For the most part, hard seltzer flavors have stayed rather predictable, not venturing terribly far from the staples of citrus (orange, lemon, grapefruit) and berries (raspberry, blackberry, even elderberry has become standard). For companies looking to jump on the ready-to-drink bandwagon sooner than later, it would make sense to capture an ever-growing market with tried and true flavors that have wide appeal.
And then there are producers that take off on a grand mission to fill a void of their own determination and invest years of research into sourcing and taste-testing in search of the unconventional.
Such is the story of Lunar Hard Seltzer, the first Asian American craft hard seltzer company, when the founders stared into the unimaginative selections of light beer as the sole choices for a light alcoholic beverage at their corner Brooklyn bodega. Equally inspired by the general lack of Asian representation in the flavored beverage category stateside, they purposely sought flavors that are ubiquitous in Asia but practically non-existent in American beverages. After many years and over a hundred taste-tested recipes, they launched their inaugural line of hard seltzers in 2020, which they describe as “Asian Americana. In a can.” The alcohol base is made from corn sugar; according to the company, “Lunar uses a proprietary yeast and nutrient blend coupled with a filtration process that results in the uncompromised quality of the brand’s seltzers.”
Let’s pop these open.
Lunar Hard Seltzer Plum – Plums are widely available at most, if not all, grocery stores when in season, and often used in pies and preserves. But I cannot readily recall an American-originated product that uses this as a flavor. Integrating the rich and mellow plum fruit is actually quite genius and almost makes one wonder why plum-based drinks — alcoholic or not — are not more commonly explored. Korean plum accentuated by brown sugar syrup and monk fruit extract brings a soft, sophisticated sweetness and body to an otherwise rough base of fizzy alcohol. The initial bite of carbonation quickly gives way to a maltiness then finishes with a pleasant, mellow coating of plum. It’s definitely a drink that will feel unfamiliar at first, but you can easily get comfortable drinking on repeat, especially with its relatively low 4.8% abv. A-
Lunar Hard Seltzer Yuzu – Yuzu is indeed part of the citrus family, although variations of the yuzu originate alternatively from Japan, Korea, and China. It is commonly used as the sweet/tart enhancement in Asian cuisine and is probably best described in flavor as a cross between grapefruit and mandarin orange. What that makes for is something both sweeter and more tart than the orange. In this drink there is a bitterness to the otherwise creamy, distinctive sweetness of the mandarin orange. The Japanese yuzu flavor here is quite subtle, which makes the maltiness of the corn sugar alcohol more pronounced, but where the alcohol still sits very low in the mix. 4.9% abv. B+
Lunar Hard Seltzer Lychee – This is the brightest flavor of the three offerings, owing to the punchier sweetness of Thai lychee fruit itself, and still maintaining a balanced sweetness of the accentuated fruit as opposed to being overtaken by added sweeteners. The maltiness again is more pronounced here than the Plum expression. This again is very drinkable, with an alcohol level that is almost forgettable. 4.5% abv. B+
None of these are heavy-charging flavors or canned cocktails, but the unique and welcoming range of flavors offered by an emerging Asian Americana beverage category may be what the world didn’t know it was waiting for all along.
each $36 for a 4-pack of 355ml cans / drinklunar.com