Wine coolers and malt beverages may appear and taste similar, but the way in which they are prepared and their ingredients are different. According to Wine Business Monthly, many companies that originally made wine coolers switched to making malt beverages in the 1990s. This was a direct result of federal taxes on wine being increased because it was less expensive. This catalyzed the development of several categories of fruity, refreshing wine cooler-like drinks.
Malt beverages that include alcohol are beer and a category known as malternatives. Malternatives have about the same alcohol level as beer, but look very similar to wine coolers. These include drinks such as Cider Jack, Mike's Hard Lemonade, Bartles & Jaymes and Twisted Tea.
Wine coolers have a similar alcohol content level to beer, generally between 4 and 7 percent. They are mixed with red or white wine, a variety of fruit juices, sugar and seltzer or sparkling water. Seagram's and California Coolers both made a line of wine coolers that were very popular in the 1980s. Seagram's still produces wine coolers under the name "Escapes," which come in 11 flavors, combining 16 different fruits. These include Jamaican Me Happy, Calypso Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri and Wild Berries. California Coolers was purchased by Majestic Brands in 2007 and the wine cooler line was reintroduced into the market.
Alcopops are malt beverages with alcohol and fruit juice that mimic mixed cocktails, and are served in bottles the size of soda bottles. Bacardi Silver, Smirnoff Ice and Parrot Bay all sell these ready-to-drink beverages. Bacardi Silver comes in Mango Mojito, Sangria and several other fruity flavors. Smirnoff Ice comes in flavors, such as Passion Fruit, Pomegranate Fusion and Strawberry Acai. Its "Party Pack" is a 12-bottle assortment of the most popular flavors. Parrot Bay makes mixers in tropical flavors, such as Mojito, Pineapple Colada and Sunset Surf. Although they are legally classified as types of beers, these drinks can have an alcohol content as high as 12.5 percent, which is more alcohol than wine coolers or beer generally contain.
Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverages
There are also several non-alcoholic malt beverages that are packaged like beer and wine coolers, but have low alcohol content. Becks Haake Beck, O'Doul's, Coors Non-Alcoholic and MillerCoor's Sharp's all are non-alcoholic beverages that have the same flavor of beer. There are also drinks, such as Goya's Malta, a soda that is brewed with malt, but is still non-alcoholic.