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What is Hard Seltzer?

Charl Joost
Last Updated: February 14th, 2023

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Hard seltzer is an interesting product as it is not like normal seltzer. Seltzer is a simple combination of plain water and carbon dioxide. Hard seltzer is very different as you will see.

Let us look at some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding hard seltzer to answer the question” what is hard seltzer”?

A Deeper Look at Hard Seltzer

1. What Is Hard Seltzer?

what is hard seltzer

Hard seltzer is a straightforward drink to make, made using carbonated water (plain water and carbon dioxide) and mixing that with alcohol and fruit flavoring. The alcohol in the hard seltzer is produced using fermented cane sugar which is done by soaking the cane sugar in water and mixing it with yeast.

Once the yeast has been added and the alcohol base produced, the product is filtered to remove any unwanted minerals or flavors. Next, the flavoring is added usually in the form of natural fruit juice or juice-based flavoring.

There are many flavors available for hard seltzers with the most common being citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc) and stone fruits, like apricot and black cherry. Other flavors include tropical fruits such as passion fruit, pineapple, and mango.

This alcoholic beverage usually contains approximately 100 calories and has a low level of carbohydrates (2 grams). Sold at an alcohol content of between 4% to 5% (8 to 10 proof), this drink makes a good beverage option for someone looking for an alcoholic beverage with a low amount of alcohol in it.

2. Is Hard Seltzer Alcohol?

Hard seltzer contains alcohol and is made using fermented cane sugar. It has a similar alcohol content to beer, containing approximately 4% to 6% (8 to 12 proof).

This is a low alcohol content, with other alcoholic beverages (like vodka, tequila, and gin) containing much higher levels of alcohol (40% to 55% – 80 to 110 proof).

made as a separate alcoholic beverage, hard seltzer is not made with another type of alcohol. This makes it easier to create a beverage with a low alcohol content rather than having an alcohol content closer to 40% (80 proof) like other clear alcoholic beverages.

3. Is Hard Seltzer Beer?

is hard seltzer beer

In short, hard seltzer is not beer. Although it has a similar alcohol content (4 to 6% – 8 to 12 proof), they are made differently and have different flavors.

Beer can have an alcohol content of 3% to 12% (6 to 24 proof) and is made using fermented malted barley. Aside from the barley, beer is made using water, yeast, and hops.

Beer has a sugar content of 0% and always contains gluten. Whereas hard seltzer has a sugar content of 2 grams and does not contain gluten. Hard seltzers are generally gluten-free while beer contains 20 ppm (parts per million).

4. Is Hard Seltzer Malt Liquor?

Although hard seltzer is classified as a malt beverage, it is not necessarily malted liquor. Most hard seltzers are produced using fermented cane sugar to create an alcohol base, although it can also be made with malted barley, wine, or grain-neutral spirits.

The flavoring of the final heard seltzer is affected by the alcohol base as the different bases will have unique tasting notes from the grains. Fermented cane sugar creates a ‘sugar base’ which can also be produced using beet or corn. These alcohol bases tend to have a more neutral flavor and act as the ‘ideal’ base for hard seltzers.

Malted barley, however, creates a neutral malt base, which is derived from the malt that has been stripped of its aroma, flavor, and color. This is done through carbon filtration or reverse osmosis and produces a base to be combined with flavoring and carbonated water.

A wine base is produced using fermented grapes, with other types of wine produced using grape skins or orange peels. This wine base is filtered to produce neutral tasting notes, with other types of wine available to use.

Finally, a grain-neutral spirit base can be made from fermented mash at an alcohol-by-volume (ABV) of 95% (190 proof). This base is made from grains such as barley, rye, wheat, or corn and produces an odorless and tasteless neutral base.

5. How Is Hard Seltzer Made?

how is hard seltzer made

Hard seltzer is made interestingly, using fermented cane sugar. There is no actual liquor used to produce hard seltzer, rather it is a separate type of alcoholic beverage. Alcohol is produced by mixing cane sugar and water, then adding yeast.

The yeast is used to convert the natural sugars in the cane sugar into alcohol. This yeast is most commonly a neutral yeast that does not release high levels of phenols or esters. A neutral yeast will help distillers produce a clean beverage.

Once the yeast has been added, fermentation occurs. However, there are not high enough levels of sugar to sustain the yeast so seltzer-makers will add other forms of nutrients to ensure the yeast remains active and flourishes. This fermentation process takes between 2 and 5 days but it will taste awful.

This is when the beverage needs to be ‘scrubbed’. The seltzer is filtrated using charcoal filters, a centrifuge, or plate filters which remove unwanted aromas and flavors from the beverage. This will turn the liquid clear, leaving a clean base to add flavors.

Flavoring is added to create a good-tasting beverage. Distillers have used a wide array of fruits and herbs in the past to create flavored options but have found certain flavors to work better. These flavors include citrus options like lemon, tangerine, and lime, while additional flavors come from black cherry and apricot.

6. Healthiest hard seltzer?

healthiest hard seltzer
Image: Healthiest hard seltzer

Hard seltzer on its own is a healthier alcohol option as it has a low alcohol content and is gluten-free. This makes it a good option for someone who has a gluten intolerance or allergy. Aside from containing no gluten, hard seltzers have a lower sugar content than some other alcohol types, making them ideal for the health-conscious.

Several brands produce hard seltzer that claims to have the healthiest options available. Maha Organic Hard Seltzer is made using real fruit juice rather than flavoring, malted barley, sea salt, and cascara. This beverage is classified as USDA organic and is sold at an ABV of 4,2% (8,4 proof).

This hard seltzer contains fresh ingredients and contains 110 calories per serving. Although there are 10 calories more per serving than the average, this beverage is made using vitamins and minerals to make it a slightly healthier option than a flavored cocktail.

Vizzy Hard Seltzer is made to be a healthier seltzer option. Containing a large amount of vitamin C from acerola juice, this beverage is made with high-quality ingredients. It has less than 100 calories per serving (which is the common amount with hard seltzers) and contains 65 mg of sodium.

According to the brand, it is the “first” brand to produce a hard seltzer that contains vitamin C. This vitamin helps to protect your body’s cells from free radicals, which are produced when your body is exposed to radiation from the sun or when it breaks down food.

7. What Is The Strongest Hard Seltzer?

the strongest hard seltzer
Image: The Strongest Hard Seltzer

With a low average alcohol content of approximately 5% (10 proof), hard seltzer is not very strong on its own. This does not mean you cannot find stronger hard seltzers though. Some brands sell hard seltzers with a higher alcohol content with the highest alcohol content being 12% (24 proof).

The strongest hard seltzer available on the market is sold by Four Loko, which is sold at an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 12% (24 proof). Included in Four Loko’s offerings are their 9 main flavors, 4 sour flavors, and 3 variations in their Innovation Series.

Included in these flavors are black cherry, sour mango, sour apple, peach, and strawberry lemonade. Each of these variations is sold in 23,5-ounce cans at an ABV of 12%. These flavors have been developed to live up to the brand’s philosophy of fuelling “epic stories”.

8. More Information About Hard Seltzer

If you would like to know more about hard seltzer, watch the following video from Facts Verse which explains more about what it is. This video goes into what hard seltzer is and how it became such a popular beverage option.


Hard seltzer is an interesting beverage as it combined seltzer and alcohol. Seltzer is a combination of plain water and carbon dioxide, and combined with alcohol, makes a refreshing beverage.

These hard seltzers can be flavored with a variety of tasting notes, with the most common options being fruit flavors.

This beverage is made using fermented cane sugar, water, and carbon dioxide and is a refreshing option for someone looking for a drink with less alcohol in it.

There are many brands out there that produce and sell hard seltzers so to find your ideal option, you may need to try a few.

About The Author

Charl Joost

Charl is a trainer, public speaker, and professional writer. While he has been coached to niche down, he has many passions. These include golf, gardening, technology, and a decent cup of coffee or two. Charl loves to learn about new products and tries everything he writes about.

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