Alcoholic soda was a $116 million business in 2015

The bottle:Henry’s Hard Soda in orange and ginger-ale flavors, $8.99 for a six-pack.

The back story: Who needs plain ol’ soda when you can have one with a boozy kick? That’s become the mantra of many beverage marketers (and, in turn, many thirsty adults). Yes, hard soda is a thing — a $116 million thing, in fact: That’s the rough sales total for this emerging category in 2015, according to market researcher IRI.

The trend started primarily with alcoholic root beers — specifically, a craft-brewery brand called Not Your Father’s Root Beer, which dominated the category last year (it accounted for $92 million of the $116 million in sales). But it’s now spreading to the major players in the beverage world. Anheuser-Busch InBev
 has its Best Damn Root Beer brand. And earlier this year, MillerCoors launched Henry’s Hard Soda, a brand that takes as its inspiration one Henry Weinhard, a 19th-century brewer who made a name for himself in Portland, Ore., and who once suggested running beer through the city’s drinking fountains. In other words, Henry liked to have a good time.

And apparently, so does the team at MillerCoors. “We borrowed that fun and lighthearted tone,” says Bryan Ferschinger, a MillerCoors director of branded innovations. Interestingly, Ferschinger says the target market for alcoholic soda — or at least for Henry’s — is the Generation X cohort. After all, he says, they’re the ones who grew up loving soda. (Millennials are more the juice-box generation.) Plus, “they’re not really marketed to,” he says. As for why the brand was launched with the orange and ginger-ale flavors, Ferschinger says that’s not by accident: The boozy root beer category is already getting fairly crowded. “We are looking at how you build out this segment,” Ferschinger says.

Weekend Sip: Soda with a boozy kick

What we think about it: As serious sippers, we were ready to scoff at Henry’s Hard Soda. What’s next, we wondered: Cocktails with Pop Rocks? (Oh wait, those actually exist.) But as it turns out, there’s nothing offensive about the MillerCoors product. The orange has a not-too-sweet, pleasantly citrus-y taste; the ginger ale has enough ginger flavor to give it some zing. The booze is certainly there, but not enough to overwhelm you (the alcohol content is 4.2% — similar to what you’d find in a light beer). In short, these are fun drinks — and not badly crafted ones, either (we like the fact they’re made with cane sugar). Of course, if you want a real drink, you’ll probably want to stick with that highly touted barrel-aged craft beer that’s made by three guys in a Brooklyn warehouse. Henry’s isn’t trying to be that beverage. Indeed, it isn’t pretending to be anything more than it is — a sweet, boozy diversion.

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How to enjoy it: Straight from the bottle, naturally. Gen X’ers might want to complement it with a round of watching really goofy television — say, some old-school cartoons — but that’s just our suggestion.

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