Grocery Guides

Hard Seltzers – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Alcohol



Last Updated: Nov 2, 2021

What are hard seltzers?

Hard seltzers are a concoction of carbonated water (seltzer), alcohol, and natural or artificial flavorings. Typically, the alcohol base of hard seltzers is either fermented cane sugar or brewed malt (also known as flavored malt beverages). But some variants use other types of alcohols as their bases, such as wine or tequila.

The appeal of hard seltzers lies in their low-calorie and low-carb content, as they have relatively small amounts of alcohol. What’s more, most hard seltzers are made with fruit flavorings (using real juice or artificial flavorings), which means they are generally low in sugar, too. To top it off, hard seltzers without any malt-based ingredients are often marketed as gluten-free. As such, it’s easy to see why many people flocked toward hard seltzers as a healthier alternative to high-calorie booze, like beers and cocktails.

Popular hard seltzer flavors range from berries to citrus fruits:

  • Cherry
  • Cranberry
  • Ginger
  • Guava
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lemongrass
  • Lime
  • Mango
  • Passionfruit
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberry

Where did hard seltzers originate from?

Hard seltzers first gained popularity in 2013 when Spiked Seltzer entered the alcohol industry. The brand has since been acquired by Anheuser-Busch and rebranded as Bon & Viv.

But hard seltzers aren’t an entirely new category of spirits. This low-alcoholic beverage concept was born in 1993 through Coors’ Zima. Unfortunately, the drink never took off and has since ceased production. Yet, the ever-flourishing wellness trend in recent years has given hard seltzers the perfect opportunity to reenter the market and secure a spot in an already crowded industry.

Long-time players, like Bud and Corona, have also jumped onto the hard seltzer bandwagon with their versions.

How are hard seltzers made?

The production of hard seltzers is similar to that of beer. The first step involves the fermentation of either cane sugar or malted barley to produce a sugar wash. The sugar wash is then filtered and diluted before adding the preferred flavorings. Tiny amounts of sugar may be used to adjust the taste. Lastly, the beverage is stabilized and carbonated before being packaged for consumption.

What is the alcohol content of hard seltzers?

The alcohol content of hard seltzers typically ranges from 5-6%, the equivalent of a light beer. That said, some hard seltzers made with hard liquors like vodka may score higher on the alcohol by volume (ABV) scale at 12% or so.

What should I look for when buying hard seltzers?

There are a few things to look out for when buying hard seltzers. It all boils down to your personal preferences and health consciousness.

  • Alcohol by volume (ABV): Check the alcohol content on the packaging. Usually, the lower the ABV, the fewer calories there are (unless there are added sugars involved—see next point).
  • Added sugars: If you only see natural fruit juices listed on the ingredient list, it’s likely that the hard seltzer only has natural sugars. Meanwhile, some hard seltzers use artificial sweeteners like corn syrup.
  • Gluten-free: Any hard seltzer that does not have “malt” listed in its ingredient list is probably gluten-free.
  • Calorie count: Most hard seltzers come in under 150 calories, making it a guilt-free summer indulgence. Plus, their single-serving cans make it easy to stop at just one drink.

If you are looking to have your groceries delivered, you can easily shop for hard seltzers via Instacart. After adding a product to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to notify your Instacart shopper about any preferences or specific directions on how to choose your favorite hard seltzers.

How to store hard seltzers

Store unopened hard seltzers in the refrigerator or at room temperature in a cool, dry area. If you’re bringing hard seltzers to a picnic (or any outside gathering), pack the cans in a cooler bag filled with plenty of ice. This way, you’re guaranteed a cold one even toward the end of the gathering.

Remember that hard seltzers should be drunk within a few hours of their opening to preserve optimal taste and freshness. Like any carbonated drinks, hard seltzers start going flat once you’ve let them sit for too long.

How to tell hard seltzers are bad

Before cracking open a can of hard seltzer, check its expiry date. You should also look out for external signs of spoilage on the packaging, such as:

  • Bulging or dented cans
  • Leakage
  • Rust

In such cases, discard the hard seltzers and replace them with fresh ones. Instacart offers same-day delivery/pick up for alcoholic beverages near you.

What can I substitute for hard seltzers?

If you’re looking to switch up hard seltzers for other low-calorie and low-alcohol beverages, you can try:

  • Hard tea: This drink typically uses black tea or green tea as its base. It is then infused with alcohol and natural flavorings like berries and honey.
  • Hard coffee: Just like hard tea, hard coffee consists of a coffee base mixed with alcohol. Added flavorings usually range from cream to chocolate to sweeten things up.
  • Hard kombucha: This is a sparkling alternative to hard tea with a higher alcohol content than regular kombucha.

With so many low-calorie alcoholic beverages available, it’s easy to keep your caloric consumption low without boring your taste buds.

The quintessential summertime drink

It goes without saying that hard seltzers have turned into the quintessential summertime drink. After all, who doesn’t love a low-sugar, low-carb, and low-calorie drink now and then?

Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a newbie trying it out for the first time, Instacart offers an array of hard seltzer brands in every flavor imaginable!



Instacart is the leading online grocery platform in North America, partnering with more than 700 beloved national, regional and local retailers, including unique brand names, to deliver from more than 65,000 stores across more than 5,500 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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