Food and Drink

Your Ultimate Guide To Hard Seltzer and Spritz, What Are They And Why We’re Obsessed

It’s not just summer’s unofficial drink

Moon Dog Fizzer

Let’s talk about seltzers and spritzes. You might have heard of the bubbly, alcoholic drinks, or even had a few yourself, either way, the refreshing alcoholic fizzers are down under and they’re here to stay. In America, seltzers have dominated the scene for a while now, with Whiteclaw being a major player in the game. It seems to be overtaking the infamous Mikes Hard Lemonade, and Four Loko, which is a ridiculously large can of alcohol mixed with carbonated water and artificial flavouring. Although it’s similar to a seltzer, the newer brands are creating healthier sips, focusing on infusing the beverage with natural ingredients, such as lime, mango, and raspberry. Some would say it’s basically soda water, which isn’t technically wrong. You will find most seltzers and spritzes are gluten-free, low in calories, and are not-too-sweet, making them a refreshing beverage to have any time. By the way, if you’re wondering where the word seltzer comes from, it’s German for sparkling water. 

To help you navigate the world of hard seltzers and spritzes, we’ve put together a guide and some recommendations of the best brands in Australia. 

When did the craze take off in Australia?

Seltzers are a relatively new category to Australia’s market. Brooke Hornung, Marketing Manager of Moon Dog Brewing, expected in the next three years, seltzer production would take over their beer production, although Hornung said this last year. 

“This month of March, we will sell more seltzer than beer, which we predicted in three years not five months later,” says Hornung. “It has blown us away and as Victoria’s largest independent craft brewer, we sell a lot of beer, so it’s not like we’re not selling beer anymore, we’re just seeing a huge demand for seltzer, which is why we created the Moon Dog Fizzer range. 

What’s the difference between seltzer and a spritz?

Unlike a seltzer, spritzes are a wine-based cocktail, usually made up of prosecco, a bitter liquor and sparkling soda water. You might have seen this popular Italian cocktail on the menu at your favourite bar. It was first seen in Veneto, Italy in the 1800s. The people there weren’t familiar with wine, so they would get bartenders to spray water in their wine to make it lighter—thus the name spritz. Like a seltzer, a spritz is light, refreshing, and not sweet at all. As of recently, they’ve been bottled up into slim cans, and become a staple at BBQs and parties. 

A seltzer is basically carbonated water—fizzy water—with alcohol mixed in. Seltzers usually have a lower alcohol percentage, around 5%, which makes it an ideal choice for the health-conscious, not to mention the low-calories, and refreshing fruity flavours. The alcohol mixed in is vodka, which during the brewing process they water down pure alcohol to the percentage the brand wants, then mix it in. Some seltzers say ‘malt alcohol base’ or grain-free which essentially means it was brewed with cane sugar, rice or malted barley. 

What makes it a healthier choice?

Firstly, hard seltzers and spritzes are lower in calories, sugar, and alcohol content, so that’s a big sell. Although, they’re not completely void of sugar. Some seltzers use fruit juice, which we know has plenty of sugar, but in retrospective, both beverages have a similar alcohol content to light beer, just has fewer calories, and a little bit more sugar than a light beer. When you compare it to wine, seltzer remains lower in calories and alcohol but spritzes contain wine, adding to the sugar and alcohol content. In the end, seltzers and spritzes are light, refreshing beverages, that are making waves in Australia with their trendy slim cans, and packaging. 

Why are we obsessed with them?

Who wouldn’t be obsessed with boozy fizzy water? In all seriousness though, seltzers and spritzes, especially now, are gaining traction in the Australian market, as it has been in the US market, and most of it comes down to the ingredients, the taste, and the ready to drink packaging—ideal for on the go. It’s also a refreshing alternative to the sugar-heavy ready to drink crowd, which is dominated by Smirnoff, Midori, Cruisers, and other brands we know all too well. We love anything new, but especially when you can introduce a new way to consume alcohol, more healthily. 

Sunny Eddy Seltzer
Photo Courtesy Of Sunny Eddy

What Australian brands should I try?

Since the bubbly beverage trend took off, brewers and distillers noticed the demand, so there are plenty of options to choose from. We did the grunt work to bring you the best brands to try. 

WhiteClaw

WhiteClaw was the brand that catapulted the drink category into popularity in the US, and it only recently launched in Australia, captivating our taste buds too. The famous white cans hit our shelves last year and flew off the shelf, with only two grams of sugar, 100 calories, and an alcohol percentage of 4.5%. We saw the rollout of tropical, fruity flavours including ruby grapefruit, mango, and natural lime. 
You can buy here.

Saintly

This local brand definitely wins our packaging stamp of approval. The trendy, slim, minimalist cans are gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and made from all-natural ingredients. You will find religiously-named flavours, including blessed lime, hail mango, forbidden pink grapefruit, and holy watermelon and mint. The 4% ABV cans have 62 calories per can and the 6% ABV cans have 89 calories. With a tagline of “God It’s Good,” and a guiding principle of “just the right amount of wrong,” Saintly is destined to lighten up the party as well as your palate. 
You can buy here

Sunny Eddy

Sunny Eddy is a new player in the game born on the Northern Beaches. Rather than vodka, this seltzer is mixed with triple distilled Australian gin and a hint of real fruit flavour. There’s less than a gram of carbs, has 0 grams of sugar and only 76 calories per can. Enjoy crisp pink apple, lime and cucumber, and blood orange and grapefruit flavours.
You can buy here

The Everleigh Bottling Co. Spritz

Inheriting the name, recipes, and ethos of Melbourne’s internationally renowned cocktail bar, The Everleigh, these spritzes are just as good as if you were at the bar. The carbonated cocktails, are light, well balanced and come in the cutest bottles that are bound to be the talk of the party. They come in four kinds; fruit cup, French 75, palomita, and americano. The fruit cup is an English cocktail, the americano is a version of everyone’s favourite negroni, and the palomita is a must for margarita lovers. The French 75 is a combination of gin, lemon, and sparkling wine. 
You can buy here

Moon Dog Fizzer

Moon Dog is Victoria’s largest independent craft brewer, and now they have added seltzer to the mix. Their Fizzers come in several flavours including, tropical crush, strawbs and cream, piney limey, and coco mango. Each can is one standard drink and has half the calories of other beer alternatives. 
You can buy here.

Bondi Spritz

Here’s another beautifully packaged cocktail in a can, this time from Bondi Spritz, a brand from Batch & Co. They have three flavours; double grapefruit and rosé, pear, fig, and pinot grigio, and guava, strawberry, and rosé. Each spritz offers a delicious, semi-dry beverage, that’s not too sweet, but still has that refreshing after taste and a fruity punch. 
You can buy here.

Brookvale Union Seltzer

Brookvale Union is no stranger to taking our favourite beverages and bottling them up in epically decorated cans. Their recent move into boozy seltzers is just another reason to stock up on Brookvale Union products. Their 4% ABV seltzers are available in lime and orange bitters, and juicy grapefruit. These seltzers have a stronger fruit punch than some others, offering a sweet and citrusy beverage with less than 90 calories per can. Although sweeter than most hard seltzers, they still have less than a gram of sugar. 
You can buy here.

Good Tides

Let the good times roll with Good Tides, a hard seltzer brand that gives us major beach vibes. Each can has 85 calories, and there are no artificial sweeteners or sugar. The flavours are simple and classic— raspberry, and lemon-lime. This brand offers seriously refreshing and light hard seltzers mixed with tripled distilled vodka. The alcohol percentage is standard too, 4.3%. 
You can buy here

Sunly Seltzer

This no-nasties sparkling seltzer was born in Byron Bay, which explains the beach-centric cans. While some hard seltzers are brewed with vodka, Sunly is brewed with a gluten-free grain, hops, water, and yeast— similar to how beer is brewed. It is then infused with natural ingredients at the final stage. The flavours you can get include,  Davidson plum and berry, ginger and lemon, and blood orange and grapefruit. 
You can buy here

Ray

Ray is definitely the cool kid in the group— the one who wears pastel colours and bucket hats. There is less than a gram of sugar and less than 88 calories in a can. You won’t find vodka in this seltzer, instead, it’s naturally brewed and is available in three flavours including peach, lemon and lime, and watermelon and mint. 
You can buy here

Archie Rose Distilling Co.

Archie Rose is a brand that has become quite popular over the years, known mostly for its gin, now we can savour a spritz from the iconic brand. In true Archie Rose style, the spritzes they have are creative and use a little of Australia’s natives to bring it to life. The blackberry spritz is mixed with lemon myrtle and juniper, and gin, adding a higher alcohol percentage than most. The second flavour is a mango spritz, with lime and chilli, and vodka. These are the real deal. 
You can buy here

Sofi Spritz

Sofi Spritz is perhaps the more widely known spritz brand in Australia. Dedicated to the classic Italian cocktails, you can expect good flavours, quality wine, and a refreshing drink—as it should be. They have three flavours in the range including blood orange and bitters, white peach and ginger, which reminds us of a bellini, and lemon and elderflower. Crack open a can and serve over ice for an easy, refreshing citrus drink. 
You can buy here

Delvi

This hard seltzer brand prides itself on natural Australian extracts, which they blend with fruits. Their blood orange passion seltzer is made with cold-pressed passionfruit which makes all the difference. The desert lime flavour uses Australian Tahitian limes, which we didn’t know were a thing, but now we’re glad we do. As always, each can is free of added sugars, and artificial flavours. 
You can buy here

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Food and Drink

The Best Ways to Dress Up Your Summer Beers

From micheladas to shandies to fruit infusions, the power is in your hands-and kitchen.

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Today, just about any flavored beer a person could dream up already exists in a can, from micheladas to shandies to, yes, pickle beers. But there’s still much to be said for the DIY versions of these dressed-up beers.

For one, they’re fresher (you could squeeze your own lemonade for a shandy right this instant). For another, they’re customizable: spiciness, fruit choice, how strong you’d like the final drink to be-all those are in your hands. And perhaps more importantly, they’re fun. Whether you want to spend two minutes constructing a beer-lemonade shandy or spend an hour infusing your IPA with real chunks of pineapple, there are plenty of ways to get creative in gussying up your beer this summer.

Embrace red beer

A brunch staple across the western half of the U.S., “red beer” is essentially a stripped-down michelada: just your preferred light lager of choice, plus tomato juice. But the devil’s in the details-folks can get mighty particular about their red beer specifications.

My preference is Coors Light with just a splash of Campbell’s tomato juice. It’s a pet peeve of mine when bartenders go too heavy on the tomato juice; it’s called red beer after all, not tomato juice. To make this yourself, start with your light lager of choice, then add just a splash of tomato juice so that the beer has a strong orange hue. Sip, taste, and add more if necessary.

Upgrade your salt rim

Another component of some micheladas, salt rims are more versatile than they might seem-and they complement several styles of beer. Just coat the rim of a beer glass with lime juice or water, then dunk the glass in a shallow dish of salt. Try the following combos:

• Mexican lager with a Tajin rim: Try substituting Tajin seasoning for straight salt for a bit of a chilli-lime kick. Pair this with a red beer for a michelada-like vibe.
• Gose with a herbal-salt rim: Goses are a beer style with a light salinity already, so pouring them in a glass rimmed with a rosemary salt or basil salt can add an additional flavour that doesn’t clash. Try mixing and matching fruited goses with herbal salts-how about a watermelon gose with a basil-salt rim?
• Dark lager with a smoked salt rim: Smoked salt is a surprisingly versatile ingredient because it’s way less powerful than liquid smoke. Try a dark lager (like Modelo Negro or a bock) in a glass rimmed with smoked salt for a subtle campfire vibe.

Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/iStock/Getty Images
Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/iStock/Getty Images
Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/iStock/Getty Images

No shame in a shandy

Radlers and shandies are often used interchangeably to refer to a light-coloured beer blended with fruit juice (typically lemonade or grapefruit). Packaged versions exist, but with so many fruit-flavoured non-alcoholic beverages on the market, it’s worth playing around with some creative combos in your own kitchen. A good rule of thumb is to start light with the base beer, either a pale lager, cream ale, blonde ale, or (if you’re really a hop head) a pale ale. From there, most people blend in a splash of their favourite juice.

But here’s my preference: Use a fruit-flavoured soda. I find that adding straight fruit juice to beer often makes it too sweet and a bit flat. A high-quality fruit-flavoured soda, like the ones from Sanpellegrino, adds carbonation and fruit flavour with too much sweetness. Also, go easy on the ratio of soda to beer to start, because you can always add more soda. I find a ratio of about one part soda to three parts beer is ideal.

Infuse your beer with fruit

Your French press isn’t only for coffee-it can also act as a device for infusing fruit or other flavours into beer. If you end up with a bumper crop of strawberries or melons from the farmer’s market, this is a great way to use them.

1. Start with a new or perfectly clean French press to avoid coffee flavour leaching into your beer (unless that’s what you’re after).
2. Pour in your beer of choice. Almost any style could work here: light lagers, blonde ales, saisons, IPAs, even porters and stouts. Pour the beer into the French press, leaving a couple inches empty at the top.
3. Add some cut-up fruit. The possibilities are limitless: porter and raspberry, IPA and pineapple, blonde ale and mango, wheat beer and oranges, saison and cherries…
4. Allow the fruit to infuse. How long to leave the beer in contact with the fruit is up to you, knowing that the longer the mixture sits, the more pronounced the flavours will be. Start with 10 minutes, push the plunger down slightly, pour and taste some of the beer, and wait longer for a more intense flavour.
5. Push the plunger down all the way. Pour your infused beer into a glass and enjoy!

Make a mighty michelada shrub

Micheladas are typically a mixture of Mexican lager, lime juice, tomato juice, and salt. But recently, premixed michelada shrubs (like those from Pacific Pickle Works and Real de Oaxaca) have popped up, adding some vinegar tartness and other ingredients like Worcestershire sauce and spices to the mix.

A shrub combines vinegar with fruit or, sometimes, vegetables, and they’re easy to experiment with at home. Michael Dietsch, author of Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, suggests that if you’re creating a shrub to mix with beer and tomatoes, beginning with a base of apple cider vinegar or malt vinegar (to match the malt in beer) plus lime is a smart start. From there, savoury additions like soy sauce will lend a Bloody Mary feel-just be sure to use a light hand with those umami-packed additions. Because vinegar and soy or Worcestershire sauce are tangy and savoury, Dietsch notes that you may want to add just a pinch of sugar to your shrub for balance.

From there, the sky’s the limit. Swap apple cider for white balsamic if you’re feeling bold, or add orange juice as well as lime. But regardless of what ingredients you use, Dietsch says it’s important to let a shrub sit and mellow for a couple days before using it. That time will let the intensity of the vinegar mellow and will ensure all the flavours meld together in perfect harmony. Once the shrub has sat a few days, give it a taste, then add a few splashes of it to your favourite Mexican lager.

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Kate Bernot is a certified BJCP judge and freelance reporter whose work regularly appears in Craft Beer & Brewing, Thrillist, and Good Beer Hunting. Follow her at @kbernot.

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