Beverages

Hard Seltzer Taste Test: White Claw, Truly, City Water and More! Find Out Our Favorites

hard seltzer taste test

White Claw vs. Truly, which side did you choose during the hard seltzer wars of 2019? We were definitely on the White Claw side, but drank our fair share of Truly’s when it was all that was available. But did you know that those aren’t the only two brands of hard seltzer out there?

With all the publicity that those two main brands got over the summer, it’s hard to believe that anyone would want to come out and try to compete for their share of the market when they would already be so far behind… but that’s exactly what happened. Hard seltzers started popping up all over the place from brands like Smirnoff, Bon & Viv, and even Four Loko. If you walk into a liquor store or a grocery store today, you can probably find no less than 10 different brands of hard seltzer on the shelf.

But how do all these newcomers stack up to the OG’s? And how would White Claw and Truly compare to other brands in a blind taste tests?

Well, that’s exactly what I wanted to find out. And rather than do a simple blind taste test on my own, I decided that getting the opinion of 10 friends would give me a much better sample to base the results on.

Let’s be honest… clearly my taste in food and drinks isn’t the end-all-be-all, so me saying something is good or bad doesn’t really mean anything, but if 9 other people say that something tastes like garbage, then it’s more than likely true.

So this past weekend was our annual Friendsgiving celebration, and I couldn’t think of a better time to do a hard seltzer blind taste test.

Hard Seltzer Brands & Flavors

When I set off to find different brands and flavors to try, I knew that there were a few that had to be a part of the test. All 4 traditional White Claw flavors, Black Cherry Truly, a couple flavors of Bon & Viv and at least one flavor from City Water. As long as I had those 4 brands I would be good, but I did manage to find a few more to add into the testing.

The final list of brands and flavors that were tasted were:

  • Truly – Black Cherry
  • Smirnoff – Raspberry Rose
  • Smirnoff – Berry Lemonade
  • Smirnoff – Cranberry Lime
  • White Claw – Raspberry
  • White Claw – Lime
  • White Claw – Black Cherry
  • White Claw – Ruby Grapefruit
  • Henry’s – Strawberry Kiwi
  • Bon & Viv – Lemon Lime
  • Bon & Viv – Black Cherry
  • City Water – Mixed Berry
  • Cape Line – Strawberry Lemonade
  • Natural Light – Mango Peach

Sadly, I couldn’t find the Four Loko hard seltzer, otherwise that would have been added to the mix. I would have also added some more Truly flavors to the test, but the Black Cherry is just one I had left over from a previous case and I really didn’t feel like buying another 6 pack, since I had to buy 6 or 12 packs of each of these brands to begin with since they don’t all offer single can options.

As you can tell, most of the brands are pretty well known. Cape Line I had never heard of, but it was the only other one I could find at Mariano’s, and City Water is brewed right here in the Chicagoland area, and has just started being sold at Binny’s and Whole Foods, so I had to give it a try… gotta support the local companies. But other than that, the rest are well known, big brands that you can find pretty much anywhere.

So that was the starting line-up, there were 14 different brand/flavor combinations that we were all going to taste, without knowing what they were, and then rate to determine which tasted the best and which tasted the worst.

The Taste Test

In order to make this fair for all of the brands and flavors that were participating in the test, this was going to be a blind test. I labeled the bottom of each cup with a number, poured about half a cups worth of liquid in each one, recorded which number belonged to which brand/flavor, and then mixed them up at random so I couldn’t tell which was which. And since I was the one that poured them in the cups, I would take a sip first, record my thoughts, and then look at the number. This prevented me from possibly remembering what brand/flavor may have been associated with what number. Even though there were so many of them it was pretty impossible for me to really know.

Our testing pool consisted of 10 people (9 besides me), 5 females and 5 males, all of us aged 37-38. Some of us drink the hard seltzers on the regular, some of us drink them sometimes, and one of us just flat out doesn’t drink them and doesn’t really care for them. So it was sort of a mixed bag in terms of everyone’s feelings on hard seltzers in general, so I think it made for a pretty fair judging.

So which one came out on top?

Let’s take a look!

The Results

It’s hard for me to definitively say which flavor was the best, but White Claw Ruby Grapefruit was the best rated out of all of the hard seltzers we tasted. 4 people thought it was good, 3 people thought it was ok, 1 thought that it was neither good or bad, and 2 people thought it was bad.

On the other hand though, Truly Black Cherry was a split decision with 4 people saying it was good, 1 saying ok, 4 saying bad and 1 saying very bad… This is exactly why I wanted to have more than just me doing this taste test. Of course, even with 10 people doing this, your tastes may be completely different, so try these out for yourselves before making a true decision.

So since I’m not really sure how to display these results, I’m just going to talk about the good, the bad, and the rest, then I’ll post the table that outlines how everything stacked up against each other so you can see where all the votes were.

If you just want to look at the results by the numbers, scroll to the bottom. 

The Good Hard Seltzers

As I mentioned the White Claw Ruby Grapefruit and the Truly Black Cherry got the most “Good” votes with 4 people liking both of those, and I agree with that… partly.

I love the Ruby Grapefruit White Claw, so I’m glad that it turns out that I actually do like that, since I voted it as being good in my tasting. It was tied with the most number of high ratings with Truly Black Cherry, but the Truly had a lot of negative votes as well. So I’m going to give the overall best taste to White Claw Ruby Grapefruit based on this test. And I still think that the Truly Black Cherry tastes like medicine, so I can’t agree with anyone that says it’s good, but clearly people like it.

So those two brands/flavors got the most “Good” votes, but there were a lot of brands/flavors that were just Ok…

Ok, let’s stop for a minute and restructure this rating scale. Basically there were five ratings that we used, “Good, Ok, Not bad/Not Good, Bad and Very Bad”, so we’re just going to convert those ratings to a 1-5 scale, 5 being the best and 1 being the worst… It’ll make this whole process a lot easier.

White Claw Ruby Grapefruit came in with a total score of 39 out of 50

And Truly Black Cherry only had a 33 out of 50…

And with this new rating scale, the Natural Light Mango Peach actually tied the White Claw Ruby Grapefruit with 39 out of 50, which is actually very surprising.

The Natural Light Mango Peach had 2 people that thought it was good, 5 said ok, 3 were indifferent, but zero flat out hated it. So if you’re looking for a cheaper option for a party, this might work out for you. I didn’t think it was terrible. The flavor is good, it goes down easy, but of course it holds that stipulation of being Natty Light… but if you can get over that, this might be a good one to try.

Out of the rest of the seltzers, White Claw Lime came in with a score of 38 out of 50, and Smirnoff Cranberry Lime came in with a score of 37 out of 50.

And that pretty much rounds out the best seltzers we tasted, but now let’s get in to the worst…

The Bad Hard Seltzers

So a lot of the hard seltzers we tasted rated somewhere in the middle. Most people thought that most of them were just Ok, with a few people not liking them or liking them, so it was hard to really determine which ones were the bad tasting ones…kind of.

That Truly Black Cherry had 4 bad votes out of 10 people, but the overall rating came in around the middle of the pack with a 33 out of 50. The Bon & Viv flavors didn’t fare as well though. Both Lemon Lime and Black Cherry scored in the low 30’s and had the majority of their votes in the bad column. Which actually surprised me quite a bit since I’ve been told by lots of people that I need to try the Bon & Viv brand, but maybe I just grabbed the wrong flavors… they were definitely at the low end of the rating.

Bon & Viv Lemon Lime came in with a 31 out of 50 and the Black Cherry scored a 33. So not terrible scores, but definitely at the lower end of the spectrum here.

But those weren’t the worst of the worst… and as much as it pains me to tell you which one did score the worst, it was definitely a unanimous decision among everyone that tasted it.

When blindly compared to all these other brands/flavors, City Water Mixed Berry was easily the worst of the worst.

I’m sorry City Water, I really wanted to like it since you guys are from the Chicago area, and I had read an article that said the drinks were awesome and that they might be a White Claw killer, but according to the 10 of us that tasted it, the Mixed Berry flavor definitely misses the mark.

City Water Mixed Berry came in with a dreadful 13 out of 50 score, with pretty much everyone saying it was very bad upon first sip. 8 people said very bad, 1 said bad, and 1 was indifferent. But I can tell you that based on our test, which I actually repeated multiple times after seeing the results, the Mixed Berry flavor of City Water is not good when compared to these other brands. Which really, really sucks because I did really want to like it. And it won’t stop me from trying the other flavors of City Water, but I am a little apprehensive about them now.

So someone please tell me if you’ve tried the other City Water flavors and what you thought so I can go out and pick up some more to try.

The Rest

The rest of the brands all sort of lined up in the middle of the pack. Nobody thought they were that great, but nobody hated them. A lot of them just tasted extremely watery and not very flavorful, which makes sense since a lot of people voted them as not good/not bad.

So unfortunately this test did not lead us to a clear winner over White Claw, and it seems that they hold the title for good reason. All four of their flavors were rated 36 or higher in the blind taste test, which is higher than any other brand overall. Smirnoff was 32 and higher, Bon & Viv was 31 and higher, and Henry’s was 37.

So basically if you’re looking for the best flavors you can’t go wrong with White Claw. And if you’re just looking for something that doesn’t taste bad, just avoid City Water’s Mixed Berry and you should be fine.

And that’s that… what flavors did we not test that we should try? Let us know in the comments or hit us up on social media. We’d love to find out some other brands to put to the test.

Don’t forget to check out our post on which Hard Seltzer Koozie is the best at keeping your drink cold!

Overall Hard Seltzer Taste Test Results – By The Numbers

Brand/FlavorGoodOkNeutralBadVery BadOverall Score
Truly Black Cherry4104133
Smirnoff Raspberry Rose0532033
Smirnoff Berry Lemonade0442032
Smirnoff Cranberry Lime2512037
White Claw Raspberry2503036
White Claw Lime0901038
White Claw Black Cherry1531036
White Claw Ruby Grapefruit4312039
Henry's Strawberry Kiwi2512037
Bon & Viv Lemon Lime1324031
Bon & Viv Black Cherry2314033
City Water Mixed Berry0011813
Cape Line Strawberry Lemonade2503036
Natural Light Mango Peach2530039

 

 

 

About the author

Tom

I'm a married man in his 30's who doesn't really "like" food. If it weren't for my wife I would be living off of pizza and cheeseburgers for the rest of my life. Follow me as I venture slightly out of my comfort zone to try different foods and restaurants.

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