I’d describe the flavor of most hard seltzers as “bad.” But as former tweeter Donald Trump once said about Coca-Cola, “That’s okay — I’ll keep drinking that garbage.” In my circles of friends, they’ve become more ubiquitous than beer, the obvious choice for a quick and easy beverage whenever liquor feels too complicated. And still, though I’ve consumed an unknowable amount of them, I’m hard-pressed to really tell them apart. I can’t even say I have much of a preference. Truly, White Claw, Bud Light, Bon&Viv, Corona, Smirnoff, High Noon, Topo Chico, Michelob Ultra, Vizzy — there are literally dozens and dozens of brands out there, many of which are just recycling the same flavors as everyone else. It’s gotta be impossible to tell them apart, right?
Wrong, apparently. Over the weekend, @lorynpowell — whom I’ve previously interviewed about testing her blood alcohol content after various levels of drinking — went viral again for a TikTok in which she performed a blind taste test of six different hard seltzers, all in the Black Cherry flavor. She accurately guesses the brand of each after taking just a single sip.
This is impressive on multiple levels. First, of course, is just the nature of the feat. You could probably put six different flavors of juice in front of me, and I wouldn’t even get them right. But she didn’t just identify the brand correctly, she also chose Black Cherry, arguably the worst flavor of all. It’s like cherry-flavored cough medicine — no matter what they do to it, it still tastes like horrific synthetic “fruit.”
“I knew White Claw would be the easiest to identify because I drink it so much,” Powell tells me. Identifying the rest was largely a matter of the process of elimination — the Kirkland one, she says, tastes similar to White Claw, while High Noon has more sugar and uses real fruit juice. Bud Light seltzers have a “malty” aftertaste, and she was unfamiliar with Smirnoff. With all that information in hand, it wasn’t too hard to figure out which was which.
Powell has made a brand for herself over the last few years as a “seltzpert,” so it makes sense that she, of all people, would be able to accomplish this. “For the past three years, I pretty much have exclusively been drinking hard seltzers, and not just for video content,” she continues. “I used to always order vodka soda at the bar in an effort to save calories, but ever since hard seltzers became a thing, I’ve never looked back. I always stock my house with either White Claw, Bud Light or Kirkland (if I’m having a party, you can’t beat the 24 pack for $20 deal at Costco). And on a professional level, I think I’ve ranked close to 300 different flavors.”
There are many commenters who suggest that she’s cheating, either by seeing the reflection of the cans on the table, having a list somewhere out of view or otherwise pre-planning the whole thing. But if you look at the extent of the seltzer-tasting documented on the rest of her account, it seems pretty plausible that the video is genuine. She also has a preference for the Black Cherry flavor, so it stands to reason she’d hone her palate in on that flavor. In fact, she doesn’t think she’d be able to have done it if it hadn’t been Black Cherry.
“Black cherry is the GOAT,” she says. “If you really wanted to fool me, you could soak dirty gym socks in a cup of water and have me taste that next to any grapefruit hard seltzer. I could also definitely do it with pizza chains, no question — and Taylor Swift songs.”
All of this does make me wonder if I should be paying closer attention to the hard seltzers I drink. If I tried hard enough, could I achieve an accurate blind taste test? There’s really only one way to find out, and that’s by continuing to drink hard seltzers even though they don’t really taste that good.
Frankly, I was going to do that, anyway.