Is Smirnoff Ice Beer? The Answer Is Kinda Complicated

It may seem a strange question at first, but is Smirnoff Ice beer? Have you ever heard of Smirnoff beers? Surely they only produce vodka-based beverages?

A popular drink with students and the younger generation, many of them would think they are drinking a vodka-based lemon cooler, definitely not a beer! But in the U.S., there is no vodka at all in Smirnoff Ice!

man's hand holding the Smirnoff ice green apple bite

Photo by shawnanggg on Unsplash

While Smirnoff Ice contains zero vodka, it does have a whole load of malt – much like a beer.

Is this a big marketing con, or does Smirnoff Ice just belong in the Flavored Malt Beverage section like Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Bud Light Lime-a-Rita to name a few?

Is Smirnoff a Beer Company?

many bottles of Smirnoff Premium vodka

Image by Wiki Commons

Not exactly. Smirnoff is one of the world’s biggest spirit companies and, without a doubt, the most famous vodka brand in the world. Wherever vodka is sold you will nearly always find at least one variety of Smirnoff vodka.

Traditional vodka brands sold by Smirnoff include Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka, Smirnoff 90, and Smirnoff 100 (Blue). As well as flavored vodka infusions like Smirnoff Pink Lemonade, the American favorite of Berry Smirnoff, and of course the old classic Smirnoff Mule.

These drinks definitely aren’t beer and fit into the spirits section of the alcoholic beverage market. But what about Smirnoff Ice, one of their biggest selling RTD (ready-to-drink) alcoholic beverages?

What Is Smirnoff Ice?

Smirnoff Ice was first released onto the crowded flavored, alcoholic drinks market in 1999. It’s one of the few drink brands that Smirnoff produces which includes no vodka.

Launched as a beer alternative, Smirnoff Ice has since been joined by Smirnoff Sourced and Smirnoff Seltzer, along with an additional 17 flavors of Smirnoff Ice that ranges from fruit flavors to classic cocktails.

Smirnoff Ice Original is a crisp, bubbly (slightly carbonated), citrus “beer” or malt beverage that has been topping the chart of flavored malt beverages for the last couple of decades.

The big difference between Smirnoff Ice and other brands is that at no time in the U.S. was it claimed there was any vodka in Smirnoff Ice. The exact ingredients of Smirnoff Ice have never been revealed, but we do know it contains malt and no vodka.

Typically in the U.S., beverages that are made of malt and have an alcoholic beverage content of over 0.5 percent are described as alcoholic beers.

Smirnoff Seltzers, by comparison, proudly boast a mixture of sparkling water with Smirnoff vodka and fresh fruit flavorings. While Smirnoff Sourced is a trickier one, as they now produce two varieties, one of which is a fruit-infused vodka, the other a malt-based beverage.

Smirnoff Mule has never been in doubt though, as it clearly states that it has a combination of ginger beer, lime, and Smirnoff vodka on the packaging – a classic Moscow Mule cocktail in a bottle.

Smirnoff Ice as a Beer

Smirnoff Ice is produced using similar techniques to beer brewing. Typically, common beer brands use a combination of malts, hops, and yeast. They are then fermented for a period of time before being packaged for sale.

Flavored malt beverages like Smirnoff Ice will just add a few steps to the brewing process. Normally, when making a malt beverage like Smirnoff Ice, the brewer would make a very light beer using the bare minimum of hops legally allowed for it to be sold as a beer.

To avoid too much of a beer flavor, after fermentation the brewer will remove as much of the aroma and flavor of the “beer” as possible so they are left with just alcohol and water.

After fermentation, artificial flavorings are added. In the case of the original Smirnoff Ice, this was lemon and lime. However, outside of the U.S., in countries like Brazil, England, Canada, Ireland, and South Africa, a neutral grain spirit (most commonly vodka) is added to bump up the ABV and it cannot be classified as a beer anymore.

In the U.S., Smirnoff Ice has an ABV of 4.5%, which is similar to many domestic beers, especially light beers or lagers. It’s often seen as being stronger than beer, but perhaps it’s just because of how much easier it is to drink that people tend to get more intoxicated when drinking Smirnoff Ice than say a traditional Bud Light or Corona.

In the U.S., Smirnoff likes to advertise Smirnoff Ice as a Hard Seltzer or FMB, rather than using the word beer. With a large female market, it’s seen as an alternative to beer, although in reality, it’s more of a beer.

Beer Nutritional Facts of Smirnoff Ice

Although Smirnoff Ice offers a very distinctive light flavor, be warned the sugar content is much higher than standard domestic beers. Most flavored malt beverages will use a combination of fruit flavors and artificial sweeteners, which means they will be higher in calories and sugar than most beers.

A 275ml serving of Smirnoff Ice contains 228 calories and 26 grams of carbohydrates, which equates to about 6 and 1/2 teaspoons of sugar.

By comparison, a light beer like Coors Light will have only 5 grams of carbohydrates and only 1 gram of sugar.

In traditional lagers, like Budweiser, all the sugars have been brewed out to alcohol, so despite having 10.6 grams of carbs they have 0 grams of sugar.

To combat this problem, Smirnoff has now released a Zero Sugar Smirnoff Ice, which offers the same taste but comes in at less than 100 calories per bottle.

Is Smirnoff Mule a Beer?

No, although sold in the same sector as Smirnoff Ice, Smirnoff Mule is not a beer, but a cocktail with vodka and beer. Inspired by the famous Moscow Mule cocktail that is drunk out of copper mugs in many bars, this mixture of Smirnoff vodka, ginger beer, and lime is highly refreshing and even comes in a copper-colored bottle for extra authenticity.

Is Smirnoff Ice a Beer? – The Conclusion

It’s not as weird of a question as it first sounds. Yes, unequivocally Smirnoff Ice is a beer. It contains no vodka (at least here in the U.S.), it’s brewed with a malt base like beer, fermented in the same way as beer, and has an ABV which matches many domestic beers.

Although the other ingredients in Smirnoff Ice are kept secret (the hop content is doubtful), there is no harm in referring to Smirnoff Ice as a beer. The taste is quite similar to many of the European styles of Radler beers but without the bitterness.

For people who don’t quite like the added beer taste of flavored beers, Smirnoff Ice is a refreshing alternative to beer – just beware of the hidden sugars!

Whether you call it an FMB, an RTD, a Hard Seltzer, or a beer, Smirnoff Ice is a delicious drink that can help cool down those hot summer night parties – who cares whether it’s beer or not!

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