Remember the dawn of Mike’s Hard Lemonade back in 1999? I sure do. The ad campaign was aggressive, and its overall aesthetic irreverent and chaotic. It was the drink for anyone who didn’t want to get fussy with cocktails but wanted to prove they were suited to something stronger than beer, ready to party at a moment’s notice. Fast forward 20 years later, however, and the hard seltzer market shifted our notion of what an ideal party beverage was: zero sugar, zero carbs, 100 calories. But still 5% alcohol, of course.
Under pressures like those, Mike’s Hard seems almost impossibly outmoded: 240 calories, 33 grams of sugar, and a squat bottle instead of a slim can. But now, a new product has come along that bridges the gap between ultra health-conscious seltzer beverages and the late-’90s appeal of Mike’s: Simply Spiked, an effervescent lemonade product that sits exactly halfway between hard seltzer and hard soda.
What is Simply Spiked Lemonade?
Let’s state this right upfront: Simply Spiked isn’t a hard seltzer, and it’s not exactly trying to be—though its slim can would suggest it’s speaking to the same audience. At 5% ABV, 170 calories, and 18 grams of sugar, it splits the difference between a health-conscious beverage and a fun summery indulgence. All that sugar means the taste of alcohol is virtually undetectable; you might think this means you could easily overdo it on Simplys, but as our team of taste testers discovered, you’d probably get sick of the sweetness before crushing too many of them.
Though it has roughly half the sugar of Mike’s Hard, Simply Spiked tastes just as sweet and is able to recover some of that ground by way of stevia, a natural sweetener that has no calories or carbs, and one that’s liberally used across the flavored malt beverage market. Personally, I hate stevia. I hate, hate, hate it. The only successful hard seltzers are the ones that can mask the bitter licorice taste of stevia with assertive citrus flavors.
Simply Spiked does a pretty good job of that, centering the lemonade flavor with every sip. This is to be expected, since its beloved forebear, Simply Lemonade, is the envy of all other juices at the grocery store. The crisp flavor of Simply’s classic lemonade has always struck a good balance between tart and sweet, and this fizzy slim-can product is nearly as successful. Nearly, as that little hint of stevia still slips through on the end of each sip. I suggest pairing the drink with a salty snack to distract from it.
Which flavor of Simply Spiked is best?
There are four flavors of Simply Spiked lemonade. Here’s how they rank, from worst to best:
- Strawberry Lemonade: This one’s the worst of the four, and it’s not close. For a few sips, it’s perfectly inoffensive, though the “strawberry” flavor is definitely more of a candy strawberry than a fruit strawberry. Drink more than one can and your mind would surely drift to the Super Mario Soda of your youth (except, you know, this can get you buzzed). Best for the members of your party with the biggest sweet tooth.
- Blueberry Lemonade: I had such high hopes for this one. Blueberry is a mild fruit, and I thought it might bring a soft, mellow sweetness to the otherwise sharp and tangy citrus flavors. I was wrong. Artificially strengthened blueberry notes made the whole thing taste heavy on my tongue, and though it pours a beautiful shade of pinkish purple (see photo above), it would be hard to make it through a full can. As one of our tasters pointed out, “You can just muddle some blueberries into a real vodka lemonade.”
- Watermelon Lemonade: This pick nearly made it into the top slot. Our team of tasters was worried upon cracking open the can and taking a whiff, as the watermelon aromas wafting up were distinctly syrupy, like a Jolly Rancher. But surprisingly, the flavor played really well against the lemon, creating a fun, fresh flavor that leans into the fact that this product is essentially soda.
- Signature Lemonade: Perhaps unsurprisingly, this flavor is best out of the four. Your palate doesn’t get the information overload of a fizzy, alcoholic lemonade with additional flavors competing for fruity supremacy. Instead, it’s just straightforward citrusy sweetness, a taste you won’t tire of quickly. This product is a good reminder that every beverage brand could stand to—if you’ll excuse the pun—keep it simple.