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Under the "New!" sign in the beer section at the Bowery Whole Foods in Manhattan, I did a double-take: Tucked between the beers and ciders were bottles upon bottles of spiked sparkling water. While spiked seltzer first came to our attention early last year, as reported by Betches, it feels like this drink is everywhere this spring—but is it here to stay?
Spiked seltzers and hard sodas are the biggest emerging trend in beer and spirits right now. While the trend emerged last summer with the brand, SpikedSeltzer, and went largely dormant over the winter, it's picking back up steam this spring. Its sales are at "almost 50% more than they were a year ago in this category [in the New York area]," Chris Manca, a Specialty Coordinator for Whole Foods Market’s Northeast Region, who handles primarily beverage and spirits, told me over the phone. When you consider the spike in sparkling water popularity—sales increased 56% between 2009 and 2014, according to the Boston Globe, this is hardly surprising.
And like most trends, it isn't actually anything new, according to Chris. "If you think about it," he said, "it's a trend from 10 to 20 years ago" that came from a desire to create a beer alternative for non-beer drinkers. He speculates that the resurgence in the drink—which markets itself as a low-carb, low-calorie alternative—emerged in response to the growing craft beer industry. In fact, many of the companies manufacturing spiked sparking water are also breweries:
"It's a way to tap into the craft [beer and cocktail] market with something that's already a little bit more familiar," Chris said. What that familiar thing is isn't exactly clear—it's surprisingly difficult to nail down the actual alcohol used in each seltzer, though one brand admitted using "alcohol made from cane sugar." We can only assume they mean rum? Cachaça? Hangover in a bottle? (As it turns out, after reaching out to the brand, it's none of the above, but cane sugar that is fermented, but not distilled.)
But will it go the way of its previous incarnations (Remember when getting "Iced" was a real danger?) or stay for good? We'll let you decide. Here are 3 of the most widely available spiked sparkling water brands on the market now and what you need to know about them:
SpikedSeltzer was launched in 2013 by beverage mogul Nick Shields (who worked for Nantucket Nectars when it was still a startup and was as a fifth-generation brewer at the now-closed Haffenreffer Brewery in Boston) and Dave Holmes, who came over from the financial industry. Later this year, you'll see it at Target (six-packs are already available at Whole Foods across the country).
It also uses the same cap idiom strategy used by Snapple and Nantucket Nectars (now owned by the same company), so don't be surprised if your drink is a little sassy. (As my own bottle cap informed me, "Behind every man is a woman rolling her eyes.")
Flavors available: Cape Cod Cranberry, Valencia Orange, West Indies Lime, Indian River Grapefruit
Created under a off-shoot of Boston Beer Company (who produces Samuel Adams), Truly Spiked & Sparkling markets itself as the "lowest-calorie and lowest-carb spiked sparkling water available," which is how you know they aren't going for those craft beer drinkers. It's also one of the lower-alcohol options with a 5% ABV.
Flavors available: Colima Lime, Grapefruit & Pomelo, Pomegranate
Nauti Sparkling is the youngest member of the spiked sparkling water world—it was just introduced just this month! It's being produced by the Massachusetts brewery Wachusett, and is currently only available on the East Coast, but has plans to go nationwide this month.
Flavors available: Raspberry, Lemon-Lime, Grapefruit, Cranberry
We want to hear your opinion: Is spiked sparkling water here to stay, or will it go the way of water with little, edible balls? Tell us in the comments below!