Brand wars are something we’ve had to deal with for as long as brands have been a thing. Nintendo and Sega, Nike and Adidas, Pepsi and Coke, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods — so long as competition exists in the market, the fans of each respective brand will argue in the streets (or you know, Twitter) over which brand truly deserves market and cultural dominance.
In the world of hard seltzers, there is one brand that rises above the rest — White Claw — but when your favorite case of Claws is sold out at your local market it just may lead you into the arms of the brand’s biggest competitor, Truly.
If you had your first Truly during the White Claw drought of Summer 2019 you may have written off the brand as a cheap clone, but since then Truly has reformulated each one of their flavors, eliminating a bitter and dull aftertaste found in the original and offering something much more crisp, refreshing, and most importantly, subtle. My personal take: I think I like them more than White Claw.
I’ve ranked all manner of sodas here — from Coca-Cola clones to every flavor of La Croix — but since reviewing each flavor of White Claw I’ve been on a mission to rank every single hard seltzer on the market with the goal of creating a master tier list — a giant visual guide that you at home can reference anytime you need to know which hard seltzers deserve your time. To learn more about the goal we’re working towards, check out the intro to the White Claw review, but all you really need to know is each one of these flavors will be ranked by a letter system that runs from D (the worst) to S (the best).
Let’s get into it.
Every ranking has a bottom, and in this ranking, it’s Truly Rosé. Now I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest Rosé fan to begin with, but if you’re curious as to what this tastes like in comparison to actual Rosé then the answer is — awful. Truly Rosé is not good, but I get what they were thinking, they wanted to give us the best of both worlds, everything we love about hard seltzer and pink wine. But it just doesn’t work, the fizz of the seltzer overwhelms the fruity notes of the Rosé, resulting in an overly candied flavor that just tastes cheap.
Rank: D Everything you hate about pink wine and hard seltzer, in a can!
I don’t know if it was expectation that resulted in Raspberry Lime ranking so low in this list, but what I do know is that the combination of raspberry and lime should be better than this. That’s not to say Raspberry Lime is bad — it isn’t. When you crack open a can you’re greeted with a refreshing blast of fragrant fruity notes that smell way more appetizing than it’s Truly Lime sister flavor, but it doesn’t taste better, and it really feels like it should.
Truly has too many flavors — having a Lime and Raspberry Lime flavor is just redundant, especially when they taste this similar — and if we had to lose one we’d choose Truly Raspberry Lime. There’s a tart after taste that lingers on the tongue a lot longer than the plain Truly Lime’s flavor.
Rank: D Sometimes, less is more, and in the case of Truly, one flavor trumps two.
I don’t know what it is about Truly’s berry blends, but they just miss the mark for me. Wild Berry suffers from the same problems as Truly Raspberry Lime, it’s a muddled mess that is less than the sum of its parts. Raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry — how could you go wrong? I couldn’t tell you, but I bet Truly could.
It’s hard to appreciate the flavors here because they aren’t distinct enough to differentiate, instead what should be a complex and multi-layered blend of flavors ends up tasting like somebody threw a bunch of random fruit into your vodka soda, and then took it out with their hands when you weren’t looking.
Rank: D. Alcoholic Capri-Sun, only not as good as your nostalgia wants that to be.
Of White Claw’s five flavors, Truly makes four of them and they do them all better with the exception of Mango. During the Great White Claw drought of Summer 2019, White Claw Mango was one of the hardest flavors to find, and if you turned to Truly’s version as a substitute you probably wrote the brand off then and there — I don’t blame you. It’s not that this flavor is bad, so much as it just tastes overly artificial — which might lead you to believe that all of Truly’s flavors taste fake as hell.
They don’t, but Truly Mango tastes about as much like actual mangoes as sour peach rings taste like actual peaches — it’s this weird Frankenstein flavor that smells overwhelmingly like what it’s advertised as, but tastes like something fabricated in a lab.
Rank: D+ Pales in comparison to White Claw’s Mango flavor but if you don’t mind artificial flavors it makes a fine mixer with vodka or gin.
Lime hard seltzer — it’s just one of those flavors you know you’re going to encounter. It’s the least flashy of the flavors, and probably the most versatile. Use it as a budget margarita mixer, knock it back as a chaser with shots, or crush a few cans on its own, its alcohol and artificial lime flavoring, how can you go wrong?
Where the Raspberry Lime’s flavor is muddled and overly complicated, Truly Lime is crisp, refreshing, and clean with a lime zest that isn’t overly candied or too sour. Think less Bud Light Lime, more lime wedge in a vodka soda.
Rank:C. Vodka soda with a twist of lime in a can, but better.
My favorite summer treat as a child was the Fla-Vor-ice pop, a plastic tube of ice drowned in sugary food coloring. The Fla-Vor-Ice came in three flavors, Blue (bubblegum), Red (Cherry), and White (Lemon) — the white one was my favorite. If I had one today, I wouldn’t eat it — because I’m an adult and I don’t eat food-coloring on ice out of plastic tubes anymore — but I just might crush it up, toss it in a margarita glass, and pour a Truly Lemon over it.
Point being: Truly Lemon tastes a lot like the White Fla-Vor-Ice, only alcoholic, so its better. If you like your lemon flavor a little more on the natural side, this isn’t that — you’d still be better off squeezing a lemon into some plain hard seltzer.
Rank: C. It’s hard to imagine Truly Lemon as anyone’s favorite, but as far as lemon-flavored hard seltzers go, this one is as solid as they come.
Orange is a bit of a rarity in the world of hard seltzers. Generally brands opt for the sexier and more complex blood orange with its added bitter notes and more appetizing pinkish hue, but Truly tastes best when it keeps things simple and their Orange flavor is further proof of that claim. Subtle bright citrus notes add a hint of sweetness that elevates this flavor just above the Lemon and Lime, offering an after taste that is sweeter than it is sour.
Rank: B. Better than Truly Lime and Lemon because its slightly sweeter, but subtle enough that it doesn’t feel syrupy or overly artificial.
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Truly’s most refreshing flavor, Watermelon Kiwi tastes like someone melted down a million watermelon Jolly Ranchers, poured them into a punch bowl full of chopped kiwis and then spiked the whole thing with a healthy dose of vodka. Tropical and refreshing, Watermelon Kiwi hits you with sweet flavors upfront before finishing off with tart kiwi notes that linger on the palate in the best way.
Rank: C. On its own, its refreshing but the 5% alcohol by volume really leaves something to be desired here. So mix it with some gin and a lime wedge and bump this C-tier hard seltzer to a cheap but effective cocktail.
Truly Passionfruit tastes more like a tropical fruit cocktail than it does a singular flavor, but that may have to do with the fact that I’ve never eaten a passion fruit in real life and therefor have no frame of reference for what the fruit actually tastes like. Would I dislike this flavor more if I actually knew what a passion fruit tasted like? Maybe but ignorance is bliss — to this ignorant palate, it tastes pretty damn good.
Rank: B. A fine balance of sweet and tart flavors that tastes unmistakably tropical.
One of the things that sets Truly apart from its competition — namely White Claw — are the brand’s tropical offerings, and of the four flavors in the tropical variety pack, Pineapple is the best. Thanks to its slight sour edge, Truly Pineapple is one of the few flavors we’d consider mixing with whiskey.
The pineapple flavoring is very subtle here, so if you’re not a fan of the taste of carbonated water or Truly’s sugar-alcohol base than steer clear of this flavor, but if you’re after a fairly transparent tasting hard seltzer that’ll add an extra kick to drinks calling for club soda this is a solid choice.
Rank: A. A solid mixer, the pineapple is subtle enough that you can easily sub a can in for any cocktails that call for club soda to add a little extra complexity. The best of Truly’s tropical flavors.
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I was especially excited to see how Truly Grapefruit would stack up against White Claw’s Ruby Grapefruit because I gave the latter the bottom spot on Uproxx’s White Claw ranking, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that what was one of White Claw’s worst, is one of Truly’s best.
What struck me first about White Claw’s Ruby Grapefruit was its intoxicating and natural smell — opening a can smells like someone just cut open a grapefruit. Truly’s version doesn’t quite hit those highs in the aroma department, coming off as much more artificial, but at the end of the day, flavor wins, and Truly Grapefruit is delicious. The bitter and artificial smell is betrayed by a bright, refreshing and natural flavor that expertly balances the grapefruit notes with the alcohol base, delivering a flavor that remains consistent from initial to after taste.
Rank: A. One of Truly’s best. Toss this in tequila and with some fresh lime and you got yourself an easy low-calorie Paloma that’ll taste great.
Black cherry is to the hard seltzer world what cola is to the world of soft drinks, its the one flavor that every hard seltzer brand needs to nail in order to be taken seriously, and Truly delivers. Truly Black Cherry has a deep and dark flavor that recalls a slightly over-ripened cherry during the height of cherry season. It’s bursting with flavor, infusing the alcohol base with a taste so rich that one can feels like enough — and that’s really saying something with a 5% alcohol by volume hard seltzer.
Rank: S It has a slight edge over White Claw’s Black Cherry thanks to its deep and rich flavor. Packs a kick strong enough to be drunken alone, and good enough to convince you that Truly makes one of the best tasting hard seltzers out there.
Remember when I said Truly’s berry blends miss the mark? Well, that’s not the case with Blueberry Acai, in fact, I think it’s Truly’s best flavor. Similar to the Black Cherry in its deep and dark berry tones, the Blueberry Acai is slightly more complex, delivering a rich taste that reveals itself distinct layers. As it hits your palate, the bright notes of the blueberry are darkened by rounder full-bodied flavor of the açaí which then gives way to the bitter bite of the sugar-alcohol base.
The result is Truly’s most natural-tasting and complex hard seltzer, perfect on its own or spiked with vodka, gin or tequila.
Rank: S. Truly’s best. It tastes the least artificial and has a complexity that the Black Cherry lacks. White Claw wishes they had a flavor this good.