously came to the conclusion that Claw is indeed the law.

Read more of our thoughts on both, and why we thought White Claw came out on top, below.

Photo: Kate Bernot

Remember the hard soda craze? It seems like a distant memory now, though it was just a few years ago that beverage companies were betting big on alcoholic root beer, orange soda, and the like. The boom didn’t last, as drinkers moved on to the next novelty—to say nothing of America’s growing wariness about sugar. But like a phoenix from hard soda’s ashes, hard seltzers rose to heights few could have predicted. Fizzy booze water became the drink of summer.

In 2018, dollar sales of hard seltzer grew 169% to nearly $500 million dollars. There are more brands than ever, from big companies like Smirnoff to craft breweries like Oskar Blues, lining the shelves. They derive their alcohol from a brewed malt (“clear malt”) or brewed sugar base; most of the ones I sampled included the latter. Now to maintain proper beer cred, I’m supposed to stick my nose up at these hard seltzers, right? But I can’t ignore them. My friends pack our cooler full of them for river trips; bars offer them on special during game day; and my state of Montana consumes more White Claw per capita than any other.

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It was time for me to finally give hard seltzers their fair shake at a taste test. I concentrates on widely available brands, and tried to stick to berry flavors, as those were the most consistent option across brands. Click, pop, fizz, bottoms up.

Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer Black Cherry Rosemary

ABV: 4.5%
Calories: 120 per 16 oz.

It smells a little cough syrupy, but the rosemary note helps mitigate that. I find it more pleasant if I imagine Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda. The flavor is very seltzer-ish, with no perceptible alcohol. Rosemary isn’t really noticeable either, it lingers on the back of the tongue as a kind of refreshing mintiness. The cherry aspect is actually better tasting than I thought, not overly artificial. I don’t think I’m drinking cherry juice, but there’s nothing medicinal about it. I’d drink this.
Score: 7 bubbles (out of 10)

Smirnoff Raspberry Rosé Spiked Sparkling Seltzer

ABV: 4.5%
Calories: 90 per 12 oz.

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This one actually has the most ridiculous coral-pink color, something overtly bubble-gummy about its pink color keeps it from looking like rosé wine. It smells like candy, specifically those sour cherry straws covered in tart sugar; a second sniff makes me think of unset Jell-O.

For as sweet as the aroma is, the sugar doesn’t arrive until after the swallow. The front end is just watery, hardly anything to it, but the artificial sweetness, like phenylalanine or diet soda, builds on itself. It doesn’t taste like seltzer at all to me, and it’s not really carbonated enough. (PS: Sing it with me… She drank a raaaaspberry rosé)
Score: 4 bubbles

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Truly Spiked & Sparkling Wild Berry

ABV: 5%
Calories: 40 per 16 oz. can

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It doesn’t smell like literally anything. There’s a faint mint note or grassiness plus fruit, like an underripe strawberry smells. The sip is very watery—I know that’s ridiculous to write—heavy on the blackberry more so than strawberry or raspberry, which is an interesting choice. Very big carbonation washes the taste away almost as soon as you can grab at it; sort of tastes like a sweet spa water. The blackberry is nice, but the sweetness—not super noticeable at first—compounds after a few sips and begins to taste like some kind of adult Juicy Juice box.
Score: 6 bubbles

White Claw Black Cherry

ABV: 5%
Calories: 100 per 12 oz.

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The aroma is bubble-gummy, but pleasant, like one of those bubblegum-flavored character ice pops. When I sip it, I pick up lots of cherry, but with a sort of unplaceable botanical note at the end that I don’t hate. It’s sweet but doesn’t linger; ends like a black cherry soda and then is gone save for a tiny lingering in the back of the throat rather than on the tongue. Not bad.
Score: 6.5 bubbles

Crook & Marker Spiked & Sparkling Black Cherry

ABV: 4%
Calories: 80 per 11.5-oz. can

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It’s fuchsia-colored, very jewel-toned, like electric cranberry juice, and smells like a Jolly Rancher fell into Sprite. This is one of the few ones that’s sweet from start to finish, but not in a juice way, more of a diet sparkling water beverage with tons of aspartame. The cherry flavor isn’t bad, but there’s just too much faux sweetness to concentrate on it.
Score: 4 bubbles

Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water Strawberry Kiwi

ABV: 4.2%
Calories: 80 per 12 oz. serving; 106 per 16 oz. can

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Oh, I thought the last one was Jolly Rancher. Correction: This one is Jolly Rancher. I smell watermelon Jolly Rancher and nothing else. Strangely, once I drink this, the kiwi is actually what comes through more for me in terms of flavor and it’s pleasant. It’s still a bit on the sweet side but there’s enough carbonic bite from the huge soda bubbles to clear that up. Not the best, not the worst, but the strawberry-kiwi flavor has more legs than I anticipated.
Score: 5 bubbles

Final rankings

  1. Bon & Viv
  2. White Claw
  3. Truly
  4. Henry’s
  5. Smirnoff, Crook

Honorable mention

I didn’t consume them as part of this taste test, but I’d highly recommend two craft brewery-made hard seltzers, Big Sky’s Ginger Lemon Basil Spiked Seltzer and Oskar Blues’ Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water. Neither is too sweet and both are way more botanical-citrus than fruity in nature. Wild Basin just tastes like sparkling water with a little Cheerios note—I know, weird, but that’s the only way I can describe it—in the back that I enjoy.

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Musings, takeaways, and deep thoughts

These hard seltzers don’t deserve the flak they catch. They’re no substitute for the complexity of a well-made cider or beer or wine, but on a hot summer day when you’re drinking just to keep a buzz and stay cool, they fit the bill. I expected way more artificial flavors than I encountered—just stay away from the two brands in the slim cans and you’re fine—and at less than 100 calories per 12-ounce serving, these might rotate into my drinking rotation every now and then.

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The summer of hard seltzer is coming. Here’s how 4 of the top brands stack up.

If there’s a drink that exists, someone will make it boozy. Consider it the Rule 34 of the beverage industry. Boozy root beer. Boozy Capri Sun. Boozy kombucha.

So, given the recent mega-popularity of seltzer, a boozy version of the pleasantly neutral drink was hot on its heels. And now that warmer weather is approaching, it’s poised to become even bigger, as more companies introduce new brands and flavors of the fizzy malted drink. In 2018, alcohol-infused seltzer sales grew about 169 percent, to nearly $487.8 million, while volumes increased 181 percent, according to a January Nielsen report. The category now makes up 1.3 percent of total beer category dollar share. Meanwhile, beer sales have flattened out, with category-wide dollar sales growing only 0.7 percent.

Many major beer brands already have a hard seltzer: MillerCoors has Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water; Boston Beer Co., of Sam Adams fame, shares a parent company with Truly; Mark Anthony Co., the parent company behind the Mike’s Hard brand, has White Claw; and Anheuser-Busch has the brand formerly known as SpikedSeltzer, which recently rebranded as Bon & Viv, with a splashy Super Bowl commercial.

Now more brands are getting in the game: Corona announced this week that its Refresca brand of spiked seltzers would hit stores in May. The sparkling water brand Polar is teaming up with Harpoon Brewery to launch a hard seltzer line called Arctic Summer, debuting at the end of April. And smaller craft breweries such as Kentucky’s Braxton Brewing Co. and Colorado’s Oskar Blues are jumping on the trend, too.

What exactly is hard seltzer? It’s a malted beverage — similar to Smirnoff Ice or Zima — or it’s made from brewed fermented sugar. Most of the drinks are gluten-free, and they tend to be both low in calories and sugar, which has made them popular with dieters. None of the brands we sampled have more than two grams of carbohydrates. More geared toward a backyard barbecue or a trip to the beach, they sell better in warm weather but haven’t picked up much steam at restaurants. They’re also a good mixer: Make a vodka soda with one, and it won’t dilute the drink as much.

We tried four of the most popular brands of spiked seltzer — one of the mixer-worthy citrus flavors for each, to make them easier to compare. Here’s how they stack up:

Bon & Viv

Flavors: Clementine hibiscus, grapefruit, cranberry, pear elderflower, black cherry rosemary, lemon lime, prickly pear

Calories: 90

ABV: 4.5 percent

Okay, first impression: Clementine hibiscus has a sort of all-purpose cleaning solution smell? But you can definitely taste the hibiscus. Despite its lower alcohol content, the alcohol flavor is more pronounced in this one, sort of like a Smirnoff Ice. It’s that tongue-coating fermented sugar taste. You won’t mistake it for a La Croix or a Bubly, and that’s probably a good thing. It has the cutest mermaid branding.

Henry’s

Flavors: Passion fruit, lemon lime, strawberry kiwi, blueberry lemon, pineapple, peach mango

Calories: 88

ABV: 4.2 percent

The lightest in calories and in ABV, but, like Bon & Viv, has a slightly stronger alcohol flavor. Its can looks an awful lot like a regular sparkling water, which could come in handy if you want to, uh, drink it in a public park (at your own risk; we do not endorse this behavior) (but it does camouflage well).

White Claw

Flavors: Raspberry, lime, grapefruit, black cherry, mango

Calories: 100

ABV: 5 percent

White Claw is lighter in fragrance but stronger in flavor, and it doesn’t taste very boozy. Basically, it’s La Croix that gets you drunk!

Truly

Calories: 100

ABV: 5 percent

Despite having the most flavors, and a strong scent, Truly is less flavorful than the other seltzers, and this is a good thing! Too much flavor and you might as well be drinking a — gasp — soda. It’s as though an orange gave some seltzer water a fleeting but meaningful glance. You cannot taste the alcohol at all, which is going to be dangerous when you down like, six of them at Ali’s pool party.

More from Voraciously:

Is Pepsi’s Bubly the new LaCroix, or just another cute can?

Starbucks’s Cloud Macchiato is like a cozy, coffee-flavored bubble bath

Is an ice cream that promises a better night’s sleep too good to be true? Maybe.

NORWALK, Conn. – Seltzers have long been a top choice when it comes to mixers, so it is no surprise that hard seltzers are quickly becoming one of the new favorite bubbly alcohol beverage options for adult consumers. SMIRNOFF™ Spiked Sparkling Seltzer premium malt beverage is the newest addition to the hard seltzer category — but with fewer calories than the leading hard seltzer brands** currently on the market.

In addition to only being 90 calories per 12 oz. serving, the new premium malt beverage has only 1g carbs, zero sugar and no artificial sweeteners*. When reaching for bubbly this holiday season, go for SMIRNOFF™ Spiked Sparkling Seltzer, as one 12 oz. can offers the same calories as only one 4 oz. glass of most champagnes.

Consumers 21 years of age and older will be able to pick up SMIRNOFF™ Spiked Sparkling Seltzer in three refreshing-tasting flavors – Orange Mango, Cranberry Lime and Watermelon – beginning in November. Served chilled in its slimline can, the three flavors are crafted to remove gluten*** and are infused with natural fruit flavors.

“The SMIRNOFF brand is bringing something new to the emerging spiked seltzer category by now offering its lowest calorie option (in its flavored malt beverage portfolio),” said Krista Kiisk, Brand Director of Flavored Malt Beverages, Diageo Beer Co. USA. “We know people are looking for different options when it comes to their alcohol, and SMIRNOFF™ Spiked Sparkling Seltzer delivers variety without sacrificing taste.”

SMIRNOFF™ Spiked Sparkling Seltzer is 4.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) and is best served chilled in the 12 oz. slimline cans or in a glass on the rocks with a fruit garnish. The new product will be available nationwide with a manufacturer’s recommended retail price of $8.99 for a 6-pack of 12 oz. cans.

To remind consumers this product is meant for those over the age of 21, there is a hard-to-miss “Must be 21+ to purchase” callout on each can. When cracking open one of these tasty cans, SMIRNOFF asks consumers to enjoy this bubbly goodness responsibly.

  • *Per 12 fl. oz.-Average Analysis: Calories-90; Carbohydrates-1 G; Protein-0 G; Fat-0
  • ** Truly Spiked & Sparkling: 100 calories; White Claw Hard Seltzer: 100 calories
  • *** Product fermented from grains containing gluten and crafted to remove gluten. The gluten content of this product cannot be verified, and this product may contain gluten.

About SMIRNOFF Spiked Sparkling Seltzer and Smirnoff ICE

SMIRNOFF Spiked Sparkling Seltzer, along with Smirnoff ICE is part of Diageo’s flavored malt beverage portfolio. All of the products in the portfolio are ready to serve and include Smirnoff ICE Classic Flavors, Smirnoff ICE Seasonal Flavors, Smirnoff ICE Electric Flavors, Smirnoff ICE Spiked Flavors, and SMIRNOFF Spiked Sparkling Seltzer. Please enjoy responsibly, and log on to www.smirnoff.com for more information.

Follow us on Twitter (@SmirnoffUS) and like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/smirnoff) for news and information about Smirnoff US.

About Diageo

Diageo is a global leader in beverage alcohol with an outstanding collection of brands including Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Bulleit and Buchanan’s whiskies, Smirnoff, Cîroc and Ketel One vodkas, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Don Julio, Tanqueray and Guinness.

Diageo is listed on both the New York Stock Exchange (DEO) and the London Stock Exchange (DGE) and our products are sold in more than 180 countries around the world. For more information about Diageo, our people, our brands, and performance, visit us at www.diageo.com. Visit Diageo’s global responsible drinking resource, www.DRINKiQ.com, for information, initiatives, and ways to share best practice.

Follow us on Twitter for news and information about Diageo North America: @Diageo_NA.

White Claw and Other Spiked Seltzer Is Popular, but Is It Healthy?

Some alcoholic drinks have been given a so-called health halo. Vodka sodas are low in calories, red wine has antioxidants, and straight-up tequila is many keto dieters’ shot of choice thanks to its low carb count. Now you can add spiked seltzers to this list.

You’ve certainly seen these around, because they’ve exploded in popularity this year. CNN reports that Nielsen data show hard seltzer sales exceeded $1 billion over the last year, ending in August 2019. That’s a 200 percent increase year over year. There’s no shortage of brands to choose from: White Claw, Bon & Viv, Truly, Nauti, Crook & Marker, Press, Arctic Summer — even some well-known alcohol brands such as Smirnoff and Natural Light have their own lines of hard seltzer.

What Is Spiked Seltzer Exactly?

Hard or spiked seltzer is a canned beverage that’s made with seltzer, alcohol, and no-sugar-added fruit flavoring, according to White Claw. White Claw, Bon & Viv, and Truly are three brands that are gluten-free, as they’re made without barley or wheat. Brands generally range from 4.5 percent to 5 percent alcohol per 12-ounce can. “The alcohol in the seltzer is not simply a mix of sparkling water and a hard liquor, but the ‘spiked’ aspect of the seltzer comes from fermentation of sugars,” says Mia Syn, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Charleston, South Carolina.

RELATED: Drinking Less Improves Well-Being, Even in Moderate Drinkers

Why Have White Claw and Other Hard Seltzers Become So Popular?

It all goes back to that health halo. It can often be tough to find nutrition info on your favorite alcoholic drinks, but spiked seltzer companies use nutrition stats to their advantage. For instance, one brand, Truly, says that their 12-ounce can contains 100 calories, 1 gram (g) of sugar, and 2 g of carbs. A 12-ounce White Claw also has 100 calories, 2 g of sugars, and 2 g of carbs.

“The calorie content — 100 calories per can — is a bit lower than what you’d get in a beer, for example, making it a more attractive alternative for some people,” says Kelly Pritchett, PhD, RD, an associate professor of nutrition at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. Plus, compared with an ultra-light beer (which is similar in calories), you might also think fizzy fruit water tastes better, she says. Then there’s the fact that these beverages are low in carbs. Two grams of carbs per can means that if you’re on a low-carb diet — even keto — a spiked seltzer might be a good option if you choose to drink.

RELATED: What Are the Benefits and Risks of the Keto Diet?

Is White Claw Actually a Healthier Choice Than a Mixed Drink or Just Plain Beer?

Whether or not a certain alcoholic drink is healthy is a layered question. While they may be lower in calories and carbs compared with some mixed drinks and beers, says Syn, “it’s important to make sure that consumption is moderate, as consuming large quantities of alcohol is not a healthy choice regardless of the source of the alcohol.”

Also consider that hard seltzer is empty calories that don’t do anything for your health. “There are no real nutritional benefits from consumption of hard seltzer, as they are primarily just empty calories,” says Syn. A serving of these drinks fits into the category of “fun foods.” That’s totally fine, but “it’s important to keep empty calories to a minimum. They provide energy, but no other nutrition like vitamins and minerals,” she says.

RELATED: 7 Common Nutrient Deficiencies and Their Signs

Can Drinking Hard Seltzer Pose Any Health Risks?

If you look at hard seltzer only in terms of calories and carbs — or at its lower alcohol content — you may see it as a free pass. “Someone could view this drink as healthy and ‘diet-friendly,’ which could lead to someone consuming more, increasing both the number of calories and quantity of alcohol,” says Syn.

Moderation is key. In terms of what that means, there’s an official definition: “The CDC recommends that women consume no more than one drink per day, and men consume no more than two drinks per day,” says Pritchett.

According to the CDC, a standard drink is:

  • 12 ounces (oz) of beer that is 5 percent alcohol
  • 5 oz of wine that is 12 percent alcohol
  • 1.5 oz of a shot of 80-proof liquor (40 percent alcohol) like rum or vodka
  • 8 oz of malt liquor that is 7 percent alcohol

It may also help to think of this in weekly terms, says Pritchett, aiming for 7 or 14 drinks max (for women and men, respectively), per week. “If it’s football season, someone may wait until game day to have a couple of these. If that’s the case, make sure you’re not going over seven drinks per week,” says Pritchett. That doesn’t actually mean you can or should “save up” your drinks to consume all in one day. Two might be okay — but be aware that having four (for women) or five (for men) drinks in a two-hour period is considered binge drinking, per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. And that applies even if you’re having a low-cal, low-carb drink like hard seltzer.

RELATED: 5 Things Drinking Too Much Alcohol May Be Doing to Your Body

Dehydration is another concern. Even though this is alcohol and sparkling water, drinking a can does not mean you’re hydrating. In other words, hard seltzer does not count as water. “Because it’s 5 percent ABV, you’ll have a diuretic effect similar to other alcoholic beverages,” says Pritchett. One can of seltzer may not make a marked difference in your body’s hydration levels, but if you’re having a few of these out in the hot sun, “you could develop mild dehydration if you’re not replacing these fluids with plain water,” she says.

Also, there may be fewer calories and sugar in these compared with, say, a rum and Coke (200 calories and 17 g of sugar, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture), a can of regular beer (153 calories, 0 g sugar, per the USDA), or a margarita (274 calories, 36 g sugar, per the USDA), but they add up if you drink more — and that can have ramifications for your weight.

What’s more, abiding by these recommendations to drink moderately does not seem to cause weight gain, and people who imbibe responsibly may also eat more moderately and exercise more (to make up for these extra calories), according to a review published in January 2015 in Current Obesity Reports.

RELATED: No Amount of Alcohol Is Safe, a Global Analysis of Research Suggests

The Bottom Line if You Enjoy Drinking Hard Seltzer

Cracking open a can of hard seltzer is certainly much better than downing a margarita or a Long Island iced tea in terms of calories and sugar, says Pritchett. But just because it has fewer calories doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you, and it shouldn’t be an excuse to drink more, she says.

White Claw has quickly become the most talked about hard seltzer brand on the market. Launched in 2016, the 100-calorie, two-carbohydrate, 5-percent-ABV fizzy treat now accounts for about half of spiked seltzer sales in the U.S.

Wondering what the hype is about? Here are nine things you should know about White Claw.

White Claw is not vodka or beer.

White Claw has been compared to everything from vodka soda to the new IPA. It’s neither of these things.

White Claw is a flavored malt beverage (FMB). It’s made with “a blend of seltzer water, its gluten-free alcohol base, and a hint of fruit flavor,” a brand representative tells VinePair. “The alcohol in White Claw Hard Seltzer comes from fermented sugars derived from malted gluten-free grains.” While this doesn’t exactly clarify things, our best guess is that it’s made with cane sugar, which is listed as an ingredient in several variants.

White Claw is making waves.

America drank more White Claw in the last six months than we did in the entirety of 2018. “At $212.1 million in dollar sales through June 23, White Claw has already surpassed its *entire* IRI sales from 2018 ($196.7 million),” beer writer Bryan Roth tweeted on July 2, 2019. According to IRI, weekly sales of White Claw doubled between April and June 2019.

As of May 2019, dollar sales of White Claw’s mixed 12-packs saw a 320 percent increase compared to the same period in 2018, according to Nielsen. Its growth exceeded that of global beer brands like Guinness and Corona Light, and all craft beers except Blue Moon Belgian White, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Bars are running out of it.

Bartenders and alcohol distributors across the nation say they can barely keep White Claw on the shelves. It’s a common phenomenon: When a bar runs out of White Claw, patrons say it has been “declawed.”

There are laws when you’re drinking Claws.

In July 2019, inspired by the mantra, “ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws,” (origin: unknown), comedian Trevor Wallace released a video satirizing the typical White Claw drinker. He also designed and sold more than 1,000 T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase.

Wallace was quickly hit with a cease and desist from the seltzer company, leading to rumblings that he just may switch sides to White Claw competitor Truly Hard Seltzer, produced by Boston Beer.

Like a wave, White Claw is hard to pin down.

White Claw is produced by Mark Anthony Brands, a division of the Mark Anthony Group of Companies that also includes Mark Anthony Brewery and Mark Anthony Wine and Spirits.

Although not the famed Latin singer, this Mark Anthony should still ring a bell: It’s the very same company that produces Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Of course, this information does not appear anywhere on White Claw’s website, packaging, or social media.

White Claw is internet famous.

It has Instagram fan accounts, including @itsawhiteclawsummer, @whiteclawbitches, @whiteclawgang, and @clawdaddycentral. Its hashtag #whiteclaw has generated more than 40,000 images at press time.

And then, there are the memes. From “Change my Mind” to “Distracted Boyfriend” to “Pennywise the Clown,” White Claw has eternally transcended its liquid form.

It’s in bed with Big Beer, but only abroad.

White Claw has different rules outside North America. Although the family-owned Mark Anthony Brands still owns and distributes it here, outside the U.S. and Canada it’s marketed and distributed by AB InBev.

Taste is subjective.

White Claw is currently available in six flavors: Black Cherry, Ruby Grapefruit, Natural Lime, Raspberry, Mango, and Pure, the latter made to mimic a vodka soda.

VinePair was partial to Pure. Blind tastings of other flavors have varied results. A Seattle Times panel called it “Windex-y” with a “strong alcohol taste,” while a Willamette Week review included the phrase “hand soap.”

Beer enthusiasts, on the other hand, beg to differ. Users of the popular beer check-in app Untappd give overwhelmingly positive reviews, with one user writing he “could drink 10,000 of these.”

You can be White Claw.

Come October, or whenever you get your next paycheck and are looking for a little extra attention, you can buy yourself a White Claw costume.

Hard seltzer is here to stay

Hard seltzer requires almost zero explanation. It’s water with bubbles that also has alcohol in it. Even its meteoric rise over the past few months needs little parsing: Seltzer has been very popular for a while, and now this is seltzer that gets you drunk. But it’s a beverage whose existence makes so much sense for so many reasons, and feels so perfectly positioned in this particular period of time, that it has helped define what exactly this period is.

It is difficult to overestimate the hugeness of hard seltzer to people who study the business of alcohol, but here are some exact figures: Hard seltzer is currently a $550 million business and is projected to keep growing, with one UBS analyst estimating to Business Insider that it could be worth $2.5 billion by 2021. Sales of hard seltzer have grown about 200 percent over the past year, with 164.3 percent of that growth occurring in July alone, according to Nielsen.

A selection of the top hard seltzer brands. Abel Uribe/Shannon Kinsella/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images

Half of those sales are concentrated on a single brand: White Claw, which is owned by Mark Anthony Brands, the owner of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. It and the next leading brand, Truly, which is owned by Boston Beer Company, together make up about 85 percent of total hard seltzer sales. As of this year, every major beer company has at least one hard seltzer on the market, as beer continues to lose market share in favor of less alcoholic, less caloric options.

If there’s one thing people love more than hard seltzer, it is talking about how big hard seltzer is. Industry experts and retail trend professionals have spoken to pretty much every publication about hard seltzer’s skyrocketing popularity. “This is not a fad,” Ricardo Marques, vice president of core and value brands at Anheuser-Busch, told CNN. “This is here to stay.”

But more than that, hard seltzer is something of an aesthetic movement, complete with its own kind of culture: There are catchphrases — “Ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws” — and memes (it’s a White Claw summer, baby!), all with perfectly portable, Instagrammable cans. It’s undeniable: Hard seltzer is the drink of summer 2019.

a stranger yelled “white claw summer!” to me across the pool. as much as i wanted to be all “i don’t know you” i had to raise my lime claw and agree that it is indeed, white claw summer

— Harry Lyles Jr. (@harrylylesjr) July 27, 2019

How did we get here? Wasn’t it supposed to be a hot girl summer? (Yes, it is also that!) Here are all of your hardest questions about hard seltzer, explained.

What is hard seltzer, and why is everyone freaking out about it?

At its most basic level, hard seltzer is seltzer with alcohol in it. What that alcohol is made out of can differ — usually it’s just fermented cane sugar with added fruit flavors, but sometimes, like other “flavored malt beverages” such as Bud Light’s Lime-A-Ritas, it uses malted barley. Most hard seltzers’ alcohol content hovers between 4 and 6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), which is about the same as a light beer.

Hard seltzer is also not new. In fact, the first big hard seltzer brand arrived when many of today’s hard seltzer drinkers weren’t even born yet. In 1993, Coors introduced a drink called Zima, as a response to popular similarly low-ABV beverages like wine coolers. Yet Zima, despite strong sales and nearly half of American alcohol drinkers having tried it, was met largely with ridicule: David Letterman, for instance, made a habit of parodying it as a drink for effeminate weirdos.

Zima left the shelves in 2008 and, despite a brief resurrection in 2017, is now no longer in production (you can still get it in Japan, though). The new class of hard seltzer arose in 2013 with a brand aptly named SpikedSeltzer, when two men in Boston, inspired by their wives’ love of sparkling water, decided to home-brew an alcoholic version. Though the founders told MarketWatch that when they originally tried to sell their product, retailers were in “total confusion” about what to do with it, they eventually sold more than a quarter-million cases in 2015, and by 2016, it had been acquired by Anheuser-Busch (SpikedSeltzer has since rebranded as Bon & Viv).

Today, there are dozens of similar brands, from White Claw to Truly, Henry, Nauti, and Press. And as of this year, most major beverage companies have their own offerings: PBR recently announced its 8 percent ABV Stronger Seltzer, while Four Loko topped it with a 14 percent offering that comes in flavors like “Sour Blue Razz.” Natty Light also just debuted a much-hyped seltzer that even has its own GIFs on Instagram Stories (one of them features a White Claw pouring itself into a dumpster). And earlier this year, both Bud Light and Corona came out with seltzer-adjacent lighter, fruitier versions of its flagship beverages — Bud Light with a line of Ritas Spritz, and Corona with Refrescas.

Natty Light’s new seltzer options. Natural Light

None of this explains why these things are so popular, though. Hard seltzer became the drink of summer because it exists at the crossroads of a handful of current consumption trends.

Hard seltzer is “healthy” … sort of

It’s not a coincidence that hard seltzers arrived on grocery store shelves at the same time LaCroix became a strange kind of status symbol. In 2015, Mary H.K. Choi wrote a Letter of Recommendation about LaCroix in the New York Times, calling them a “guilt-free,” not-too-sweet nor too intense burst of “unmistakable joy,” dressed up in a hideous can.

At the same time, more Americans were giving up soda, and waiting for them on the other side was flavored seltzer, which didn’t have the sugary sweetness or the calories that came with it. By 2017, sales of seltzer had risen 42 percent over the previous five years, with no slowdown in sight.

LaCroix’s moment in the sun didn’t last long — by 2019, its parent company’s sales had dropped 62 percent over a year due to increased competition from brands like Spindrift. But seltzer continues to be a drink favored in office refrigerators for its better-for-you blandness and ability to be shorthand for an identity (are you a pamplemousse person or a peach-pear?). Hard seltzer mimics the flavors drinkers already know and love, like black cherry, raspberry, and lime.

Boxes of LaCroix stacked on top of each other. Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for EcoLuxe

That hard seltzer has a relatively low ABV and little or no additional sugar allows most versions to remain in the 100-calorie range, which is pretty much as low as you can go if you’re drinking alcohol (a shot of vodka, for example, has about the same number of calories). It is also what’s allowed hard seltzer brands to market their product as adjacent or somehow contributing to the idea of “wellness,” because it at least has fewer calories than a real cocktail. It’s like Halo Top ice cream: not as delicious as the real thing, and not actively good for you, but branded with the veneer of a healthier option that comes in handy single-portion servings.

As Jaya Saxena notes in an Eater piece on hard seltzer and wellness, alcohol is often considered a vice. But marketers are now touting low-ABV beverages as healthy enough to use as a workout recovery tool, or as compliant with trendy diets like keto or Paleo. “This makes sense from a business perspective,” she writes. “‘Wellness’ is for financially secure people with time to spare — on their skin, on their bodies, and on their diets.”

Calories aside, many millennials are trying to cut down on drinking or identify as “sober-curious,” leading to a rise in low- or zero-alcohol beverages, a category that’s expected to grow by 32 percent between 2018 and 2022. There are now nonalcoholic bars and even sober influencers, and, in short, a seemingly greater interest in making drinking less of a central role in social life. What’s more innocent-sounding than seltzer?

The irony, of course, is that alcohol isn’t actually good for you and neither is seltzer (it kind of rots your teeth!), which only exposes the fact that current wellness trends basically boil down to the same thing diet culture has been aimed at for centuries: fat loss.

Hard seltzer is easy and cheap, but also kind of fancy?

In a Nielsen survey, more than half of respondents said they bought ready-to-drink canned cocktails because they were “convenient.” The second most popular response was that customers liked that they could pick them up in the grocery store: Hard seltzer’s low ABV content allows it to be sold anywhere you can buy beer. (Laws about where you can buy alcohol vary by state; in New York, for instance, wine and spirits can only be purchased in liquor stores, and you can only buy beer at grocery and convenience stores.)

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A post shared by White Claw (@whiteclaw) on Jul 14, 2016 at 3:25pm PDT

To be fair, it’s not only hard seltzer that’s benefiting from its canned-ness; canned wine has been an increasingly popular choice over the past few years, and ready-to-drink cocktails in Instagram-friendly cans like Mezzo Spritz and Pampelonne are all over grocery store aisles. Cans are far more low-maintenance than glass: Not only are they more portable, but you can bring them to the beach or the park disguised as regular soda, no corkscrew needed.

Oh, and hard seltzer is cheap. A 12-pack of White Claw retails for about $15, which is about the same price as a 12-pack of domestic light beer. It’s one of the most accessible ways to get a buzz, while also carrying a veneer of something a little bit fancy.

As Fortune writes, “Unlike others that appear on the scene, such as hard root beer or Four Loko, hard seltzer has a certain amount of ‘premiumization’ going for it (yes, that’s affordable luxury you’re tasting).” Hard seltzer doesn’t have the syrupy sweetness of a Mang-O-Rita, and therefore feels more expensive — even though the two drinks are actually about the same price.

Hard seltzer is gender-neutral

That fanciness has also historically given hard seltzer a certain feminization so often associated with fruity, lower-ABV beverages — think wine coolers, sangria, or Smirnoff Ice. But now that’s changing.

As one self-identified bro told Business Insider, White Claw is “ridiculously good. If I’m at a party now and someone offers me an IPA or a White Claw, I definitely take a White Claw … I do dude things and get stoked and all that. But I also just feel comfortable saying I like White Claw and that it’s good.”

3 months ago any girl drinking a white claw got their entire existence roasted by the same guys now posting snap stories saying “ain’t no laws when you’re drinking claws”

— marystebbins (@marystebbins_) July 26, 2019

In an exploration of hard seltzer and gender for Eater, Amy McCarthy argues that instead of targeting the drink on the basis of sex, hard seltzer is selling a lifestyle — one that isn’t dependent on gender. It’s a drink for doing summertime things: concerts, beaches, and boating. The fact that it’s considered more upscale than other malt liquor offerings (you can buy it at Whole Foods, for instance) helps sell it as aspirational.

There is a not-insignificant amount of irony when we talk about hard seltzer — for all its supposed aspirational qualities, you’re still drinking malt liquor out of a can — but particularly in the way men talk about it. In consuming a historically feminine-coded beverage, straight men often will counter it with hypermasculine language (the tagline, “No laws when you’re drinking Claws,” which comes from a YouTube parody of a bro who’s obsessed with hard seltzer, is an example — although the Portland, Maine police department had to issue a statement on Twitter that laws do, in fact, still apply while drinking Claws).

There’s a performative aspect of men’s somewhat ironic enthusiasm for hard seltzer, too: In doubling down on how much they love it, men get to embrace something they’re usually discouraged from enjoying. Today’s male hard seltzer drinkers are just as aware of their chosen drink’s reputation as they were in the Zima days, but the difference is that in 2019, it’s far more culturally acceptable to embrace it.

“The success of White Claw … indicative of the 2019 type of hypermasculinity that is currently en vogue,” McCarthy writes. “It’s a drink for a more evolved bro, the type of man who isn’t afraid to talk about his macros or brew kombucha. The rise of crossfit alongside paleo and keto diets gave men permission to be more publicly and proudly health and image conscious than most of their predecessors.”

Which isn’t to say that smart branding by powerful beverage corporations has successfully solved gender inequality, of course. It’s just that hard seltzer happens to fit neatly into society’s current ideas about men’s consumption habits.

Hard seltzer is fine

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, hard seltzer is fine. You can love hard seltzer for its portability and novelty, but no one really loves hard seltzer for the way it tastes. There is always going to be a far more delicious way to get drunk: Hard seltzer is never truly enticing in the way a dry rosé with an ice cube in it next to a pool can be, nor as soul-hugging as a bready IPA in an air-conditioned brewery. And that’s not even including the kinds of alcohol that are essentially just dessert!

Conversely, it’s difficult to really despise hard seltzer, because there’s barely anything in it to hate. It is, in short, the most inoffensive way to consume alcohol. As one 30-year-old advertising creative in Brooklyn told W Magazine, she loves hard seltzer because “they go down super easily and then suddenly I’m drunk. They’re also great for the beach, and White Claw is the best brand. And I fully acknowledge being basic when I drink them. They’re also good mixers, I like adding tequila to mine.’”

There will always be a summer drink. Last year it was the Aperol spritz; for the few years before that, it was rosé; next year, maybe it will be rosé-flavored vodka. But despite its just fine-ness, hard seltzer may have the most staying power out of all three: It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it has a sense of humor about itself, making it slightly more immune to derision. And the fact that it’s lightly flavored makes it a perfect mixer come holiday season (so far, there is no pumpkin spice hard seltzer, but Bon & Viv does have a cranberry flavor). You might never truly love it, but hard seltzer will likely always be there, right next to the grocery store checkout aisle, waiting for someone to pick it up with a shrug.

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Hard Seltzer

Hard seltzer is one of the biggest growing alcohol trends you’ll find. This is a refreshing drink that offers fewer calories than the alternative flavor. While it isn’t necessarily healthy, hard seltzer has made its way into the hearts and bellies of more health-conscious alcohol drinkers.

Hard Seltzer Is New to the Market:

If you haven’t heard of hard seltzer before, don’t worry. It’s a fairly new drink variety on the market. In fact, one of the first hard seltzers on the market, SpikedSeltzer, released in 2013. It wasn’t until 2015 when the drink started making a buzz and more companies started joining the market.

Who Drinks Hard Seltzer?

With so many varieties in flavor and style, there’s a hard seltzer for just about anyone. However, there are a few groups who specifically go for this fizzy drink.

First, you’ll find people who are trying to keep a better handle on their overall health popping the top of a hard seltzer rather than a beer. Not only does this drink offer fewer calories than the alternatives, but it also has significantly fewer carbs.

The next group grabbing a hard seltzer are those who simply want to have a variety of flavors available. That’s one of the best things about this drink. You can find a huge number of fruity, bright, delicious flavors to make your taste buds dance. With options like lime, grapefruit, black cherry, pomegranate and orange, hard seltzer offers a bright, refreshing flavor.

If you’re sensitive to the sugars in other drinks and easily get hangovers, try grabbing a hard seltzer instead of wine. The sugar content in wine is known to give terrible headaches and hangovers to sensitive drinkers. Because seltzer offers very little in the way of sugar, you can easily drink something delicious and not have nearly as much of a bad time the next day.

Mixing Hard Seltzer:

One of the many reasons why drinkers love hard seltzer is that it makes a great mixing drink. You can mix just about anything with hard seltzer and make an outstanding drink.

Using a cranberry hard seltzer, mix in a half-ounce of Aperol and four ounces of rose champagne. Add pomegranate seeds on the top for a delicious summer drink. For a drink that makes you think of fall, try an orange seltzer with dark rum, apple cider, bitters and a cinnamon stick.

So what are you waiting for? Buy hard seltzer online through Drizly at a great price and have it delivered directly to your door. Cheers.

White Claw has become the obsession of the summer.

The alcoholic sparkling water is selling out at bars and grocery stores across the US. Colorful cans are popping up on beaches and picnics and barbecues. Fervor for the seltzer, which sports the tagline “Made pure”, has resulted in memes, T-shirts, tattoos and viral videos.

It’s not just a drink – it’s a lifestyle, fans say. There has been a 210% increase in spending on alcoholic sparkling water in general compared to last year, according to a Nielsen study of supermarkets and liquor stores, and White Claw is the top brand. Its sales have surged 320% from last year.

The drink is so popular some bars and grocery stores are having trouble keeping it on the shelves, said Jason Barry of the New York alcohol distributor Big Blue Beer Company, which provides alcohol to more than 500 businesses in the city. While other companies, including Smirnoff and Corona, now sell their own varieties of the drink, White Claw is the most popular.

“It seems like White Claw did not properly gauge the demand because a lot of companies are having issues keeping it in stock,” he said. “We are getting calls from people we have never worked with before because their usual distributors have run out. It’s in very high demand.”

The Claw craze comes as young Americans seek healthier, lower-alcohol lifestyles. A 12-oz can of White Claw contains 100 calories and 2 grams of carbs – by comparison a Heineken has 142 calories and 11g of carbs. It is 5% alcohol, lower than the average of 12% for wine and average of 37% for liquor.

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@whiteclaw Awh yeahhhhh #bartender #meme #funny #whiteclaw @topknotnails

A post shared by The Bulletproof Bartender (@thebulletproofbartender) on Aug 7, 2019 at 4:13pm PDT

But as high as the viral White Claw wave crests, it may face some headwinds. Earlier in July, an image that appeared to show a tweet from the White Claw account supporting “Blue Lives Matter,” the hashtag in support of a pro-police countermovement to Black Lives Matter, went viral.

The image is likely doctored. White Claw told the Guardian the tweet is fake and it is working to investigate its origins. It declined to comment further. The tweet does not exist in an archive of White Claw’s account or on internet archives of its Twitter account at that time.

But some White Claw fans were quick to label the brand “cancelled”.

“Drink responsibly” has taken on a new meaning as millennials place more importance than past generations on the political views of the brands they consume. Several studies have indicated members of Generation Y and Generation Z are more likely to change their habits in preference to companies that endorse social causes they support.

Billy Agan, owner of the bar Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland, California, said he had just ordered a large case of White Claw when he saw the tweets making their way around social media.

“I am in a market where people want to buy consciously and there is pressure to keep an eye out for this kind of thing,” he said.

In 2018, Agan stopped selling Modelo after it was reported the company that owns the Mexican beer was involved with water privatization efforts. Previously the bar stopped carrying Bulleit whiskey after that company was accused of homophobia.

p e n d e j a (@swampdaddyx)

they may have deleted the tweet but if I see you drinking white claw now you’re a bootlicker and you can’t change my mind pic.twitter.com/mM9KZJKAVA

August 4, 2019

Consumers now resonate with brand messaging and beliefs more than ever, echoed Ari Lightman, a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University, and the preoccupation with brand beliefs is compounded by the quick-moving nature of social media.

“In this weird world we work in, with hyper real time consumer sentiment, understanding how information flows from consumer group to consumer group is important,” Lightman said. “That means sometimes disinformation flows, too – and even if it’s not factual, it’s critical for brands to understand it.”

It is tough to work in marketing in the age of social media,” he said. “This is what happens in a world of disinformation, opinionated comments and fake news.”

Meanwhile, it appears the potential threat to White Claw’s popularity has already passed. White Claw and Truly, another popular sparkling water brand, sold the equivalent of 1.4m cases during the week of 4 July this year, or roughly 102,000 barrels’ worth of product.

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So it’s Friday night and you’re feeling alright. But what should you drink? This handy cheat sheet will tell you all about the carbs in alcohol.

Hey guys! Guess what! I have ANOTHER book coming out! As you make your way through the delicious low carb, keto recipes in the Craveable Keto Cookbook, you might need something to wash them down with. I’d love any shares you’d be willing to throw my way. Help spread the word!! 🙂 Enter KETO HAPPY HOUR: 50 Low Carb Craft Cocktails to Quench Your Thirst.

It is available now. You can grab a copy HERE

I know that it can be tricky to navigate alcohol on a low carb diet, so I’m taking all the guess work out of it for you. I’ll show you how to indulge, while still sticking to your healthy living, ketogenic lifestyle. Think you can no longer have those delicious Moscow Mules at happy hour with your friends, or that you have to skip those margaritas on Taco Tuesday? Think again! I’m putting your favorite drinks back on the menu, the low carb menu, that is. Whether you are craving a cocktail after a long day of work, or looking to do some healthy entertaining, this book has you covered. From mixers, to drinks and even some pub grub. It’s all in there! Mixing up cocktails should be fun and it shouldn’t come at the cost of your health and weight loss goals. Keto Happy Hour bridges the gap between feeling deprived and feeling mighty fine. With recipes like:

  • Strawberry Basil Lemon Drops
  • Dill Pickle Martinis
  • Cucumber Mojitos
  • Moscow Mules
  • Frosted Rum Cakes
  • Lemon Basil Crush
  • And even…
  • Strawberry Margarita Gummy Worms

There is something in this book for everyone!

The Complete Guide to Carbs in Alcohol

So it’s Friday night and you’re feeling alright. You’re ready to dance the night away with a cocktail in your hand. OR, if you are more like me, you want to have a cocktail at home with friends. But how do you know what to drink? I am about to break down the carbs in alcohol for you.

You might be asking… Can you have alcohol on a low carb diet? Is alcohol keto? You might be saying to yourself “But wait? I can’t! I’m low carb” You are NOT low carb. You are a person following a low carb lifestyle. Do not be defined by your dietary decisions. Doing so will lead to a life of restriction and feeling restricted often causes us to stray from our intended path.

If you want a drink, have a drink, but just be smart about it. Don’t go overboard and be sure to always make the best choices possible. If you put the same conscious effort into your drink choices as you do your food choices, you can enjoy that evening cocktail without derailing your weight loss, health and fitness goals.

Alcohol on a low carb ketogenic lifestyle can seem like a real no-go. I’ve read countless articles on the subject and there are strong cases made on both sides. Ultimately it boils down to a matter of personal preference. It it works for you, great. If it doesn’t work for you, also great.

But my goal all throughout this book is to give you as many tools and resources as possible to help you achieve your health and weight loss goals. Sometimes figuring out exactly what works for your body is a matter of trial and error more than it is a matter of science. There is no one size fits all approach to life and there is no one size fits all approach to low carb.

As you go over this guide, please note that nutritional information can vary by brand. However, these are great general guidelines to follow.

You will also notice that not everything listed should not be considered low carb, but I wanted to give you a thorough guide in order to help you make the most informed decisions possible.

Carbs in WINE

Wine is typically your safest bet when dining out. It ensures that you know exactly what you are getting and that you aren’t accidentally getting a high carb mixer or the wrong type of liquor.

Note: Be sure to take note of the size wine pour you are ordering and figure out the carb count based on the 5 ounce pours listed below.

Carbs in Red Wine:
(Carbohydrate counts based on a 5 fluid ounce pour)

  • Pinot Noir – 3.5 grams
  • Merlot – 3.7 grams
  • Cabernet – 3.8 grams
  • Syrah – 3.8 grams
  • Zinfandel – 3.8 grams

Carbs in White Wine:
(Carbohydrate counts based on a 5 fluid ounce pour)

  • Sparkling White – 1.5 grams
  • Brut Champagne – 2.5 grams
  • Sauvignon Blanc – 2.8 grams
  • Pinot Grigio – 3.0 grams
  • Chardonnay – 3.1 grams

Carbs in Sweet White Wine:
(Carbohydrate counts based on a 5 fluid ounce pour)

  • White Zinfandel – 5.0 grams
  • Reisling – 5.7 grams
  • Moscato – 8.0 grams
  • Late Harvest Riesling – 12 to 18 grams
  • Port Wines and Sherries – 13+ grams (for a 3 fluid ounce pour)
  • Sangria – 10+ grams (for a 3 fluid ounce pour)
  • Wine Coolers – 20 to 50 grams (for a 12 fluid ounce bottle)

Carbs in BEER

There are hundreds, if not thousands of different beers on the market. Here is a list of some of the lowest carb beers out there. These are also easy to find at your local grocery store. Please note that none of these beers are gluten free. If you are living a strict gluten free lifestyle, I would steer clear. Check out brands like Omission that are crafted to remove gluten. If you have a higher carb allowance or are at a maintenance weight, cider can be a good option as well.

(Carbohydrate counts based on a 12 fluid ounce bottle)

  • Bud Select 55 – 1.9 grams
  • Miller 64 – 2.4 grams
  • Michelob Ultra – 2.6 grams
  • Bud Select – 3.1 grams
  • Miller Lite – 3.2 grams
  • Michelob Ultra Amber – 3.7 grams
  • Coors Light – 5.0 grams
  • Bud Light – 6.6 grams

Carbs in LIQUOR

Not all liquors are gluten free. Refer to each brand specifically to obtain product specific information.

(Carbohydrate counts based on a 1.5 fluid ounces of unflavored spirits)

  • Vodka – 0 grams
  • Gin – 0 grams
  • Rum – 0 grams
  • Dark Rum – 0 grams
  • Spiced Rum – 0.5 grams
  • Tequila – 0 grams
  • Whiskey / Bourbon – 0 to 0.3 grams (varies by brand)
  • Brandy – 0 to 3 grams (varies by brand)

Carbs in SPIKED SELTZER WATER

  • Truly Spiked and Sparkling – 2 grams
  • White Claw – 4 grams
  • Spiked Seltzer – 5 grams

ACCEPTABLE MIXERS

  • Plain sparkling water
  • Naturally flavored sparkling water
  • Citrus essential oil infused water
  • Zevia colas and naturally flavors sodas
  • Unsweetened cranberry juice
  • Sugar-free bitters
  • Kombucha
  • Flavored stevia drops

Mixers to Avoid

The complete list of mixers to avoid would be a really long list. Here are some of the main ones to watch for, especially when you are out for a night on the town.

  • Simple syrup
  • Triple Sec
  • Grenadine
  • Sweet and sour
  • Margarita mix
  • Daiquiri Mix
  • Pina colada mix
  • Pop

Drink Garnishes or Flavor Enhancers

  • Fresh fruit slices
  • Citrus essential oils
  • Fresh herbs
  • Fruit extracts
  • Confectioners erythritol

TIPS:

Drink in moderation. Overconsumption of alcohol often leads to poor food choices.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Talk to your server. Talk to the bartender. Research anything you are unsure of. Not to sound cliche, but the only stupid questions are the ones that go unasked.

Be in control of your environment. If going out for drinks leads to poor food and drink choices, plan to only indulge on nights spent at home.

Be sure to drink a lot of water while drinking alcohol. Alcohol is dehydrating, which can lead to hang overs the next day.

Don’t be afraid to say NO! I can’t stress this one enough. It can be really easy to cave to peer pressure if the people around you are less than supportive of your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to simply say no and move on.

The Alcohol You Can Actually Drink on the Keto Diet

Yes, most alcoholic beverages are essentially carbohydrate in liquid form. And yes, since your carbs are so limited on the keto diet, you’re better off choosing carbs that are bundled with good-for-you nutrients. (Think whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables—all of which are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and disease-fighting compounds.)

But hello, we’re realists: Sometimes you want, deserve, or just need a drink. So what are your best options?

It can be tricky to figure out how many carbs alcoholic beverages contain because they aren’t required to come labeled with nutrition facts. Below we’ve founded up a few of the most keto-friendly drinks, plus a few you should definitely skip (sorry, sake fans).

First though, we want to clear up some confusion about booze and keto that’s been spreading on the Interwebs. You may have read somewhere that your body produces ketones as it breaks down alcohol (which in theory at least, sounds like a good thing). Not so, though. “There’s nothing magical about alcohol enhancing ketogenesis long-term,” says sports nutritionist Chris Mohr, PhD, RD. “The general metabolism of alcohol as a whole falls outside of the ketogenic metabolic pathways.”

Don’t be fooled by the rumor. If you’re going to enjoy a cocktail, do it because it adds a little balance to your day, and diet—everything in moderation, right?

RELATED: 9 Fruits You Can Actually Eat on the Keto Diet

The best (and worst) alcohol for the keto diet

No matter what proof (80 through 100), gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey all have 0 grams of carbohydrate in a jigger (or 1.5 ounces). Have your drink neat, on the rocks, or with a splash of plain soda water. And it’s best to pour your own rather than cracking open one of those pre-made spiked seltzers; one can deliver anywhere from 1 to 5 grams carbohydrate.

If you’re craving a glass of wine, budget for it, and keep the pour size in mind. A glass of white wine ranges from 3 to 6 grams of carbohydrate per five ounces. (The sweeter whites—think riesling versus chardonnay—typically have more carbohydrates.) At home, you’re likely to pour more than five ounces, especially if you have larger wine glasses. And a standard restaurant pour is six ounces. Red wine has a tighter range of carbohydrates, at 3 to 4 grams per 5-ounce pour, with little variation between varieties.

Skip beer: It’s essentially bread in a bottle. A can of beer has around 12 grams of carbs. Though if you must have a beer, seek out a light beer, which comes in at around half that carb load per can.

Two other no-nos: mixers (they’re all pretty much sugar-laden) and sake. A 6-ounce pour is fairly common for sake, and it delivers nearly 9 grams of carbohydrate.

RELATED: 5 Supplements You Should Take If You’re on the Keto Diet

An unexpected perk of going keto

In any trendy diet, there are always nuggets of wisdom buried somewhere—and keto is no exception. Because it involves such a tight carb budget, the diet doesn’t leave much room for regular alcohol consumption. And when you do imbibe, quantity is limited, so you’re likely to stay within the recommended limit. (That’s one drink per day for women, and two for men.) Considering that more and more research suggests moderate drinking may be more detrimental to our health than experts previously thought, the keto diet’s booze restrictions could be a really good thing in the long run.

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How do you know someone is on a ketogenic diet? Because they won’t quit talking about it. Especially if they’re shit-faced. Welcome to KetoDrunk, a Reddit community that currently counts over 28,000 members. Its motto: “Getting hammered while getting thin.” In this strange niche of the internet, the strictest dieters of us all try to thwart their silly, self-imposed regimens in the pursuit of a decent drink. KetoDrunk is the place where their truly hilarious hacks for low-carb mixology are tried, tested, and championed.

“I think most people drink in general, and some people find it hard to give up that last indulgence, as they have already given up so many hedonistic pleasures from their unhealthier lifestyles before,” says Daniel Wiseman, the group’s founder. He started KetoDrunk in 2013, just as the nearly century-old, high fat, very-low-carb diet was again becoming trendy. These new adopters of keto were questioning what they were actually allowed to imbibe, and Wiseman hoped to help them.

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“You decided you want washboard abs and SWEET GAINS but also want to get crunk,” he wrote in his welcome message to the group. “Are these goals mutually exclusive?”

If you know anything about keto, you know followers are supposed to eschew carbs. If you know anything about alcohol, you’ve probably noticed it’s completely packed with carbs—malty beers, fruity wines, and all those $15 cocktails loaded with juices and syrups and sometimes straight scoops of granulated sugar. As Wiseman explains, however, it’s pretty simple for him to drink while sticking to his diet, assuming you understand the lingo: “A ketogenic diet is one that puts you into a state of ketosis, and most people find that alcohol does not inhibit ketone production,” he says. (In plain English: So long as he doesn’t drink any carbs that would kick him out of the metabolic state of ketosis, he’s cool.)

Kahlúa won’t work for a keto-friendly White Russian. But sugar-free coffee syrup will. Esquire

Wiseman drinks straight whiskey, which he prefers neat, favoring brands like Booker’s and Four Roses Single Barrel. Even though whiskey is made from grains, once you distill a spirit it becomes 100-percent carb-free. Any unflavored spirit (gin, vodka, tequila, etc.) works for KetoDrunk, though be careful of rum, a poorly regulated category notorious for being secretly dosed with sugar. As with any diet, cognitive dissonance is also helpful.

“I believe the reason has a sweet taste to it is because of the hydrocarbons released during the barrel aging,” said one commenter who really wanted to drink the spiced rum in peace.

For most people, pounding tequila shots is not an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday night. That’s why Wiseman also maintains a lengthy line of bitters bottles at home, allowing him to splash some of the carb-free ingredient into his whiskey to manipulate flavor, something he also does with MiO, a water enhancer offered in flavors like berry pomegranate and mango peach. Not that he usually needs it.

“any people will find that their taste buds become more sensitive to the sweetness naturally found in alcohols and the addition of any sweet component is unnecessary,” he wrote on the subreddit.

“Some people find it hard to give up that last indulgence, as they have already given up so many hedonistic pleasures from their unhealthier lifestyles before.”

Other KetoDrunk practitioners are more adventurous, often looking for acceptable analogs to iconic cocktails. The biggest problem for keto mixology is that most of these necessitate a sweetener like simple syrup. Unfortunately, simple syrup—a 1-to-1 blend of sugar and water—has around 28 grams of carbs per ounce, which is more than most keto dieters aim to consume in an entire day.

“My coworkers and I are probably going out to drinks later in the week at a really fancy, upscale cocktail place downtown,” one commenter fretted. “Would it be super weird to order those cocktails that include sugar…without sugar? I can bring along some of my own Stevia too if I find I need it.”

The group is always looking for sugar-free cocktail sweeteners, utilizing ones you’ve heard of like Stevia and Splenda, and ones you probably haven’t, like allulose, erythritol, and something called Swerve to make their own faux simple syrups. (These can have a thin mouthfeel, so some followers add egg whites for extra body—which gives you protein to boot!) There are some store-brand options like NuNaturals and Simply Simple Sugar Free Simple Syrup, but you really have to read the labels; though they may be listed as “sugar-free,” Wiseman warns that some have “carbohydrate-laden ingredients such as maltodextrin,” and that’s no good.

While certain cocktails like, say, the Manhattan are nearly impossible to make keto-friendly—there’s no good substitute for sweet vermouth—others are a cinch. Easy highballs like G&Ts and Moscow Mules are popular; just use diet tonic or ginger beer, natch. So are Whiskey Sours and Margaritas, so long as you make them with sugar-free triple sec. Since calories from fat are actually desirable on a ketogenic diet, you can have a “Keto Colada” made with coconut vodka, heavy whipping cream, and pineapple seltzer. Even better, a 1,000-calorie Mudslide made with vodka, Ketologie chocolate shake mix, erythritol, almond milk, and heavy cream. “Jesus. That’s ridiculous,” as one commenter said.

Grenadine is packed with carbs, but you can make an alternative with Diet Ocean Spray. Esquire

The White Russian seems to be the unofficial cocktail of KetoDrunk, with members constantly attempting their take on The Dude’s favorite drink—it’s quite easy to make delicious. A typical go might use sugar-free coffee syrup, nut milk, heavy cream, and vodka. (The verdict: “fuckin great!”) An advanced attempt opts for a butter- and chocolate chip-infused vodka shaken with heavy cream and homemade coffee liqueur, with pink Himalayan salt on the rim for added electrolytes. Despite all that effort to get loaded, one unimpressed Reddit commenter could only reply: “Help me understand if I’m wrong, but uses soy lecithin and I thought that isn’t good for keto.”

Yes, a constant trope on KetoDrunk is that even when you’re buzzed and feeling good, you can still be a pedant—as big a hallmark of following this diet as subbing in a side salad instead of french fries. KetoDrunk is likewise surely the only drinking forum on the internet that has deep arguments about things like “gluconeogenesis” and “autophagy.” (Don’t ask.)

The group has even spawned its own cocktail book: Ke-Tiki: The Keto & Low-Carb Guide to Tiki Drinks by Jason Gawron, an Atlanta-area man and formerly overweight tiki enthusiast. Tiki drinks are notoriously some of the most keto-unfriendly cocktails around, laden with sugars, syrups, and fruit juices—as in, “the majority of ingredients found in the tiki drinks I had come to love,” Gawron writes in the book’s intro. Remarkably, he figured out how to make keto-kind versions of everything from the Mai Tai to the Fog Cutter to the typically sugar-packed Zombie, for which he swaps in crystalized citrus powder instead of lime juice and makes a grenadine using Diet Ocean Spray Cran-Pomegranate juice.

No, ke-tiki cocktails don’t taste as good as legit tiki. “But the way I see it, close enough is better than no tiki at all,” Gowran tells me.

Of course, when you’re attempting KetoDrunk, you will have to go without some things you used to love. Many in the group lament the lack of a truly tasty low-carb beer, forced to drink the watery Michelob Ultra. Many instead opt for low-carb alcoholic seltzer or Nude (essentially a vodka soda) when they desire a canned crusher.

“The way I see it, close enough is better than no tiki at all.”

But you can honestly drink anything on KetoDrunk, so long as your body remains in ketosis. Ketosis means that, due to a lack of carb-created glucose, your body instead burns stored fat, which creates an elevated level of acids in your system called ketones. Gawron monitors his ketone levels by bringing testing strips out to the bar, which he urinates on to make sure what he’s drinking hasn’t “knocked him out” of ketosis. Some KetoDrunk enthusiasts don’t find the strips reliable enough, however (and yeah, you might not want to be peeing toward your hand while buzzed). Wiseman simply pricks his blood in the morning to see if enough ketones are present. “Anyone completely altering their metabolism and still consuming alcohol needs to be aware that things change,” he says.

So, exactly how drunk do people get on KetoDrunk? There seem to be two vastly divergent camps. You would expect that, lacking a solid base of bread in the belly, many keto drinkers would immediately become lightweights—“zero to absolutely trashed,” as one commenter said. And some do.

Beer is often high in carbs, so some opt for spiked seltzer to get KetoDrunk. Esquire

“The other pattern is that people will achieve a sort of plateau of inebriation where two drinks and seven drinks feel the exact same, but that eighth drink just lays them down like a sucker punch,” says Wiseman. He theorizes that the neuroprotective effects of deep ketosis, which studies have found to reduce seizures in children and Alzheimer’s in old people, may also “work” for preventing the feeling of drunkenness. This theory is unproven. Gawron, for his part, finds he can often drink all night long and never get loaded.

Some keto dieters find drinking is no longer fun at all.

“When I drink on carbs, the music sounds 1000 better,” lamented one KetoDrunk commenter, with another describing the feeling of being drunk on keto as “less euphoric and more intoxicated.” A third said, “Basically it just makes me sleepy.”

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If only sleepiness were the most pressing issue. There are some bigger health concerns to contend with as well. Bad breath is one, as ketosis causes acetone production; you might want to bring sugar-free mints on your Tinder date. Rashes are likely, too. Bloating is also possible, a common side effect of overconsumption of natural sweeteners. But dehydration is the biggest concern, as people on keto store less water than someone eating SAD (their somewhat derisive acronym for the “Standard American Diet”). Plus, alcohol is a diuretic, which causes many people to flush all the electrolytes from their body after a night of hard boozing. This often manifests itself in severe leg and foot cramping.

“I woke up this morning yelling out of pain and my roommate ran in the room to check on me,” complained a rare woman in the group; a sympathetic commenter revealed that cramps kept hitting him during post-bar coitus.

That’s why many KetoDrunk practitioners have started to chug pickle juice once they get home for the night. Others start electrolyte-loading while drinking, using pickle juice as their mixer—Tito’s vodka and pickle juice on ice is particularly popular. Stranger, perhaps, is the pickle juice Daiquiri, a mix of brine, lime juice, and rum, which you can garnish with a bread-and-butter slice when you’re feeling snazzy. (Pickle juice has not been conclusively proven to be an effective source of electrolytes.)

Wiseman appeases his drunchies with butter on cheese. We cannot recommend this. Esquire

If you have the willpower to be KetoDrunk, there’s still the concern about what to eat for KetoDrunk food. Pizza and nachos are obviously off the table. Pork rinds and unsauced chicken wings are a great option, as are bunless burgers and crustless pizza, where browned mozzarella acts as the bottom layer.

“If I’ve had a few drinks on a fasted stomach, you may find me spreading butter on a slice of cheddar cheese,” Wiseman tells me.

Even KetoDrunk’s most monk-like followers know the other shoe is all but guaranteed to drop the next day, no matter what they ate or drank the night before. No, not in the form of weight gain, but as one of the apparently legendary hangovers you can only get while on keto, which some practitioners say last up to three days. “The headaches are like nothing else I’ve experienced,” said one dieter on the forum, while another said they frequently found themselves “wishing for the sweet release of death to put me out of my misery.”

One KetoDrunk enthusiast offered yet another hack, this one to get around the hangovers: “I usually just drink 1-2 Nuun caplets dissolved in some water throughout the night. And a ton of blow,” this commenter wrote. “Usually wake up feeling like a billion bucks.”

Aaron Goldfarb Aaron Goldfarb lives in Brooklyn and is a novelist and the author of ‘Hacking Whiskey.'

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