Every Hal's New York Seltzer Flavor, Ranked Worst To Best

If you've ever been inside a bodega in New York City, odds are you've come across a bottle of Hal's New York Seltzer. Bubbles are a big deal in the Big Apple, and Hal's is proudly New York-made. The company's headquarters is in Queens, but Hal himself (real name, Irving Hershkowitz) was born and raised in Brooklyn, cutting his teeth in his parents' deli before founding a beverage distribution company in 1986 after years of working and making a name for himself in the industry. When he passed away, his sons wanted to create a beverage that would honor their father's intrepid spirit and bubbly personality — and with that, Hal's New York Seltzer was born.

Hal's has come a long way since then, introducing a line of ginger ales, potato chips, and, most recently, four different flavors of pretzels. But the star of the company's show is (and will surely always be) its seltzer. With an array of delectable flavors to choose from, it's easy to see why Hal's has ingratiated itself both into New Yorkers' hearts as well as their deli fridges. Naturally, we wanted to put this New York institution to the test. Which of Hal's iconic flavors reign supreme as the true seltzer king of New York? We tasted the brand's entire standard lineup — as well as a limited edition bottle — to decide for ourselves.

11. Watermelon

We'll say this much about Hal's Watermelon seltzer — it tastes as much like its namesake as any of the other flavors on this list. Maybe that means we just don't care for watermelon, though, because this flavor just didn't do it for us. In fact, it tasted like an unripe version of the fruit, which is why it was so easy to place — the type of watermelon you bite into a slice of only to find out the taste is more tangy water than sweet melon.  

That lack of sweet flavor shouldn't necessarily be a detraction for a seltzer, since we're total suckers for the plain stuff (more on that later). But the promise and expectation of watermelon flavor makes the lack of it disappointing. We weren't anticipating any of the fruit's actual sweetness, of course, but we still hoped for an interesting flavor. No one has ever bitten into an underripe slice of watermelon and been satisfied, and the same can be said of this drink.

10. Blackberry

Blackberry is one of our favorite fruits, especially when it's in season. But it's understandable if you don't normally associate it with seltzer; we were a bit surprised to see it ourselves. Blackberries are regularly quite tart, so we wouldn't expect them to blend well into a carbonated water without any sugar to back the fruit up.

For once, our instincts were spot on. Hal's Blackberry was unpleasantly sour for our taste and had a vaguely medicinal feel to it that didn't quite resemble any fruit we'd ever sampled. Honestly, we'd characterize the flavor as similar to Flinstones vitamins, which is not exactly a ringing endorsement. If you want to be reminded of the chewable vitamins of your youth (or simply enjoy sour drinks), this one will get you where you're trying to go. But if you're seeking refreshment on a hot day or a beverage to wash down a hearty meal, Hal's has better options.

9. Fruit Punch

You really never know when it comes to super-sweet flavored beverages — they can be extremely refreshing, but also disenchanting if they're either overly cloying or not quite sweet enough. Fruit punch is that type of flavor. It's also vague, so you never know exactly what you're going to get. It could be anything from red Gatorade to Robitussin.

While there's no sugar to be found here, Hal's version acquits itself fairly well. It smells like a Hawaiian Punch when you open it up, and though it can't possibly deliver on the sharp flavors that make up the fruit medley advertised on the label, it's good enough to keep going back for more. Much like the blackberry, there's a medicinal undertone to this one that's a bit hard to place, but it's far more palatable. In other words, you can get to the bottom of the bottle without imagining yourself among the 10 million strong and growing.  

8. Lime

Generally speaking, lime is one of those flavors we just can't get enough of. Its citrusy, acidic tang lends itself perfectly to both savory and sweet recipes (like key lime pie) as well as some iconic cocktails, but where it truly shines is in a bubbly beverage. Carbonation really makes lime pop (pun 100% intended), so we were excited to see what this flavor had in store.

Hal's Lime is far from horrible, but we were underwhelmed with the citrus flavor and found it a bit bitter. Was this beverage a victim of our high expectations? Perhaps, but either way, we just didn't get that level of crisp refreshment we look for from a citrus drink. Drinking this one when it's really cold should mute that bitterness, but even with an extra stint in the fridge, it wasn't totally for us. It might've ranked higher if Hal's had paired this one with lemon, but we'll get to that in a bit.

7. Vanilla Creme

If you ever wanted a seltzer that smelled and tasted like a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this is the beverage for you. If you think that sounds weird or have any kind of problems with vanilla, though, steer clear. We're not sure what's more shocking with this drink — how heavily the aroma of the precious bean hits your nose when you open the cap or how spot on the actual vanilla scent is. If we had a blindfold on when we cracked it open, we'd have guessed this was a sugar-filled A&W or Stewart's cream soda rather than a seltzer.

The vanilla nose and flavor fade a bit after those initial whiffs, though, and what you're left with is an extremely specific beverage — and one that we quite like, to be fair. We'd never normally associate the words "seltzer" and "cream" together, and indeed this drink shows us why. It's not what we'd call a natural pairing, but somehow it works. This stuff is great if you're trying to scratch a cream soda itch, but if you're pairing it with food or drinking for sheer refreshment, you might find it a bit wanting.

6. Mango

As with many of Hal's flavors (particularly Vanilla Creme), we were blown away by how much this beverage smelled like an actual mango. That's a serious accomplishment and actually raised our expectations for the first sip. But since mangoes are so sweet, we still weren't sure how well the flavor would hold up without any natural or added sugar.

Once again, Hal's eased our fears. This stuff is a far cry from the all-encompassing, overwrought sweetness of an Arizona Mucho Mango, but for a totally sugarless version, it's solid. Mango strikes us as thicker, more syrupy flavor (like that you might find in a mango lassi) so we were surprised that it worked nicely with the fizz here. We still think that the initial mango scent will lead you to crave the actual fruit, so maybe plan out a trip to your nearest grocery store or farmers market before you break into this stuff. It'll do a good job of keeping you hydrated in the meantime.

5. Cola

Hold on a minute — we thought we were ranking seltzers here? Yet, everything about the way Hal's Cola seltzer smells and tastes screams soda. This flavor is labeled as limited edition and isn't actually listed on the company's website, but we wouldn't be shocked if it soon finds its way into the regular lineup soon enough. It's also got 118 milligrams of caffeine per 20-ounce bottle, which is more than the amount in your average 8-ounce cup of coffee.

Let's just say we felt the kick. The caffeine hit isn't instant, but it's definitely there. We can't exactly imagine this replacing our morning cup of joe, but it makes for an extremely palatable replacement for those trying to nix sugary sodas (namely Coke or Pepsi) from their diet. With no sugar there to actually round out the cola flavor and scent, this one winds up flattening out after the first several sips, but we were still pleasantly surprised by this flavor and would absolutely try it again — although probably not past about 3 p.m.

4. Grapefruit

Grapefruit is the oft-overlooked member of the citrus family, but we're here to give it some love — or, at least, Hal's is. The only thought we had upon seeing that ruby red slice on the bottle's label was that it might be an odd pick for a seltzer flavor. We've tried grapefruit sodas like Fresca and Squirt, but never really considered if the flavor would be any good in water form. 

Maybe that's why we were pleasantly surprised when it was this delightful. True to a grapefruit, the flavor is subtly bitter but has just enough tang to make you continue coming back for more. Citrus' natural acidity is likely what makes it works so well in bubbly drinks, and even though there's no actual acidity or citrus sweetness here, the sensation is pleasant enough to guzzle by the bottle. So while you might not be thinking "grapefruit" when considering a seltzer at the bodega, if it's a Hal's, you probably should.

3. Original

Some people stick their noses up at the idea of flavored seltzer, and if you consider yourself such a person, Hal's original is what you're looking for. There really isn't anything bad to say about this drink. It's a simple, clean seltzer with plenty of carbonation — the bubbles continued enthusiastically rushing up from the bottom and sides of the bottle several minutes after we opened it. All of Hal's seltzers are well-carbonated, which is one of the reasons we love this brand so much, but you tend to notice it a bit more when it's the focal point of the beverage.

You'd think for ranking purposes we'd slot this one a few spots lower for being too plain, but you know what? This is the epitome of less is more. There's something to be said for simplicity here. Hal's Original is an absolute gem, and true seltzer heads will appreciate just how good a straightforward, no-frills seltzer can be. This is bubbly water as it was meant to be.

2. Lemon

We know from the company's origin story that Hal was a New York beverage titan, and it takes that kind of industrious spirit to split up one of the most iconic flavor pairings in history: lemon and lime. We usually prefer these two together, especially when it comes to popular lemon-lime sodas, but we respect Hal's decision — mostly because this seltzer is so darn good.

In fact, with the heavy carbonation and strong lemon scent, you could've fooled us into thinking we were glugging an icy cold Sprite when we took our first few sips. The sensation didn't last all that long, but the beverage that remained was plenty refreshing and, despite our prior concerns, definitely did not suffer from the absence of its green citrus counterpart. There are countless articles and social media posts exalting the benefits of drinking lemon water, and we think adding bubbles just makes it even better. This might seem like a fairly rudimentary choice for the No. 2 spot, but when you get the signature flavors right, there's no reason to challenge or mess with (near) perfection.

1. Black Cherry

If you're anything like us, you might be wondering: what exactly is a black cherry? Turns out it's a type of cherry that is prized for its sweetness and can just as easily be savored on its own as it can in baked goods like cherry pie. The name, as you might have guessed, comes from the fruit's dark color.

Now that we've gotten the brief botany lesson out of the way, we'll cut right to the chase: Hal's Black Cherry seltzer is really good. We'd argue that black cherry is the ideal seltzer flavor, or at the very least that it has the highest floor — its sweetness plays perfectly with ample carbonation, but it's got just enough tartness to bring it all together. We've tasted plenty of black cherry seltzers in our day, so we're used to this flavor just being solid rather than great. But we can safely say that Hal's did this classic justice. It's the perfect bubbly refreshment, and like many seltzers, is made even better if enjoyed extra cold. If you grab a bottle of this stuff, especially to drink alongside a deli sandwich, you'll be happy with your choice.