The New-To-Canada Drink The U.S. Went Bonkers For, Explained

It’s (almost) a White Claw summer.

White Claw, America’s buzziest hard seltzer, has officially arrived in Canada.

The alcoholic fizzy water—in flavours like Mango, Natural Lime and Pure (plain)—is already huge in the States, with a nationwide shortage last September that led Claw fans to hoard the stuff when they could.

On February 29th, White Claw arrived at a downtown Toronto LCBO and people lined up around the block to be among the first Canadians to taste the Claw.

Is the hype surrounding this hard seltzer really worth it? Here is everything you need to know about White Claw—and its Canadian launch.

What is White Claw?

Though the Claw has been compared to everything from wine coolers to “the new IPA,” it’s actually a low-calorie, five-percent-alcohol hard seltzer drink. (The brand is owned by Mark Anthony Brands, which—fun fact—is the same company that owns Mike’s Hard Lemonade.) It’s still not clear if all the American flavours will be available north of the border, but White Claw’s Canadian website currently displays imagery of four natural flavours: Mango, Ruby Grapefruit, Black Cherry and Natural Lime.

What is “hard seltzer”?

Hard seltzer is basically seltzer water with alcohol in it, though what that alcohol is made of varies between brands. White Claw in particular is a “flavoured malt beverage,” and its alcohol content comes from fermented sugar derived from malted, gluten-free grains. The result is a fizzy, lightly flavoured, gluten-free drink.

What does it taste like?

At Chatelaine, we had the chance to try the Natural Lime flavour a couple days before the Claw’s official Canadian launch. Though I, the office’s token Gen Z-er, really liked it (I’m sipping on it right now, as I write), my colleagues were not as enthusiastic. One staffer thought that the lime flavour was too artificial; another staffer felt cheated by the Claw, as she found that she couldn’t taste the alcohol, so she felt that she might as well have been drinking soda and lime. Others weren’t really into the lime flavour, but remained open to trying others.

Generally, the Claw is exactly what you’d expect: it’s like LaCroix fruit-flavoured sparkling water, with a bit of an alcoholic kick. And though I agree that the Natural Lime flavour wasn’t great, I was impressed with the amount of flavour, especially since there’s only two grams of sugar in the entire drink.

Why do people like it so much?

Hard seltzers are having a bit of a moment right now—lots of booze companies are coming out with their own variations, including beer giant Bud Light. The drink lives at the crossroads of a handful of current consumption trends, according to an article by Vox, and that’s likely why it’s experiencing such a boom. Trends like convenience and wellness meet in a drink like hard seltzer, which doesn’t require mixing, and is also relatively low in alcohol, calories and sugar.

But, is it healthier?

That’s debatable.

In 2017, non-alcoholic seltzer’s popularity rose as more and more Americans started drinking it as a healthier replacement for pop. That year, seltzer sales rose 42 percent compared to the previous five years.

It’s easy to see how hard seltzer may hold a similar appeal for those looking to drink fewer beers or sugary coolers. Its relatively low alcohol content (usually between five to 10 percent), low calorie count (usually around 100 calories per 355 mL can, though the Canadian Claws are slightly larger than the American ones so they come in at 140 calories per 473 mL) and little or no additional sugar.

So yes, hard seltzer might be less bad for you than other alcoholic drinks, but you’re still consuming alcohol, which can cause a variety of long-term and short-term health risks such as confusion or memory loss, vomiting or choking, increased risk of heart disease and stroke, liver damage and stomach ulcers.

How much does it cost?

White Claw costs $2.95 for a 473mL can at the LCBO or $12.99 for a pack of 6 at BC Liquor Stores.

Exact retail locations are still up in the air for now—as of Monday afternoon, the drink was still only available at a few Toronto LCBOs—but the Claw should be coming to a location near you soon.