When I hang out with straight married friends, sometimes dude-bro husbands aren’t too jazzed about raging with me. Why? I am high maintenance and I really hate beer. I am never going to be the person that wants to crush a case of Bud Lite. If I’m at a party, I always eschew the pre-packaged choices for a cocktail of LaCroix, vodka, and juice — the brainchild concoction that would eventually be known as White Claw spiked seltzer. My bubbly cocktail is light, refreshing, palatable, and generally low in calories. While I can’t speak for my entire cohort, this is exactly what a gay man wants to drink, especially if it’s a marathon and not a sprint toward tipsy.
Usually, when I’m making these drinks, my female friends request I whip one up for them. I suspect that they see the beer-chugging straight men at the party floating into a bloated stupor and think, who wants to feel like that?
Brands like White Claw, Truly, and (my under-appreciated favorite) Bon and Viv have re-invented the way we day-drink. They’ve essentially adopted the holy grail gay-guy cocktail of sparkling water, liquor, and juice and canned and rebranded it for mainstream consumption.
Are sparkling seltzers cultural appropriation of the way gay men have been drinking for years? The answer is a resounding yes, but we are totally happy to share with the masses our superior beverage (especially if this means not having to stop what we’re doing to make it for you). We’re entering an age of new gender norms and sexual fluidity, and it seems our alcohol choices are following suit. All summer, I witnessed people of all genders and all sexual flavors gladly pounding sparkling seltzers. So how did White Claw become so popular among so many demographics that we are now facing a nationwide shortage? I have theories.
First, the packaging for White Claw steers completely away from the traditional beer can aesthetic. Rather than having the traditional blue-red-silver, Americana-esque look of products like Bud Lite and Natty Lite, White Claw’s cans are almost like a blank canvas. The white can with the black line drawing of a wave carries none of the testosterone-fueled, ‘merica connotations of lite beer.
This means that as a gay man (some women feel this way too, I imagine), they don’t have the same pro-patriarchy brand feel of classic lite beers, which is a major turn off. On the flip side, there’s nothing frou-frou or cutesy about the can either (unlike the old-school classic Bartles and Jaymes bottles). This means that straight men can consume White Claw without feeling emasculated and everyone can drink them without feeling like a Florida retiree on a plastic lawn chair. The products, it appears, are designed for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual identity.
Canned spiked seltzers have come just in time because, let’s face it, canned light beer is a sub-optimal product that nobody really wanted to begin with. They are what happens when straight white men control the means of production, and they don't listen to what consumers actually want or like. At best, light beers taste like carbonated water infused with grass clippings, and at their worst, they taste like fermented skunk spray. And getting a solid buzz from drinking these requires imbibing so many cans that you inevitably end up peeing like a race horse every hour.
And let’s return to that aforementioned bloat: Light beers may be low calorie, but entire generations of strapping, svelte men have been turned into beer-bellied tubbos, robbing them of the very masculine sex appeal that they’re subconscious perpetuating by drinking beer. White Claw and its peers seem to have caught on to this and given beer the Queer Eye treatment — sparkling seltzers are clearly superior, and the straight bros have finally caught on.
We’re in a new age of sexual and gender fluidity, and it makes sense that the way we drink will change too. In a post-#MeToo age, the blue-collar, babes-in-bikinis, beer-can-crushing, frat-bro aesthetic of light beer seems hopelessly out of date. Spiked seltzer cans are mini wrecking balls, demolishing the the walls between gay and straight, and male and female. They are drinks for a new generation who live by feminist philospher Judith Butler’s reality that gender is a construct, and that consumer culture reinforces stereotypes that we con consciously choose to consume or reject.
At the end of the day, there’s only one place where traditional light beers are superior — they fit the standard-sized koozies found inside every American home’s junk drawer. Other than that, White Claw, Truly, Bon and Viv, are crushin’ it by giving America the drink we actually want (hint for their marketing teams: Start issuing koozies to fit their cans). The popularity of these products speaks to more than how good they are, but also to how much progressive change is happening in our culture right now. Spiked seltzers are for anybody who wants to destroy the patriarchy, and stay hydrated while doing so.