At 5 p.m. on Election Day 2020 I was full of nerves so I did what any decent person would do, I called my fiancé into the kitchen and set up a taste test of Bud Light's Ugly Sweater Seltzer Variety Pack. My fiancé graciously sat down with me and readied her solo cup (along with a second cup for spitting out the seltzer after a good taste because, unfortunately, she is undergoing medical treatment that precludes her from ingesting alcohol).
In terms of makeup, the Ugly Sweater Variety Pack, which is available for a limited time only, is similar to Bud Light's previous hard seltzers. The variety pack includes four flavors, all of which are 5% ABV, 100 calories, and contain less than one gram of sugar. The biggest difference appears in the flavors themselves — namely, most of them aren't flavors we've seen in any other mainstream hard seltzers before. As a self-proclaimed hard seltzer connoisseur, the holiday-adjacent flavors (Peppermint Pattie, Ginger Snap, Apple Crisp, and Cranberry) both intrigued and terrified me. Needless to say, I needed to know if Christmas candy and Thanksgiving pie could be canned and carbonated, so we turned the blaring news down and dug in.
Not to be biased, but cranberry hard seltzer is almost always my favorite. No matter the brand, I'll clamor my way to canned alcoholic cranberry whenever it's available — so I expected to at the very least not hate this one. And I did not, in fact, hate it. Actually, I quite enjoyed it and would go as far as to say that this crisp and tart seltzer was my favorite of the pack. My fiancé ended up placing this one third because she thought it tasted a bit like Bud Light beer, but she also admitted to not loving cranberry flavored drinks to begin with. In the end, we collectively decided it would be an appropriate flavor to bring to a party — that is, if we ever get to have those again. It's a general crowd-pleaser.
The Apple Crisp seltzer took me by complete surprise. If I'm being 1000% honest, I thought this would be disgusting. The idea of seltzer with a hint of pie just didn't sound appetizing. That being said, it actually tasted almost exactly like apple crisp and was far more refreshing than I anticipated. With notes of nutmeg, apple, and cinnamon, it reminded me of a not-so-sweet hard cider. At first, I said I would drink it if it was handed to me but wasn't sure if I would buy it myself. By the end of the can, I had changed my mind. Apple Crisp can have a place in my winter hard seltzer rotation. My fiancé agreed and decided this one was better than the cranberry flavor. She also suggested that I use the seltzer as a cocktail base with bourbon and bitters, so I tried it, and it was pretty delicious.
My fiancé couldn't wait to try Ginger Snap. She's a huge ginger beer fan, so she had high hopes. I, on the other hand, was skeptical, seeing as I've been burned by ginger hard seltzer in the past. So, I was pleasantly surprised when it did taste almost exactly like a light ginger beer. This stood out as my fiancé's favorite, though I put it in third place because I didn't really want to finish the entire can. It was great for a few sips, but halfway through those twelve ounces, I was done.
This is the seltzer I did not want to even try. I've had mint hard seltzers before, and they can be super hit or miss. I was also extra skeptical because this one added a dark chocolate flavor to the mix, which felt risky in a seltzer. And I wasn't wrong. This seltzer literally tasted like a tootsie roll and a peppermint dissolved in water. And not in a great way. My fiancé put it plainly, "I don't know if it's the chemo, but I don't like this one." We decided this seltzer's flavor was reminiscent of the swish and spit that you do at the dentist, which isn't necessarily terrible but also isn't something that I wanted to sip throughout the night. I wish Bud Light had gone for a solid peppermint flavor because the true downfall of this seltzer was the fake chocolate taste.
In the end, Bud Light's Ugly Sweater Variety Pack can be summed up in one word, surprising. The flavors were, for the most part, pretty good. We also appreciated the gimmick of it all — tasting these seltzers was a really good quarantine activity and a solid hour-long distraction from election anxiety. Plus, the packaging is really cute. It has a wintery sweater pattern on it as well as a little tag that says "to and from" so you could easily give this as a gift — I think it would be great as a secret santa gift for a coworker. All in all, this actually feels like a step up for Bud Light. Compared to their other canned drinks, this pack is definitely more innovative — both in taste and presentation. While some of the flavors may be divisive, that's almost the point. Bud Light gave us something to talk (and drink) about at the Christmas dinner table, and that in itself is a win.