Last summer, the industry saw a steady increase in popularity for watermelon flavor offerings. Among RTDs alone White Claw and Really added the summer favorite fruit to their black packs. This summer, the trend continues as watermelon continues to grow 40 percent year over year among the general public, according to Nielsen data. But this summer, it’s not just RTDs, spirits brands from rum to vodka are taking advantage of the trend of new releases and the return of seasonal flavors.
Over the past five years, brands have steadily recognized the potential of watermelon’s sweet but refreshing flavors to compete with traditional lime, lemon or cranberry. In 2016, Smirnoff included watermelon as an original flavor in theirs spiked sparkling seltzers (the other two varieties are cranberry lime and orange mango). In 2017, Seagram joined the line with their juicy watermelon-flavored vodka. In 2018, Captain Morgan’s rum released their watermelon smash, and SKYY added sun-ripened watermelon to their vodka portfolio. In 2019, High Noon added watermelon to their RTD list, which according to the e-commerce alcohol platform Drizly, was the fourth best-selling RTD cocktail SKU on the platform between February 2020 and February 2021. Drizly also shares that they have generally observed a 60 percent increase in new watermelon products since 2019.
As watermelon continues to gain traction in the market, here are six of the latest releases to be sought this summer.
Originally launched in 2019 as a limited edition flavor, CÎROC’s watermelon offering returns not only to the season, but to the permanent portfolio of the flavored vodka brand. The five-time distilled vodka (produced from French grapes) is a blend of watermelon and natural flavors at 35 percent ABV.
Recipe: 2 oz. CÎROC summer watermelon; 4 oz. lemonade; 2 oz. club sodavand. Combine ice cream, vodka and lemonade in a highball glass. Stir until well blended, then top with club soda. Garnish with a lemon zest, mint or sliced watermelon.
Absolut watermelon, which joins passion fruit, peach and grapefruit, as existing flavors in the Absolut collection, is designed to have a simple vodka soda or vodka tonic drink. With no added sugar or artificial flavor, 38 percent pack ABV a stroke, yet a refreshing one.
Recipe: 1 part Absolute Watermelon; 2 parts soda. Fill a highball glass with ice cubes. Add Absolute Watermelon, then top with soda, and garnish with watermelon and lime wedges.
In 2020, Malibu introduced the Malibu Strawberry, which resulted in the rum brand’s most successful flavor launch to date. Malibu aims to maintain momentum with this year’s release of watermelon, which debuted in April. Made with natural watermelon flavors, Malibu Watermelon portrays summer in a bottle that combines the warming flavors of Caribbean rum with the juicy fruit found at summer events from beach days to backyard barbecues, all with 21 percent ABV.
Recipe: 1 part watermelon Malibu; Lime juice; Simpel of simple syrup; 2 parts soda. Add all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until cold and strain it into a glass. Garnish with a piece of watermelon.
GRAY GOOSE launched GRAY GOOSE Essences back in February with all natural ingredients, including real fruits and cold-distilled botanical plants, with watermelon and basil as one of the three premiere flavors. The vodka is 30 percent ABV, created for light sipping, which is also dewy as a result of melon and pepper from the garden-fresh basil.
Recipe: 1.5 oz. GRAY GOOSE Essences Watermelon and basil; 4.5 oz soda. Fill a chilled glass with ice and add the vodka. Top with soda and then garnish with basil, fresh watermelon and a lime twist.
Following the success of Truly Lemonade last summer, the RTD brand hopes to dominate the season again by modernizing the fan-favorite lemonade and combining it with the trendy taste of watermelon to create what is truly referred to as “the taste of summer.” Watermelon lemonade replaces black cherries in four-flavor packs with 12 or 24 cans.
Quick facts: 5 percent ABV; 100 calories 1 g sugar, 3 g carbohydrates; gluten free.
Appearing in Vizzy Hard Seltzer’s new black pack, brand Variety Pack 2, Vizzy – known as the first hard seltzer with antioxidant vitamin C – mixes watermelon and strawberries into a sweet blend of this summer’s favorite fruits.
Quick facts: 5 percent ABV; 100 calories 1 g sugar; 2 g carbohydrates; gluten free.