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Alcohol in Hard Seltzers
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    Uncovering the Secrets of Alcohol Bases in Hard Seltzers: A Manufacturer’s Perspective

    Contact us today to kick our hard seltzer into production

    Article Summarizer:

    1.  Crafting a high-quality hard seltzer involves understanding ingredients, alcohol bases and fermentation process.

    2. For optimal fermentation, the sugar wash must be monitored and kept at a pH of 8.0 for one to two weeks.

    3. Filtration is necessary to strip aromas, flavors, and colors from the alcohol base.

    4. Flavoring can be added with natural or artificial flavorings to create unique taste.

    5. Packaging must include alcohol content and ingredients; quality assurance should be done prior to release.

    6. MetaBrand can help guide you in the process of creating a delicious and refreshing hard seltzer.

    Hard seltzers have taken the beverage industry by storm over the past few years, as many consumers have embraced this refreshing and flavorful drink with better-for-you ingredients. 

    A hard seltzer is a type of flavored alcoholic beverage that contains carbonated or sparkling water, alcohol, and fruit flavorings. It is an alternative to other alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine, and spirits, that is low in calories and carbs.

    The changing consumer preferences, with a huge focus on health and wellness, sustainability, and reduced sugar consumption, have put a premium on hard seltzers. But what alcohol is in seltzer? 

    Understanding the alcohol base of hard seltzers is critical to formulating an irresistible, flavorful, and marketable product. Read on to learn more about the alcohol base in hard seltzers and how manufacturers use this knowledge to create a successful product. 

    Health Benefits of Hard Seltzers over Other Alcoholic Beverages

    Hard seltzers are advertised as a healthier alternative to traditional alcoholic beverages, but what makes them better for your health?

    Low in Calories

    The alcohol base in hard seltzers is usually fermented from cane sugar or corn without added carbohydrates and calories. This makes them a low-calorie option for those looking to control their weight or watch their sugar intake. On average, a hard seltzer has 100 kcal/12 oz can and 2 g of carbohydrates, compared to the 155 kcal/12 oz can and 15 g of carbohydrates in beer. 

    Low Sugar Content

    Hard seltzers contain no added sugar, as the fermentation process uses natural cane sugar or corn to produce alcohol. High sugar content is a major concern for health-conscious consumers, so the low sugar content of hard seltzers is a significant selling point.


    The gluten-free label is critical in the beverage industry, and hard seltzers are naturally gluten-free as they use corn or cane sugar as their alcohol base. Consumers with gluten sensitivities or allergies can enjoy hard seltzers without worrying about health risks.

    However, drink hard seltzers in moderation and avoid binge drinking. Alcohol in excess can have serious health consequences, predisposing you to an increased risk of health issues, including high blood pressure, cancer, stroke, liver, and heart disease. 

    Understanding the Base: What Alcohol Is in Spiked Seltzer?

    The alcohol base of a hard seltzer is what gives it its flavor and mouthfeel. Most hard seltzers use a base from fermented cane sugar or corn, which is then combined with sparkling water and infused with fruit flavors. 

    The alcohol content (alcohol by volume, ABV) in hard seltzers is usually between 4–7%, which is lower than the alcohol content of beer and spirits. Other alcohol bases commonly used in hard seltzers include grain-neutral spirits (GNS), malted barley, and agave.

    Manufacturers use their knowledge of alcohol bases and flavor profiles to create a unique, flavorful hard seltzer that consumers can’t resist. Different alcohol bases can bring out different flavors and aromas, so manufacturers must understand which alcohol base works best for the flavor profile they want to create. 

    Flavor combinations such as strawberry and lime, juniper and ginger, cucumber and mint, or cranberry and lime are just some of the endless combinations that manufacturers can explore.

    Factors to Consider when Choosing an Alcohol Base for Hard Seltzers

    Creating a delectable hard seltzer requires more than just combining alcohol and flavorings. You want to develop a mouthwatering product that stands out from the competition. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing an alcohol base for your hard seltzers:

    Flavor Profile

    Different alcohol bases bring out different flavors and aromas. Consider what flavors you want to emphasize in the beverage and choose an alcohol base that will elevate these flavors. 

    Grain-neutral spirits are a gold standard for creating a neutral flavor profile with minimal impurities, while malted barley produces a sweeter and mellower taste.


    Light and dry alcohol bases such as wine will give a light and refreshing mouthfeel, while heavier alcohol bases such as malted barley or GNS will provide a richer, fuller-bodied texture. The fizziness of the sparkling water also affects the mouthfeel and texture of the hard seltzer. 


    The availability of the alcohol base impacts the cost and production time of hard seltzers. Readily available alcohol bases such as GNS or cane sugar will be faster and less expensive, while less common bases such as agave may have a higher cost and longer production time. 

    Availability also depends on the number of licensed suppliers in your area, so you’ll need to factor in the cost and time it takes for them to deliver. 

    Alcohol Content in hard seltzer

    Alcohol by volume is the measure of how much alcohol is in a beverage. ABV determines the strength of your hard seltzer, calorie content, and alcohol tax. The ABV of most hard seltzers falls between 4–7%, but you can adjust the alcohol content by tweaking the recipe to suit your taste. 

    Grain-neutral spirit bases have the highest ABV at 95%, which you can dilute to reach the desired ABV. Wine and neutral malt bases have the lowest ABV, at 11–18%.

    Cost and Taxes

    The ingredients (yeast, fruit flavorings, nutrients, and so on) and alcohol base impact the cost of production. The alcohol base accounts for the majority of prices, so you’ll need to factor in taxes, particularly the Federal Exercise Tax (FET), when calculating the total cost. 

    Along with the filtration and packaging costs, you must also consider the cost of licensing and permitting. GNS bases have the highest production costs due to the high FET, while wine and malt bases have the lowest production costs due to their lower FET. Taxes vary from state to state, so it’s important to research the local laws before production. 

    Regulation and Licensing

    You must comply with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulations when manufacturing hard seltzers. Malt-based alcohols fall under the malt beverages category and must follow all federal labeling and advertising rules. 

    GNS and wine-based hard seltzers with over 7% ABV must have a certificate of label approval (COLA) before selling them. Wines with less than 7% ABV fall under the FDA’s labeling requirements and thus don’t require a COLA. 

    Manufacturers need to understand the science behind alcohol bases and their flavor profiles to create a high-quality, unique hard seltzer that consumers will love. Through experimentation and careful consideration of various factors such as availability, manufacturers can uncover the secrets of alcohol bases for creating delicious hard seltzers. 

    Hard Soda vs. Hard Seltzer: What’s the Difference?

    Hard sodas and hard seltzers may look similar, but underneath the lids is a world of differences. Hard sodas are alcoholic versions of regular sodas with a strong flavor profile due to their syrupy, sweet taste. They are available in several flavors, such as blackberry, raspberry, orange, and cherry, and have higher ABVs (up to 14%) than hard seltzers (4–7%). 

    Hard seltzers are made by fermenting sugar and yeast, so they have a lighter taste and a lower ABV. They come in various flavors, such as pineapple, mango, grapefruit, and lime. Unlike hard sodas, they also contain sparkling water to give them a crisp and refreshing taste. 

    How to Craft the Perfect Hard Seltzer: The Process

    Nailing the perfect hard seltzer takes more than just following a recipe. You need to understand the ingredients, alcohol bases, and fermentation process to craft a high-quality beverage that stands out from the competition. Here are the steps to get you started: 

    • Ingredients you need:
      • Sugar
      • Yeast
      • Flavorings
      • Water (carbonated or sparkling)


    The fermentation process involves blending sugar and water to create a sugar wash, then adding yeast to break down the sugar and convert it into alcohol. Monitor the pH and maintain it at 8.0 for optimal fermentation. 

    Use a yeast strain with little to no aroma so it doesn’t overpower the flavor. Allow the mixture to ferment for one to two weeks in a temperature-controlled environment.


    Alcohol bases for seltzers need to be clean, odorless, and free from colloidal particles. You must strip all the aromas, flavors, and colors from the alcohol base through fractional distillation. You can also use carbon filtration to remove any unwanted compounds further.


    You must add flavorings to transform your hard seltzer into a delicious, unique beverage. You can use natural or artificial flavorings, depending on your preference. Natural flavors offer a more authentic, refreshing taste, while artificial flavors are more affordable and easier to find. Mix the flavors with chilled alcohol bases in small batches for optimal flavor combinations.


    To complete the process, you need to package your hard seltzer, usually starting with choosing to use bottles or cans. Carbonate the beverage to about 2.8 volumes of CO2 and adjust the alcohol content to 4–7%.

    Select a packaging style that complements the look and feel of your hard seltzer. Include your alcohol content and ingredients, as this is legally required for labeling. Test for quality assurance before sending your hard seltzer off to stores. 

    Knowing what alcohol base to use, understanding the fermentation process, and adding flavorings are key steps to crafting a delectable beverage. Hiring a reputable manufacturer to help with the process can save time, money, and resources, allowing you to focus on perfecting your hard seltzer and delivering a unique, high-quality product to consumers. 

    Are You Ready to Craft an Irresistible Hard Seltzer?

    Navigating the nuances of hard seltzer production can be complicated. The last thing you want to do is fly blind, as mistakes can be costly. The experts at MetaBrand are the Swiss Army knife of the beverage formulation and manufacturing industry that you need in your corner. 

    Our experienced team can help you navigate the alcohol base selection, fermentation process, flavoring choices, and packaging requirements to craft the perfect hard seltzer. Ready to drink the success of your delicious and refreshing hard seltzer? Get in touch with the MetaBrand team today.

    Hard Seltzer Faq's

    Hard seltzer is an alcoholic beverage that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It’s typically made by mixing carbonated water with alcohol, flavorings, and sometimes sweeteners. Hard seltzers are usually low in calories and have a lighter taste than most beers or other mixed drinks, making them a popular choice among those who want a refreshing drink without the heaviness or guilt of high-calorie options. Some popular hard seltzer brands include White Claw, Truly, and Bon & Viv.

    The alcohol strength of hard seltzer can vary from brand to brand, but in general, most hard seltzers have a similar alcohol content to beer, which is approximately 4-6% alcohol by volume (ABV). Some hard seltzers may have a slightly lower ABV, while others may have a higher ABV. It’s essential to check the label of the specific hard seltzer you’re drinking to determine its alcohol content. Keep in mind that even though hard seltzer contains alcohol, it may be easy to overconsume due to its light, refreshing taste, which could lead to increased levels of intoxication.

    White Claw is made using fermented sugar that is then turned into alcohol through a brewing process similar to that of beer. Specifically, White Claw is brewed using a combination of seltzer water, a gluten-free alcohol base that’s distilled from corn, and natural fruit flavorings. While the exact ingredients and ratios of these components may vary slightly between different White Claw flavors, they all contain the same type of alcohol — a fermented malted barley base, just like beer. It’s important to note that White Claw and other hard seltzers are considered malt beverages and not distilled spirits.

    White Claw and other hard seltzers have become very popular in recent years for several reasons. One reason is that they offer a refreshing, light taste that appeals to many people, especially those who may not enjoy the bitterness of beer or the sweetness of mixed drinks. Additionally, they are often lower in calories and carbohydrates than other alcoholic beverages, making them a popular choice among those who are health-conscious or on a low-carb diet.

    Another factor contributing to White Claw’s popularity is its social media presence. The brand has effectively leveraged social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter to create a trendy, fun image that resonates with a broad audience. This has helped to create a sense of community and brand loyalty among White Claw fans.

    Lastly, the rise in popularity of White Claw and other hard seltzers can also be attributed to broader changes in drinking culture. Millennials and younger consumers are increasingly looking for alternative alcoholic beverages that are easy to drink and offer a unique flavor, and hard seltzers like White Claw have effectively filled that gap in the market.
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