Can you get a buzz and improve your gut health at the same time? That’s the idea behind hard kombucha, which has a higher alcohol content than the soft drink that lines the shelves of health food stores.
Kombucha naturally contains alcohol, thanks to the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) working with sugar and tea to create the popular fermented drink. However, the amount of alcohol in regular kombucha is usually around 0.5% ABV, which isn’t enough to get you drunk.
Hard kombucha, on the other hand, uses a different SCOBY that significantly increases the alcohol content. “Rather than the traditional strain of bacteria and yeast, hard kombucha uses wine yeast to ferment, creating a fairly potent alcoholic beverage,” explains Cameron Fiorenza, BS-NDTR.
As a result, most hard kombuchas range from around 5% to 10% ABV, which means you need to be at least 21 years old to enjoy it. But is there an advantage to drinking hard kombucha over any other cocktail? Here’s what you need to know.
Is hard kombucha considered healthy?
Regular kombucha contains gut-friendly probiotics – helpful bacteria that can help with digestion – but there are not a ton of research to safeguard all its health benefits.
Alcohol, on the other hand, can upset the balance of bacteria in the intestine. Does this mean that the alcohol in hard kombucha will negate any potential benefit of drinking kombucha in the first place?
Not necessarily. The beneficial bacteria in hard kombucha should be able to withstand the higher alcohol content. “Kombucha fermented with a SCOBY wine will naturally include the probiotics that work in higher alcohol solutions — and so, in theory, won’t die when ingested,” says Fiorenza.
Is hard kombucha better than other types of alcohol?
The calorie count and sugar content of hard kombucha can vary from brand to brand. Kyla Kombucha, for example, contains 90 calories and zero sugar per in their original 12 oz. cans, while Boochcraft contains up to 190 calories and 6 grams of sugar in some 12 oz. the flavours. Whichever brand you choose, it’s important to keep an eye on your nutrition information and portion sizes — and drink in moderation, of course.
Hard kombucha generally contains fewer calories than sugary drinks like rum and coke (271 calories) or daiquiri (252 calories). But compared to other soft drinks, it’s quite similar – White Claw’s fortified seltzer water, for example, contains about 100 calories and 2 g of sugar. Beer can vary from approx. 100 calories for a light beer around 200 calories for a sturdy carrier.
“You don’t have to pick a better option here — they’re all similar in calories and alcohol content,” says Fiorenza. “It depends on how you want to enjoy your drink, with or without probiotics.”
3 Hard Kombucha Brands to Try
Want to try hard kombucha? Here are some companies with tantalizing flavors.
KYLA KombuchaThe line of hard kombucha “with a kick” comes in three potency-increasing formulations: Original (90 calories, zero sugar per 12 oz can) at 4.5% ABV, Sunbreak (170 calories, 1g sugar per 16 oz can) at 6.5% ABV, and Riviera, a collection of craft cocktails (140 calories, 1g sugar per 12 oz can) at 7% ABV.
Not afraid to swear in their mission statement, Boochcraft “high-alcohol” comes in five main flavors, with a myriad of seasonal and limited-release varieties. They all typically have a 7% BAC, but vary wildly nutritionally, with between 1-13 grams of sugar and 160-230 calories per 12 oz. portion.
With a similar emphasis on power, Wild Hard Jun Kombucha Tonic comes in refreshing flavors like ripe mint and blueberry basil. Depending on the flavor, the ABV registers from 5.6% to 7.6% ABV and the calorie count hovers around 100 calories per serving. Just watch the sugar content – some flavors have up to 25 grams per serving, and none have less than 11.