Welcome to Fizz Biz, a summertime column where we’ll be sipping and appraising hard seltzers all season long. Know of any must-try products out there? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spindrift Spiked is a little too pleased with itself. A... little smirky. The packaging literally features a winking emoticon—no, not an emoji, that would be too expected. Instead, it courts the analog crowd with a semicolon + closed parenthesis wink. “This one has alcohol in it,” the can warns. With a wink.
But the annoying thing is just how much this company has earned the right to be cock of the walk. Spindrift, with its minimalist design and even more minimalist approach to seltzer, is the drink of choice for anyone who likes La Croix but considers its mainstream following a detriment. And Spindrift Spiked has now arrived on the scene to bring understated east-coast coolness to the hard seltzer space at 4% ABV. Consider me reeled in, hook, line, and sinker.
Spindrift, around since 2010, prides itself on being, as its website describes, “America’s first sparkling water made with just real squeezed fruit. Yup, that’s it.” Whether or not that’s true (I have no grasp of what LaCroix’s “naturally essenced sparkling water” is supposed to mean and I never will), the straightforward “fizz + juice” concept is on display in Spindrift’s boozy version as well. Here’s the tell: among its four flavors—pineapple, lime, mango, and lemon/black tea—the nutrition information is not uniform. Pineapple has 3 grams of sugar and 95 calories per can, while lime has no sugar and 84 calories per can. Rather than crafting a product within a set framework of highly marketable nutrition stats, Spindrift Spiked allows the actual ingredients to set the agenda. And that is what will earn my dollars, not a string of healthy-sounding zeroes on the label. Give me fruit, not the word “innocent”!
Like all good things, Spindrift Spiked is an acquired taste, though it only takes a few swigs to get with the program. Upon my first sip of pineapple (always my favorite flavor), my palate had to adjust to the fact that this wasn’t the pineapple seltzer flavoring I’ve grown accustomed to. It was pineapple pineapple, a flavor that carries a tart, sour note before delivering a sweet one. Usually, drinks like Truly just skip right to the juicy sweetness. But Spindrift can’t overcome what the produce is packing, and the deferred gratification is akin to sipping a sophisticated wine. (This is, I promise you, the last time I will compare hard seltzer to viticulture.)
It’s for that reason that, as much as it kills me to say it, you’ll probably want to stay away from mango in this variety pack. Real mangoes are a delight, a gift, a triumph of nature. But part of the reason they’re so good is because each bite inundates you with texture as much as flavor, juice and soft flesh in equal measure. When you take that juice out of context and distribute it across too many ounces of fizzy water, it tastes... wrong, somehow. Thin and a little bitter, “off” in a way that can’t be ignored and powered through. It might appeal to people who like eating plain slices of grapefruit as a snack, but I’ll stick to the pineapple and lime flavors. (Lemon and black tea is an interestingly uncomplicated take on the Arnold Palmer, but its hint of caffeine means it’s out of sync with the hours in which I choose to consume hard seltzer.)
The product is in the process of rolling out nationwide, though it’s a long road ahead, it seems; Spindrift Spiked is currently available at stores in Southern California, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, with shipping available if you live anywhere in California. At this point, it’s also expensive: a 12-pack is $36 before shipping, a price that will surely come down once supply and distribution get figured out. (For comparison, a White Claw 12-pack hovers around $15.) But once the kinks are worked out, I look forward to Spindrift Spiked wedging its way into the hard seltzer space with boasts of authenticity and an excess of cool.