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.
Let’s get this out of the way: Mighty Swell is a little like a penny-farthing bicycle in liquid form. It’s a drink for hip urban creators with a sweet tooth, all attitude and design and cheekiness in a colorful slim can with its name written in a loopy font. Taking a stroll through The Mighty Swell website confirms all this in short order—the Our Story page starts off thusly:
Mighty Swell is driven by a small, motley group of dreamers and doers who instigate, cherish, and celebrate spontaneous moments…. Inspired by our quirky + humble Austin roots, we give a polite tip of the hat to the status quo and then do our own thing. Life is too short to ramble down the same path as everyone else.
I point this out not to condemn this motley group of dreamers and doers, but rather to give you a clear sense of what Mighty Swell stands for. It has positioned itself on a parallel wave of the hard seltzer trend and has been riding that wave with gusto for a few years now. And according to a representative for the brand, it’s the only independent brand to rank in the top 15 hard seltzers in the United States. So it’s a company that has earned its lovable-outsider status.
More importantly, you should know that Mighty Swell is on the sweeter end of the seltzer spectrum, one of the (literally) juiciest products I’ve tasted so far, with 2.5% fruit juice in every can. (For comparison, Truly Lemonade contains 1% lemon juice.) The fruit juice is, the FAQ page explains, white grape juice, “for a crisp, balanced taste in every spiked seltzer.” If “spiked seltzer” weren’t the buzzword of the 2020s, I could see this being sold more accurately as a general alcopop, or maybe “boozy diet soda.” And that is exactly what makes Mighty Swell worth knowing about: it’s the seltzer for the habitual soda drinker in your life.
Here’s the list:
- Cherry Lime
- Watermelon Mint
- Blood Orange
- Mango Raspberry
The sweetness of Mighty Swell means that the flavors get to be a little more fun than your usual lineup. That’s not to say these flavors aren’t offered by other brands, but here, they are bolder, sweeter, and, again, juicier than their competitors.
Take pineapple, for example. When a seltzer brand wants to imitate nature’s boldest, drippiest fruit, it tends to go one of two ways: a sugar-free flavor compound robbed of its sweetness so that it tastes like eating pineapple after the dentist has rinsed your mouth with fluoride, or a flavor compound so loaded with fake sweetener that it tastes like pineapple-and-Splenda licorice. Neither of these are ideal routes. But Mighty Swell has that crucial 2.5% juice to work with, and that extra little kick of sweetness makes the zingy pineapple flavor feel much more real. Same goes for the Cherry Lime and Mango Raspberry. And peach! Why aren’t more companies making use of summer’s greatest stone fruit?
The biggest issue is that once it starts warming to room temperature, a can of Mighty Swell becomes a little cloying. The sweetness of the white grape juice grows more pronounced and flavors start lingering on your tongue in a slightly syrupy way. But if you have one of those friends (as I do) who tears through 12 Diet Cokes per day and hates the way LaCroix almost but doesn’t quite taste like what it promises, Mighty Swell is the perfect bridge from soda to spiked seltzer. Its flavors are pronounced and genuine, and the product lives up to its name.
Also, the website suggests great cocktails to make with each flavor in the lineup, and a shot of something stronger might temper the sweetness of the seltzer nicely.
Besides the 2.5% juice, there’s not much deviation from the norm here: each 12-oz. slim can contains 5% alcohol by volume, 100 calories, 3 carbs, and 3 grams of sugar. That’s more sugar than some other hard seltzers, but it shows the brand is willing to prioritize taste.
Where to buy
Mighty Swell is sold in 24 states, and while Illinois isn’t one of them, I wouldn’t have to drive very far outside Chicago to find it in Wisconsin and Indiana. You can use this handy location finder to see whether it’s sold near you.
Mighty Swell is decidedly not my crack-open-a-cold-one-at-five-o’clock drink. It’s a bit too much of a palate-killer for that. But I’d gladly pick up a pack to use for mixers, or if I had a picky friend coming over who “isn’t a beer person” but also “doesn’t want to drink a cocktail if no one else is going to.” (Am I the only one with friends like this?) It’s more playful than Arctic Chill, less glamorous than Flying Embers, and more sippable than something like Henry’s Hard Soda. It definitely tastes like something made by a motley group of dreamers and doers, that’s for sure.