What was the first hard seltzer?

Answered by Kyle Floyd

The first to hit the market was Zima Clearmalt, introduced by Coors Company in 1993. As a sommelier and brewer, I find it fascinating to explore the origins of this popular . Zima was a clear and lightly carbonated -based drink that aimed to offer an alternative to traditional , with a specific focus on attracting female consumers.

Back in the early 1990s, the beer industry was dominated by traditional offerings like lagers and ales, which didn't always appeal to everyone. Coors Brewing Company saw an opportunity to tap into a new market segment by creating a refreshing and lighter beverage that would cater to those who preferred something different. Zima was born out of this vision, and it quickly gained traction among consumers.

When Zima hit the shelves, it was an instant success. In 1994, just a year after its launch, it sold an astounding 1.3 million . This popularity can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, Zima's clear appearance made it visually distinct from other alcoholic beverages, which piqued people's curiosity. Additionally, its light and fizzy nature appealed to those seeking a crisp and refreshing drink, especially during the summer months.

The success of Zima paved the way for the development of the hard seltzer category we see today. However, it's important to note that Zima was not explicitly marketed as a hard seltzer. The term “hard seltzer” itself wasn't commonly used during that time. Instead, Zima was positioned as a clear malt beverage, differentiating itself from traditional beers.

While Zima enjoyed immense popularity in the mid-1990s, its success was short-lived. By the early 2000s, sales began to decline, and Coors eventually discontinued the brand in the United States in 2008. However, the legacy of Zima lives on through the influence it had on the alcoholic beverage industry.

In recent years, the popularity of hard seltzers has surged, with numerous brands entering the market. These drinks typically consist of carbonated , , and a hint of flavor. They have gained traction due to their low calorie and low sugar content, making them appealing to those seeking a lighter and more health-conscious alternative to traditional alcoholic beverages.

As a sommelier and brewer, I have witnessed the rise of hard seltzers firsthand. They have become a staple in many social gatherings and have even found their way into upscale establishments. The innovation and creativity in the hard seltzer space continue to grow, with an array of flavors and brands now available to consumers.

The first hard seltzer can be traced back to Zima Clearmalt, introduced by Coors Brewing Company in 1993. Its success in the 1990s laid the foundation for the development of the hard seltzer category we know and enjoy today.