Can you get a buzz and boost your gut health at the same time? That’s the idea behind hard kombucha, which has a higher alcohol content than the fizzy drink that lines the shelves at health food stores.
Kombucha naturally has some alcohol in it, thanks to the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts) that works with sugar and tea to create the popular fermented beverage. However, the amount of alcohol in regular kombucha is usually about 0.5% ABV — not enough to get you tipsy.
Hard kombucha, on the other hand, uses a different SCOBY that dramatically increases the buzz potential. “Rather than the traditional strain of bacteria and yeasts, hard kombucha uses wine yeast to ferment, which creates quite a potent alcoholic beverage,” says Cameron Fiorenza, BS-NDTR and Culinary and Nutrition Specialist at Openfit.
As a result, most hard kombuchas range from about 5 to 10% ABV, meaning you have to be at least 21 to enjoy.
But is there any benefit to drinking hard kombucha over any other cocktail? Here’s what you need to know.
Is Hard Kombucha Healthy?
Alcohol, on the other hand, may disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut. So does that mean the alcohol in hard kombucha will negate any potential benefits of drinking kombucha in the first place?
Not necessarily. The healthy bacteria in hard kombucha should be able to withstand the higher alcohol content. “Kombucha fermented with a wine SCOBY will naturally include those probiotics that function in higher-alcohol solutions — and therefore, in theory, won’t die off when ingested,” Fiorenza says.
Is Hard Kombucha Better Than Other Types of Alcohol?
The calorie count and sugar content in hard kombucha can vary between brands. KYLA Kombucha, for example, contains 100 calories and 2 grams of sugar per serving, while Kombrewcha contains 120 calories and 7 grams of sugar. Whichever brand you choose, it’s important to keep tabs on your nutritional facts and serving sizes — and to drink in moderation, of course.
Hard kombucha typically contains fewer calories than you’ll find in sugary mixed drinks like a rum and Coke (271 calories) or a daiquiri (252 calories). But compared to other carbonated drinks, it’s pretty similar — White Claw spiked seltzer, for example, contains around 100 calories and 2 grams of sugar. Beer can range from around 100 calories for a light beer to around 200 calories for a robust porter.
“You don’t have to choose a better option here — these are all similar in calories and alcohol content,” says Fiorenza. “It depends on how you want to enjoy your beverage, with or without probiotics.”
If you want to get the probiotic benefits of kombucha, though, it’s important to consume hard kombucha with a healthy, balanced meal. “This is key to activating probiotics,” Fiorenza says.
3 Hard Kombucha Brands to Try
Want to try hard kombucha? While it’s not as easy to find as regular kombucha (yet!) here are a few companies with tempting flavors.
KYLA Kombucha‘s line of hard kombucha “with a kick” comes in three flavors: ginger tangerine, hibiscus lime, and pink grapefruit. Each gluten-free hard kombucha is 4.5% ABV and contains 100 calories per serving.
As the “original” hard kombucha, Kombrewcha comes in three gluten-free flavors — lemongrass lime, royal ginger, and berry hibiscus — and clocks in at 4.4% ABV with 7 grams of sugar and 120 calories per serving.
Want a slightly bigger buzz? Wild Tonic Hard Jun Kombucha — which comes in refreshing flavors like blackberry mint and blueberry basil — clocks in at 5.6% to 7.6% ABV (depending on the flavor) and contains around 100 calories per serving. Just watch the sugar content — some flavors have more than 10 grams of sugar per serving.