Forget chicken sandwiches, Summer 2019 will forever go down as White Claw Summer. CNN reports that hard seltzer sales are now the highest they’ve ever been, thanks to a growing demographic of drinkers who want a low-calorie, low-sugar alternative to beers and traditional flavored malt beverages. According to the market research firm, Nielsen, White Claw sales account for over half of the total sales of hard seltzers and it was the top growth brand over the weekend of Fourth of July — a pivotal time in the alcohol market.
Currently, because demand is too high for the brand to meet, White Claw has limited their supply so that they can continue to serve all of their markets through a distribution method known as allocation. Rather than juice one region and leave others bare, very limited supplies of White Claw hit store shelves, sell out, and are restocked by the next scheduled shipment. This has led to an added thirst (metaphorical/literal ) for the brand — they’re hard enough to find to feel exclusive, but constantly in circulation so as not to be forgotten or force people into trying other brands.
White Claw has only been on the market for three years, but has managed to inspire bootleg merch, countless memes, and has cultivated a fan base so loyal that the brand has come to represent its own type of athleisure-y lifestyle.
couples that white claw together, stay together!! pic.twitter.com/etFhA0L9MD
— lups (@g_lupss) September 17, 2019
Fuck between the white claw shortage and the Juul ban I don’t know what I’m going to do to survive. Much to think about pic.twitter.com/bPpVI4WdBx
— hawaiianshirtdaddy 🌹 (@birkenstocksdad) September 15, 2019
at a brewery. asked the bartender if they had whiteclaw. they didnt. hurt and upset. pic.twitter.com/bnqnoco1zQ
— rob (@itsroblaw) September 11, 2019
If you’ve never had a White Claw, this frenzy might lead you to ask: the f*ck? What’s so great about this fruit-flavored hard seltzer, anyway?
Nothing, really. At least not technically. The reason that the drink is so popular is that the brand — as cringeworthy as it sounds — resonates with its targeted market of Gen Z and the last wave of Millennials. Owned by Mark Anthony Brands, which also own Mike’s Hard Lemonade, White Claw touts itself as a low-carb, 100 calorie, gluten-free, “naturally” flavored hard seltzer, with 5% alcohol by volume. It’s advertised with the tagline “Made Pure.” Now if that doesn’t sound like some Gen Z #brandspeak, what does?
As is often the case, the devil is in the details with all the “Made Pure” talk. The ingredients listed on the can include carbonated water, alcohol, citric acid (which is sometimes wholly chemical), and natural flavors. Natural Flavors, according to the FDA, can mean anything from plant-derived essential oils to any product resulting from roasting, heating, or enzymolysis (using an enzyme to extract flavor from a natural compound). As with La Croix, we don’t know how many black cherries went into your can of White Claw Black Cherry. In fact, the drink may not even contain anything derived from an actual cherry (apple and grape are often used to mimic other fruit flavors cheaply).
When my older brother, himself a product of Generation Z, first tried a White Claw he asked: “Haven’t these kids ever heard of a vodka soda?” My answer was, “Maybe not?” The world of cocktails is an intimidating one if you don’t know your stuff. Going to a bar for the first time and being asked what you want to drink can freak anyone out. With so many craft beers, complex cocktails, and expensive wines out there, the world of drinks can often seem mysterious, complicated, and not inviting to rookie drinkers.
White Claws are simple, they offer instant gratification and appeal to a generation that grew up with a digital world at their fingertips. They have the flavor names right on the can, an entire case costs about the same as a great cocktail at a good bar, and they aren’t nearly as heavy and don’t get you as sh*t-faced as something like a Four Loko — the brand Millenials had their a cult-like obsession over, lest we forget. (Guess which oft-banned company is back to help Juggalos transition over to hard seltzer, according to CBS?)
Perhaps above all else, White Claw has succeeded because the brand is meme-worthy, meaning drinking the stuff can be approached with anything from total irony to genuine enjoyment. And, as anyone who has belted out Tom Jones on karaoke night knows, the former can quickly lead to the latter. There is nothing to get about White Claw — they just provide a very simple, affordable pleasure. Not a bad pitch when the world is burning.
Here’s a little audience breakdown:
Who Will Hate White Claw?
Cocktail snobs and people looking for a single-drink buzz. White Claws are, for better or worse, a product of their time. They’re simple, convenient, aesthetically pleasing, meme-worthy, and basic. They’re the fast fashion of the alcohol world. If any of that rubs you the wrong way, you’re just never going to like these.
If your poison is the complexity offered from a three-ingredient Negroni or you appreciate the timelessness of a crafted Sazerac — Hell, if your goal is getting drunk on a cheap convenience store drink that “gets the job done,” White Claws aren’t going to win you over.
Who Will Love White Claw?
Generation Z, La Croix fans, anyone young enough to not know what a Zima is and anyone looking for a light and low-calorie hassle-free alternative to beer, malt beverages, or cocktails. A White Claw is the perfect drink to have in hand for a pool or beach party, comes in a people-pleasing variety pack, and has enough flavors for everyone to have a favorite.
It’s instant gratification in a can, light enough to deserve a guilt-free second serving, and completely burnable after about 20 minutes on a treadmill. If that shit is your jam, you’ll be hyped.
All Right Already, Which One Tastes The Best?
Today we’ll be ranking White Claws by a letter-based system. This way we can continue to rate hard seltzers and other canned alcohol beverages in the future under the same system to form a master tier list. Which means you’ll never need to wonder what the best-canned alcohols are ever again, simply visit the master-tier list and you won’t even need to read our hilarious and illuminating words!
The top of the tier will be represented by the letter S while the bottom will be represented by the letter D. Why do online tier lists often exclude the letter F and add the letter S above A? I have no f*cking idea, but also don’t care enough to find out. It’s just the way things are. Let’s get on with it.
White Claw Ruby Grapefruit
Sorry to all the Ruby Grapefruit fans out there, but for me, this is White Claw’s worst flavor. When I first popped open a can, I was instantly greeted with a pleasant burst of fragrant grapefruit so appetizing it caused my mouth to water. The smell was shockingly natural, the sizzle of the soda suggested something refreshingly crisp and perfect for a September in Southern California. I was starting to understand the appeal of White Claw’s before I’d even tasted one.
Unfortunately, it really kind of tastes like nothing. At all.
One of the most popular flavors of La Croix is Pamplemousse (grapefruit) and considering White Claw’s Ruby Grapefruit is just Pamplemousse + alcohol it should be, by all accounts, superior. It’s not. The flavor is completely front-loaded, it all hits you at once and it isn’t pleasant on the palate. The kick of the alcohol doesn’t do much here, it just kind of muddies the flavor of the grapefruit making it not as refreshing as a La Croix and not as good (or effective) as grapefruit soda with a splash of gin or vodka.
Rank: D (the worst). It’s almost like licking the rind of a grapefruit, only worse because you have 12 ozs of it to endure.
White Claw Pure
You may be shocked that White Claw Pure, a flavor which is essentially nothing, beat Ruby Grapefruit, but here we are! Pure is White Claw’s newest flavor and it tastes almost identical to a decent vodka soda. In my opinion, this makes it a lot more versatile than the Ruby Grapefruit, allowing the Pure to be used as a non-intrusive mixer for more complex cocktails.
Frankly, I’d rather reach for a White Claw Pure over the two part vodka soda because I know it’ll be consistent. With a vodka soda there are a lot of variables to keep in mind like vodka brand, the ratio, and the flatness of the soda. It isn’t a great cocktail but if you love them, this is easier, more convenient, and just as good.
Rank: D (C as a mixer). The existence of the White Claw Pure answers my brother’s question: “Haven’t these kids heard of a vodka soda?” No, and they’ll probably never need to.
White Claw Natural Lime
What’s funny about White Claw’s Natural Lime flavor is how incredibly artificial it smells. Make no mistake, there is nothing “natural” about this drink, as soon as you pop open a can you’ll be greeted by the familiar smell of fake-ass lime. It’s a bit like when you order a “fresh margarita“ only to find out it’s made with sweet and sour or margarita mix. Sure, it’s freshly mixed, but it isn’t exactly what you assumed when you read the word “fresh.” The White Claw Natural Lime presents the same problem.
It isn’t “natural” because obviously it comes in a can, so you shouldn’t expect it to taste like fresh-squeezed lime, but it certainly tastes more natural than the candied lime flavor you’d find in somewhere else. All of that isn’t to say it’s bad. It’s alcohol and lime, they’re a near-perfect combination and with the White Claw’s two grams of sugar, the drink goes down smooth and isn’t overly sweet like its competition.
Rank: C. It’s hard to hate this but its also very easy not to love it. It’s not winning any White Claw doubters over, but it’s solid enough to avoid being definitively disliked. By all accounts average.
White Claw Raspberry
Raspberry makes Ruby Grapefruit seem completely redundant. While it’s initial aroma isn’t quite as sense-awakening and pleasing as its grapefruit sibling, in terms of flavor, balance, and bite it delivers nicely on all fronts. This flavor has a great balance of bitter and sweet notes, it’s not overly fragrant or artificial tasting, and the flavor of White Claw’s clean alcohol base cuts through to make you feel all 5% of that alcohol by volume.
It’s the most subtle of the flavors, where Natural Lime smacks your tastebuds with sour sensations, and Ruby Grapefruit travels flat and unenthusiastic across the palate, Raspberry delivers an even punch that is as refreshing as aromatically pleasing. The drink plays it safe with subtlety, but its better for it.
Rank: B. The White Claw Raspberry is a pretty good indicator of whether or not you’re into what White Claws can provide. If you try the Raspberry White Claw and fail to enjoy it, these drinks probably aren’t for you, my friend. If you dig it, branch out.
White Claw Mango
Ahh, the White Claw Mango. Let me tell you a lit bit about this drink — up until the moment I first tasted one, I had already decided this flavor would be on the bottom of the tier. White Claw Mango is, at least in my area, that hardest flavor to get your hands on. It’s not part of the variety pack since it’s a newer flavor, and because it’s flavored, it is instantly more desirable on a purely superficial visual level than Pure, the other flavor not found in the variety pack.
After a couple of failed walk-in attempts, I finally found a Mango flavored White Claw after using the company’s on-site flavor locator. I had never been more pissed off at a single beverage than how I felt searching for Mango, and then I tried the damn thing. Bitterly, to say the least.
Pretty. Damn. Good. It’s no wonder this flavor is hard to find. In terms of fruit, mangos just don’t do it for me. Never been a fan and if I don’t have a bottle of Tajín handy, forget it, I will pass on mango every time. But the Mango White Claw offers something that the flavors before it just don’t hit on as well. It’s as pleasantly aromatic as Ruby Grapefruit, as crisp and refreshing as Pure, and just as solid a flavor combination as the Natural Lime, except it isn’t as tired formula as lime + alcohol — so it feels like something more.
Rank: A. If your question is why have a White Claw over any other hard seltzer? The answer is because the Mango White Claw is fire, so shut up, drink it, and stop asking dumb questions, Cousin Greg.
White Claw Black Cherry
This is where it’s at. When I cracked open my first Black Cherry White Claw I was met with the opposite of the sensation I had with the Ruby Grapefruit. Where the grapefruit scent was inviting and pleasing to the senses, the Black Cherry smelled of candied death — that’s to say almost exactly like a Black Cherry Warhead.
I truly hate the way this flavor smells but the taste is on freaking point. It’s deep cherry flavoring pairs well with White Claw’s alcohol base and it hits the hardest of any of the flavors. It’s truly earned its designation as a “Hard Seltzer” and as a stand-alone drink, it earns its place in your hands at a poolside party in the summertime, poured in a glass for your next low-budget Friendsgiving, and at a park hangout come next spring.
Rank: S-Tier (that’s the best, yo). If for some reason you only have to drink one flavor of White Claw for the rest of your life, make it Black Cherry. It’s not just the best White Claw flavors, it’s one of the best tasting hard seltzers currently on the market.