The nation’s drinking habits have had to change during lockdown, with pubs and bars around the UK closed until this weekend. However, while there have been concerns that Britons may be drinking more and stocking up on their own tipples at home, a new trend could mean the country’s booze habits are taking a slightly healthier turn. Hard seltzers have been launching in supermarkets in recent months – and the ready-mixed drinks are perfect for your lockdown picnics.
What is a hard seltzer?
Hard seltzers are simply a mix of sparkling water with alcohol – though many have flavourings such as natural fruit extracts for an added kick.
The trend started in the US, with the drinks becoming hugely popular not just for a refreshing change from the usual bar beverages, but for their low calorie content too.
Most drinkers will be all too aware that wine, beer and other spirit-laden drinks are full of calories and can lead to the dreaded beer belly – with many dieters finding that cutting the booze is the best way to drop the pounds.
For instance, according to Drink Aware, a 175ml glass of 13 percent ABV white wine contains 159 calories – so sharing a bottle will soon add up when it comes to your waistline.
“Alcohol comes with as much as 7 kcal per gram, which is almost as much as fat,” explained London Nutritionist Lily Soutter.
“Liquid calories are easy to overdo, and if we are consuming more calories than we’re expending then it’s likely we’ll put on weight. Whilst alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, portion control can sometimes be difficult, particularly during the summer months.”
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Slimmers in the UK will often opt for spirits such as gin or vodka and mix it with tonic or lemonade – but those mixers can soon tot up your calorie intake.
“Most bars and restaurants now only serve wine in large glasses, which means we inevitably drink more,” continued Lily.
“One small glass of wine may come with only 95 kcal, whilst a large glass often comes with 214 kcal! On the other hand, cocktails can be extremely high in sugar and can come with as much as 500 kcal per drink. Lastly, a pint of beer could provide as much as 208 calories. Research has shown that men who consumed more than three drinks per day were 80 percent more likely to have belly fat in comparison to men who didn’t drink as much.”
But it’s not just the calories that count – it’s also down to the way your body processes the booze.
“Alcohol can contribute to weight gain, especially around the middle area – often referred to as beer belly or wine waist – due to the fact that the liver focuses on burning alcohol over fat,” explained Eve Kalinik, nutritional therapist and author of Happy Gut, Happy Mind. “Furthermore, the foods that we might gravitate towards after a few too many tend to be the more calorie-dense ones and/or we eat more than we might need.
“Low alcohol options – like hard seltzers – tend to be lower in calories, and as long as they are drunk in moderation also help to manage food decisions that are ‘under the influence’. Just be wary, as they don’t taste that alcoholic, which can lead to drinking too many; and whether it’s from hard seltzers or other forms it still adds up to the same thing.”
Hard seltzers generally come in at under 100 calories for the whole drink, which is usually ready-mixed in a can.
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Though it was huge in the US far before the pandemic hit, the new drinks category is likely to be even more of a hit now that Britons are having to limit socialising to outdoor picnics and garden parties.
The canned drinks have a lower alcohol content of around 5 percent – similar to that of beer – which is likely to make them popular among younger drinkers.
The nation’s drinking trends have changed in recent years, as the wellness wave has sparked millenials to ditch binge drinking for a more balanced approach – while others have even made it cool to go teetotal after the success of the annual Dry January campaign.
However, for those who still enjoy a drink but perhaps want to cut back on either their hangovers or their calorie intake, the new drinks are likely to be the new go-to tipple.
“Hard seltzers contain a single spirit with a low calorie and low sugar mixer with no sugar or artificial sweeteners. By diluting the alcohol in a low sugar, hydrating mixer you are left with a higher volume yet lower-calorie beverage, which takes longer to drink – ultimately slowing down consumption,” agreed Lily.
“However, as with anything moderation is key when it comes to alcohol, even for brands which could be better for our waistline.”
Eve also recommended a more measured approach to drinking. “I believe it is more about being mindful about the drink you are having and perhaps sticking to one that you really enjoy, rather than opting for one just because it is lower in calories,” she added.
Multiple brands have now launched the revolutionary drinks in the UK, offering unique flavours and different calorie content – here are a few of the best.
White Claw was the drink that initially sparked the huge trend in the US, becoming a cult brand with a total sales growth of 240 percent in 2019 alone – and 2020 is looking set to be even better.
The drink combines a gluten-free alcohol base with fizzy water and a hint of natural fruit flavour, and comes in at just 95 calories per can with 4.5 percent ABV.
The pioneers are said to have “disrupted” the drinks industry in 2016 with the launch of its hard seltzers, which feature a triple distilled spirit and three flavours – Raspberry, Black Cherry and Natural Lime.
White Claw is £2.50 a can and launched into supermarkets including Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s at the beginning of June.
Claiming to be the first hard seltzer to launch in the UK, colourful brand Balans launched its Aqua Spritz earlier this year and is now available in supermarkets including Asda and Tesco. The cans are on sale for £1.50 for 250ml.
The alcohol-infused sparkling water also has a hint of fruit – either mandarin or lime – and is owned by Swedish brewery Kopparberg.
The alcoholic fizz has the lowest calories compared to other drinks in the hard seltzer market at just 60 per can – dropping to 58 for the lime flavour.
It also has a lower alcoholic volume at just 4 percent and boasts less sugar than a vodka lime and soda or a gin and slimline tonic.
Vodka giant Smirnoff has got in on the act with the launch of two fruit flavoured hard seltzers that have just 72 calories per can.
The hard seltzers contain a mix of Smirnoff No.21 Premium Vodka, sparkling water and natural fruit flavours.
The drinks are £1.80 each and are available now from Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose stores around the UK.
It’s the lowest-calorie ready-mixed drink in the Smirnoff range, and offers a sweet or citrus option – drinkers can choose from Raspberry and Rhubarb or Orange and Grapefruit.
Barefoot Wine Seltzers
Giving the trend a new twist, Barefoot Wines has put its own spin on the trend and launched a wine-based hard seltzer – but it still comes in at fewer calories than some of its rivals.
The blend of sparkling water, white wine and fruit flavouring can be bought in either Pineapple and Passionfruit or Strawberry and Guava, making it a fruity alternative to a white wine spritzer.
The crisp drink has 70 calories and just 4 percent alcohol, and like its competitors it is also gluten-free.
The drinks are available from Tesco for just £1.80 a pop.
Aldi Nordic Wolf
Never one to miss out on a trend, budget supermarket Aldi has done it again by taking inspiration from the bestselling White Claw to create its own hard seltzer drinks.
The supermarket is launching Nordic Wolf hard seltzer later this month, with the usual recipe of a gluten-free alcohol base, sparkling water and fruit flavours.
The drink will be hitting shelves in four flavour options – Lemon, Strawberry and Lime, Cranberry and Cherry and Raspberry and Blackcurrant.
In true Aldi fashion, it’s almost half the price of White Claw at just £1.29 per can, though it does carry more calories at 97 per drink.
Always drink responsibly and visit Drink Aware for more information.