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Last September, Phil Rosse, president of the beverage conglomerate that makes White Claw Hard Seltzer, told the Chicago Tribune of the “transformational” effect he believes the drink could have within the beer industry. “We think the true potential of the brand is still relatively untapped,” he declared.
A year later, this bit of corporate-speak reads as a prescient warning to many of the brand's competitors. Thanks to our collective insatiable desire to drink near large bodies of water, spiked seltzer—specifically, White Claw—has declawed its beer and wine rivals in recent months, ranking first in Nielsen’s “top growth brands” over the Fourth of July weekend. There is no clear winner for Song of the Summer, but the Drink of the Summer is indisputably White Claw.
White Claw’s tagline is “Made Pure,” inspired by the surfer-bro dream of “when three perfect crests come together to create a moment of pure refreshment,” its website says. This refreshingness claim doubles as a not-so-subtle attempt at casting hard seltzer as a healthier alcoholic beverage—at least compared to beer or piña coladas or other, more traditional beachside options.
Here’s the good news: White Claw is less bad for you than most of them, at least when it comes to calories. Each available flavor—black cherry, mango, natural lime, raspberry, ruby grapefruit, and pure hard seltzer—contains 100 calories in a standard 12-ounce can. Fruit-flavored varieties contain a more-than-manageable two grams of carbs, while the pure hard can is carb-free. “People are going to feel a little better about consuming White Claw versus a standard beer that’s going to be higher in calories and carbs,” says Angel Planells, a Seattle-based registered dietitian who serves as a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
To Planells’s point, most regular beers are somewhere around 150 calories, according to the National Institute of Health. A serving of red wine is roughly 125 calories, and a serving of white wine is 121 calories. Cocktails are all over the place, but their calorie counts are also generally higher than White Claw's. Again, the NIH says that a whiskey sour comes in at 160 calories, a margarita is close to 170 calories, and a piña colada packs a whopping 490 calories—truly only worth it if you’re going to dance in the rain afterward.
Whether a drink is "healthy" is more complicated than a simple calorie comparison, of course. If you intend on leisurely sipping a couple of White Claws over the course of an afternoon, you’re in great shape. Planells says the general recommendation for women is a maximum of one serving of an alcoholic beverage a day, and closer to two for men, but those figures could be stretched to two White Claws for women and three-ish for men, given its relatively tame nutritional content.
But if your goal is to buzz any louder, give the Claw a rest. Consider the effects of downing a margarita, which the NIH says contains 1.7 times the “pure alcohol” of a standard drink—a 5 percent alcohol, 12-ounce beverage like White Claw. If you have just two margs, which is not an improbable summer-wedding-reception scenario, you’re consuming 3.4 times the alcohol of a single White Claw. It would take you four White Claws to hit the equivalent “pure alcohol” amount, and by the end of that fourth drink, you’ve also consumed 60 more calories.
It’s also worth noting that White Claw’s full ingredients list is proprietary, so it isn’t clear exactly what “natural flavors” means, or how much juice concentrate is in a can. That doesn’t mean anything nefarious is afoot; it just means that the precise meaning of that “Made Pure” slogan remains somewhat ambiguous.
When we spoke, Planells emphasized the importance of hydration—no matter what you’re drinking—far too many times for me not to note it here, so please, people, remember to drink water. That said, especially for the relax-and-refresh crowd, White Claw can be a lighter alternative to some of its counterparts. “You have to make sure it fits into your caloric budget,” Planells says, “but I definitely see the convenience and portability of not having to make a screwdriver every time.”
Originally Appeared on GQ