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A Guide to Adult Beverages and Seltzers

adult beverages

Beer, wine, liquor, adult beverages, seltzer: No longer does each drink have to stick to its own shelf—and no longer do you have to choose just one style of beverage. If you’ve been intrigued by the many adult beverages and seltzers, and the world of refreshing flavors they offer, here’s a quick primer on what’s inside the bottle or can. From nostalgic soda flavors to refreshing fruit quenchers, there’s something for every palate.

How are adult beverages and hard seltzers made?

All boozy beverages are made by the process of fermentation, in which sugars are converted to alcohol through the activity of yeast or bacteria. For example, in wine, the sugars come from grapes; in cider, from apples; in vodka, from potatoes or grain.

For hard seltzers, sugar is fermented. Beers and malt beverages use malted barley and other grains as their bases. To get the fruity flavor in each drink, fruit juice and/or fruit oils are added to adult beverages and seltzers after fermentation.

Why are they so popular?

  • It’s a sweet alternative. If hoppy IPAs are a bit too strong for your tastes, light and refreshing adult beverages and seltzers—in an orchard’s worth of varieties from lime to blood orange to cranberry—are like a breath of fresh air.
  • It’s ready to drink. Who wants to deal with mixing a drink at the beach? These cool canned offerings taste like cocktails and pack the fizz of champagne, but with ease of transport and serving.
  • It’s easier on the waistline. Some seltzers are only about 100 calories per can. (But check the label for variations in each.)
  • Some are gluten free. Many adult beverage and seltzer varieties that are made with cane sugar are also gluten free, giving cider drinkers a whole new world of flavors beyond apple.

1. Cayman Jack

cayman jack

If you’re a margarita maven, Cayman Jack might be your new favorite drink. Made with agave, cane sugar, and lime juice, these tart and tangy varieties have all the punch of freshly mixed margaritas or mojitos in premixed form. There’s no tequila in the blend—it’s a malt-based drink—so the ABV (alcohol by volume) comes in at an easy-drinking 5.9 percent.

2. Smirnoff Ice

smirnoff ice

A citrusy bottled cocktail without the vodka punch, Smirnoff Ice has ridden the wave of adult beverages for decades. As one of the original “malternative” beverages, it’s still going strong in classic lemon-lime and a host of changing seasonal varieties.

3. Redd’s Apple Ale

redd's apple ale

The word "ale" in the name gives it away: This is actually a beer that tastes like a cider, bringing apple flavor to everyone's favorite ballpark beverage. And because it's beer, Redd's is frequently available on tap in bars and restaurants.

4. Truly Pomegranate

truly pomegranate

Crisp and tangy, this light flavored sparkling water appeals to those who want a drink that’s not too sweet. And at only 2 grams of carbs, 1 gram of sugar, and 100 calories per bottle, it’s almost as close as you can get to “soft” seltzer while still containing a bit of alcohol.

5. White Claw Cherry Seltzer

white claw seltzer

If cherry cobbler and black cherry ice cream make your mouth water, this seltzer will conjure memories of sweet summer desserts. The refreshing seltzer won’t overwhelm with cloying sugary flavor, instead offering a carbonated kick of cool fruitiness from real cherry juice.

Drink responsibly. Be 21.