Food and Drink

Asian Flavors Are Seeping Into the Seltzer World

Find calamansi, yuzu, and ume in a seltzer near you.

Emily Carpenter/Thrillist
Emily Carpenter/Thrillist
Emily Carpenter/Thrillist

Seltzer is a bloated market. La Croix came crashing through the doors, followed by the likes of Bubly and Waterloo. The old heads, Perrier, San Pellegrino, and Polar, maintain their classic vibes but have pivoted with flavours and cans, too, in an attempt to keep up with the saturated field. Then there’s the influx of hard seltzer, where the options seem limitless but not entirely compelling.

It’s hard to parse out which seltzers are worth trying, especially when the flavours begin to get repetitive: lime, black cherry, and grapefruit feel like unexciting and inescapable constants. Thankfully, a wave of new seltzers have arrived and they’re bringing bright, Asian flavours with them.

“I had the original idea in mid-2018. At the time, Crazy Rich Asians was the number one film at the box office, Korean pop was hitting a fever pitch, and the influence of Asian food and culture was really starting to make its mark on American culture,” Sandro Roco, the creator and founder of emerging sparkling water brand, Sanzo, relayed. “But when I walked the beverage aisles at both markets like Whole Foods and H-Mart, I didn’t feel there was anything properly capturing this shift in culture.”

So Roco decided to make his own seltzer. Roco, who is a Queens-born Filipino-American, settled on three flavours for his initial launch: lychee, mango, and calamansi. “What ultimately inspired me to pursue Sanzo is that I felt the brand, through an accessible medium like sparkling water, could serve as a bridge among cultures,” he shared. “Just maybe, seeing our beverage on the main shelves of major grocery retailers-not just the ethnic aisle-can help push the conversation around food, drink and culture just a smidge forward.”

The flavours are a revelation; comforting to those of us familiar with them, and enticing for seltzer fans ready to try something new. Thankfully, Roco isn’t the only person capitalizing on the flare of Asian flavours. There’s adaptogen-infused seltzers streaked with the zip of yuzu, hard seltzers that capture the subtlety of dragonfruit, and sparkling waters infused with sweet-and-salty ume.

“Our flavours are built around the purpose of a single adaptogen, with a little bit of herbal medicine in the mix. We’re both Filipino-American, and herbal medicine is just part of our daily lives,” Celeste Perez, CEO and co-founder of Droplet, told me. Currently, Droplet has a white peach lemon verbena flavour, a yuzu and ginger flavour, and a creamy passionfruit and cacao flavour, all of which contain adaptogens intended to either calm or invigorate, depending on which can you’re reaching for. The name Droplet is in reference to morning dewdrops which, according to Perez, in Filipino folklore were believed to be the tears of the goddess of health that upon drinking would grant healing powers.

“When we were developing Droplet’s flavours, we started with what combos tasted really good, and then pleasantly surprised to find that every ingredient we used had meaning and well studied benefits. We learned from Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, and researched herbal remedies from all over, including Japan, South America, and the Philippines. Adaptogens were the magic of ancient herbalists, and now we know why they worked, even way back when.”

Sure, adaptogen-infused drinks have existed prior to Droplet’s launch and the trend continues to grow, but that doesn’t mean the beverages have always felt particularly appealing. “We’re at the beginning of the adaptogen trend right now and we could see that they’ve really only been used two ways: for mens’ high performance or for the New Age woman, who presumably already knew about alternative therapies,” said Perez. “There are millions of us who don’t identify with either of these categories-some of us just want a little bit of a health boost without too much granola.”

Both Roco and Perez, among other brands, are leading the charge on a new wave of Asian flavour-inspired seltzers. Whether you’re looking for a bubbly afternoon pick-me-up, a weekend dose of hard seltzer, or something a bit more healing, there are finally alternatives to the usual candy-like flavours of cherry and apple.

Sanzo

Sanzo’s lychee, calamansi, and mango sparkling waters taste as flavoured seltzers should: bold, bright, and effervescent. If you’re searching for a flavoured seltzer that tastes mostly like water, you’ve come to the wrong place. Made with fruit purees and carbonated water, Sanzo is definitely a vacation for your tastebuds. The calamansi has vibrancy, the lychee is sweet and full-bodied as lychees should be (without the syrupyness of canned versions), and the mango flavour is made with alphonso mango-one of the sweetest varieties of mangoes-so it has that punch of irreplaceable, true mango flavour.

Moshi

Moshi specializes in yuzu flavoured sparkling waters and sodas, some of which are incorporated with other flavours, like red shiso and apple yuzu sparkling water and white peach and yuzu. If you’re a fan of all things yuzu like I am, these sparkling waters are a must: the yuzu flavour is zippy and tastes as close to the fresh fruit juice as you can get. Each sparkling water clocks in at 20 calories or less, but I promise you won’t miss any added sugar. The red shiso has a welcomed, herbaceous quality while the white peach is fragrant and sweet. I’ve yet to be disappointed by anything Moshi has produced.

Droplet

Droplet is not as in your face about their flavours as you might expect, especially considering some of their concoctions include reishi mushrooms, passion fruit, and lemon verbena. Rather than having one dominant flavour that overshadows the whole beverage, each component of their drinks-including the mood-boosting adaptogens-works in tandem to create a layered experience that is mellow, soothing, and fragrant.

Something & Nothing

Something & Nothing hails from London and though it’s not a brand devoted solely to Asian flavours, they do have a gentle yuzu seltzer that hits all the right notes. Among the yuzu is a floral hibiscus rose flavour (my favourite flavour) and a cucumber version reminiscent of being at a spa. As to why they don’t opt for what has been considered more traditional seltzer flavours, Something & Nothing cites the evolution of people’s palates and felt that “drinks aren’t keeping pace.”

Kimino

Kimino is a sparkling water and juice brand from Japan that is wholeheartedly dedicated to sourcing the right ingredients for their product and using only what is necessary to craft the perfect Japanese-flavored seltzers. That means that some flavours are seasonal and all are made with water from the Hyogo mountains in the Kansai region of Japan. Choose from a variety of yuzu, ume, mikan (similar to tangerine), or Fuji apple seltzers.

Genki Forest

Though it’s zero calories, Genki Forest’s sparkling waters are definitely still flavorful. The Chinese brand features the flavours of white peach, calamansi, and cucumber in their bottled seltzers. Though you can typically find Genki Forest at your local Asian grocer, these sparkling waters are now also available online through Amazon.

Maha

Maha’s organic hard seltzers aren’t devoted solely to Asian flavours, but they do have a fun tangerine yuzu flavour that is citrusy and perky. Maha was founded by Meg Gill, the founder and president of Golden Road Brewing, who knows a thing or two about crafting alcoholic beverages. If you’re craving something boozy but aren’t feeling yet another White Claw, opt for Maha.

Maui Hard Seltzer

Maui Hard Seltzer is a spinoff from Maui Brewing Co., which also happens to be Hawaii’s largest craft brewery. Based in Maui, the alcoholic seltzers definitely reflect the geography they’re in. There’s a POG flavour, a signature combination from Hawaii that consists of passionfruit, orange, and guava. Other variations include acai, dragonfruit, and citrus-tropical flavours perfect for sipping on the beach.

Kat Thompson is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn

Food and Drink

Red Rooster Is Serving Free Chicken and Piping Hot Cash This Christmas in July

Get your early dose of festive cheer.

Red Rooster Christmas in July
Instagram / @redrooster_au

The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.

From June 29 – July 31, 2023, Red Rooster is serving up free food items, a chance to win $10,000 or one of 10 merch packs valued at $400 and other fun prizes. All you have to do is sign up as a Red Royalty member and spend $5 on at a location near you or online.

Each week there’ll be new delicious deals and prizes to win. The week one deals have already dropped and they’re looking pretty tasty. You can get access to them via your Red Royalty account. The more you purchase, the more chances you have to win.

Spoiler alert: you can get 10 chicken nuggets for free, right now. Brb running to Red Rooster.

Terms and conditions apply. Visit Red Rooster’s Christmas in July to see all the deals.

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