It's been going on for years ... an overwhelming shift to healthier living. For the past decade, better-for-you options have been popping up across all categories: skipping happy hours with friends in favor of workout classes, subbing in herbal tea for coffee, prioritizing meditation and sleep above all else — and suddenly alcohol is getting into the mix in a major way.
Spiked seltzers have been dominating as the latest and greatest drinking trend, advertised as a tasty and healthier alternative to throwing back beers. Lately, though, we've been seeing other types of wellness-focused alcoholic beverages — those with less sugar, cleaner ingredients, and even lower ABV levels — popping up everywhere.
From Haus's low-ABV aperitifs and Bev's zero-sugar sparkling wine to Pulp Culture's hard-pressed juice and June Shine's alcoholic kombucha, design-friendly brands are coming out of the woodwork to provide options for every type of social drinker, whether you're trying to avoid carbs, prevent a hangover, or decrease your alcohol intake entirely.
"Consumers are finally realizing their ambition to 'drink better,' explains Mark McTavish, CEO of Pulp Culture. "The 'less bad for you' approach isn't cutting it anymore, and we're seeing a demand for functional ingredients that lead to positive outcomes."
Here, just a few of our favorite healthier alcohol alternatives for when you want to kick back with a cold one.
This inventive line of hard-pressed juice was created by wellness entrepreneurs Mark McTavish and Brendan Brazier using 100% raw, fresh juice that naturally ferments over three months in a method called wild fermentation. This process results in a zero-sugar beverage with "six billion naturally-occurring probiotics, B vitamins, and 4.9% ABV," which is then mixed with nutrient-dense superfruits, including guava and passionfruit, and performance-boosting botanical adaptogens, like ginseng and reishi.
After growing up around California winemakers and learning the inner workings of the industry, husband-and-wife founders Helena and Woody decided to craft low-ABV drinks that are naturally fermented and made with real fruits and botanicals rather than artificial flavors. With complex varieties like Ginger Yuzu and Rose Rosé, as well as lighter alcohol content, the aperitifs are perfect for sipping throughout the evening on the rocks or added to simple mixers like soda and tonic for an effervescent cocktail.
Our pick: Haus Rose Rosé, $35
Established by two entrepreneurial women, Bev began in an apartment in Venice, California with the aim of disrupting the mostly male-driven alcohol industry by "building a brand centered around an inclusive, respectful drinking culture with an emphasis on creating female-friendly spaces." It started with a lower-alcohol canned rosé and now includes a sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. Each can is made with all-natural fruits, zero added sugar, and a little bit of sparkling bubbles for a festive treat.
Our pick: Ladies Night Variety Pack, $99 for 24
Kombucha has been having a moment lately, thanks to its gut-healing properties, so it makes sense that someone would add in alcohol. The team at JuneShine wanted to invent a drink that was equally healthy for consumers and the environment. This hard kombucha is crafted with an initial brew of organic green tea, honey, and JuneShine's signature SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), then organic honey sugar cane, juices, and spices are mixed in for its variety of flavors. The result is a delicious refreshment with up to 6% ABV (in super-cute cans to boot).
Our pick: Blood Orange Mint, $29.99
You're probably already familiar with Cupcake Vineyards' wine, but this newly-launched subset of the brand is designed for those who like to lead healthier lifestyles. "I'm an avid runner, and some days I want something that's lower in calories and alcohol but doesn't sacrifice flavor," explains the company's winemaker Jessica Tomei. That's why each serving of the new Lighthearted bottles is just 80 calories, 8% ABV, and less than 1 gram of sugar. The four fruit-forward, aromatic varietals — Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Rosé, and Pinot Noir — will still allow for that ritual glass at the end of a hard day, without any negative effects.
Our pick: Pinot Grigio, $9.99
Transparently made with just sparkling water, organic agave spirit, fruit juice, fruit puree, organic agave syrup, and a pinch of sea salt, Zuzu is a clean sparkling cocktail engineered to replace the "too sweet, dubiously sourced" drinks on the market. The founders were tired of headaches and hangovers, synthetic flavors, and the absence of straightforward nutritional information, so they formulated a refreshing 5% ABV beverage with just six ingredients, 90 calories, and five grams of sugar. It's just that simple.
Our Pick: Passion Fruit, $27
The glamorous Italian spritz meets the retro American wine cooler with Ramona, a vibrant line of wine spritz cans made with organic ingredients, no chemical additives, minimal sulfites, and low alcohol content. The bubbly beverages are the brainchild of sommelier-turned-entrepreneur Jordan Salcito, who was the wine & beverage director for David Chang's Momofuku restaurants before she ventured off to innovate in portable, wine-based cocktails. With flavors like Ruby Grapefruit and Blood Orange, the award-winning cans are casual drinking at its best.
Marketed towards sporty millennials who lead active lifestyles, Canteen Spirits offers canned vodka sodas with 0 grams of sugar, 0 carbs, just 99 calories, and 5% ABV. Flavors like Black Cherry, Cucumber Mint, and Watermelon are crafted with real vodka and packaged in convenient 12-ounce cans so that hikers, skiers, and cyclists can tote them easily throughout their outdoor adventures and sip as they go.
Our pick: Black Cherry, $13.99 for six
Brewed in Hood River, Oregon, Kyla Hard Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea and sugar with a living culture called a SCOBY. In addition to all the gut health benefits it boasts, the fizzy drink also has 4.5% ABV, 0 grams of sugar, and just 90 calories. That means that getting tipsy might actually be good for you. We'll take it.
Our pick: Ginger Tangerine, $10.99 for six