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What Is Twisted Tea? Does It Have Alcohol in It?

April 20, 2024
17 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
April 20, 2024
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Getting to the Bottom of Twisted Tea

  • Twisted Tea has grown in popularity over the years, but what it’s made of is not entirely clear.
  • Understanding what type of alcohol Twisted Tea contains leads us to make more informed drinking choices.
  • Reframe provides science-based research on lesser-discussed topics to keep us informed on what we may be consuming!

A viral video in 2020 of a man shouting racial slurs and getting smacked on the head with a can of Twisted Tea brought a new rise to the already-popular alcoholic beverage. With new memes popping up on TikTok after the incident painting Twisted Tea as this “knight in shining armor” and its enticing bright yellow packaging, we may be curious as to what it is and why it's so popular. 

A quick Google search of the ingredients doesn’t really tell us much. Like most suggestions from TikTok, we may be wanting to learn a bit more before hopping on the bandwagon. To better understand what we might be putting into our body, let’s fully untangle what kind of alcohol is in Twisted Tea and get to the bottom of the drink that everyone seems to be talking about. 

How Twisted Tea Came About

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Twisted Tea has blown up in popularity in recent years but was created back in 2001 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The brand is owned by the Boston Beer Company, which also produces other popular brands of alcoholic beverages such as Truly, Angry Orchard, Samuel Adams, and more. 

The hard iced tea is inspired by Southern sweet tea — a popular beverage perfect for hot summer months. The original Twisted Tea was released in 2000 as BoDean’s Twisted Tea, referencing the rock band The BoDeans. However, the music group cited copyright infringement, and, after a year-long legal battle, Boston Beer agreed to drop the name, and Twisted Tea as we know it was born.

A Brief Overview of Twisted Tea

The original Twisted Tea is a hard sweet tea with a hint of lemon flavor. As the brand grew in popularity, nine other flavors were added to the range. Some of these include flavors such as peach, raspberry, and “half & half” (lemonade and iced tea). Recently, Twisted Tea has partnered with Beam Suntory to release a Twisted Tea Whiskey — taking the malt beverage company into the spirits territory. While varying slightly in taste, all Twisted Tea beverages can be found in bottles or cans plastered with the brand's iconic bright yellow packaging. 

Twisted Tea has grown steadily since its release but saw even more growth with a greater demand for ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails in recent years. Recent viral videos on social media sites like TikTok have also drawn more attention to the beverage. So, we know Twisted Tea is popular, but what’s in it?

What Is Twisted Tea Made Of?

Twisted Tea ingredients include a malt base made from brewed black tea, sugar, and lemon flavoring. Unlike other malt beverages, Twisted Tea is not carbonated and is meant to stay true to a traditional Southern sweet tea. 

A look at the ingredients and description doesn’t really tell us much. Since alcohol is regulated by the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) rather than the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as other food and beverage products are, it doesn’t require direct ingredient labeling. While keeping their Twisted Tea recipe a secret is great for preventing competitors from recreating the drink, it’s confusing for those of us trying to figure out what exactly is in the alcoholic beverage. 

What Alcohol Is in Twisted Tea?

Contrary to what we might think, Twisted Tea is not spiked or mixed with any alcohol. The alcoholic content is derived from the fermentation of the malt base, which is the primary component of the drink.

Malt is cereal grain that has been sprouted and dried. This process brings out the full sweetness of the grain. Malt powder has a variety of uses including sweetening milkshakes and helping baked goods rise. 

Twisted Tea is made using malted barley grain. The sweetened grain is mixed with the drink's other main ingredients, including tea leaves and flavoring, and turned into alcohol through fermentation. Fermentation is the process by which yeast converts sugar into ethanol — the intoxicating component of alcohol. Beer is made through a very similar process.

So, does that mean Twisted Tea has the same alcohol content as beer?

Twisted Tea Alcohol Content

The alcohol content in the Twisted Tea product ranges depending on the variety. The original Twisted Tea hard iced tea and similar flavors is 5% alcohol by volume (ABV). This is comparable to the average ABV of most beers. 

The brand also released an “Extreme” line that contains a higher ABV at 8%. This is in line with higher-alcohol craft beers. Their most recent addition, Twisted Tea Sweet Tea Whiskey, is a bottled spirit that is comparable to other distilled spirits at an ABV of 32.5%.

Twisted Tea vs. Other Drinks

We’ve determined the type and the amount of alcohol that’s in Twisted Tea, but what type of drink is it?

What Type of Alcoholic Beverage Is Twisted Tea?

Twisted Tea is marketed as a hard iced tea, which only means that it’s an alcoholic version of an iced tea. It also claims to be a malt beverage — which some people may confuse with beer. So, is Twisted Tea beer? Well, Twisted Tea is not exactly a beer either. 

It’s categorized as an RTD beverage, more specifically a flavored malt beverage, which falls under the more general category of malt beverages. It’s also sometimes called a “malternative” or “alcopop” (alcoholic pop). It doesn’t always contain carbonation or hops that are distinctive qualities of beer. Beer also falls under the large umbrella term of malt beverages but is not always considered a flavored malt beverage. It’s similar to how a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square with beer acting as the more general category of a rectangle. 

Getting to the bottom of what Twisted Tea is can be a brain twister. However, understanding what it is helps us acknowledge its potential dangers.

Dangers of Twisted Tea

Malternative or alcopop beverages like Twisted Tea are typically lower in alcohol content, but they’re just as dangerous as other alcoholic drinks. The lower alcohol content can make it seem like it’s okay to consume more — increasing the risk of binge drinking

While lower in alcohol, Twisted Tea contains more sugar. This helps to mask the unpleasant taste of alcohol, again adding to the potential for overconsumption. Alcopops have also been identified as harmful, especially for women and adolescents, whom the sweeter profiles target. 

Similar to how the availability of flavored nicotine vapes led to a rise in teenage smokers, malternatives can encourage underage drinking — one of the greatest problems in public health.

Negative Effects of Drinking Twisted Tea

At the end of the day, Twisted Tea is no different from any other alcohol and carries the same risks. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests limiting the consumption of sugary drinks and alcohol for a healthy lifestyle. Twisted Tea is a combination of both — adding to its negative effects. Some of the potential consequences of consuming Twisted Tea include the following:

  • Liver damage. Our liver is the main organ that breaks down the toxins in alcohol so they can be eliminated from our body. Prolonged exposure to alcohol significantly increases the risk of liver damage and may lead to liver disease over time. High sugar consumption can also lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), exacerbating any damage caused by alcohol.
  • Risk of cardiovascular disease. Sugar and alcohol both indirectly increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by impacting our blood pressure and overloading our liver. This puts increased stress on our heart and increases the risk of heart disease.
  • Blood sugar spikes. Alcohol causes disruptions to our blood sugar, causing abnormal highs and lows. Over time, this can lead to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of diabetes. With all the added sugar in Twisted Tea, our blood sugar levels can become even more elevated. 
  • Weight gain. Twisted Tea is lower in alcohol content, but excessive consumption can still indirectly impact our weight by lowering our inhibitions and leading us to make negative lifestyle choices. The high sugar content in Twisted Tea can also contribute substantially to our overall caloric intake.
  • Dental damage. The combination of the acidity of alcohol and added sugar in Twisted Tea is damaging to our dental health; sugar contributes to cavities and decay of our tooth enamel.

Having a sip of Twisted Tea may not cause immediate, noticeable consequences, but over time it has the capability to wreak havoc on our health. Mindful consumption can help us limit the negative effects and keep us healthy and safe.

Managing Safe Consumption

Mindful drinking practices help us approach the dangerous effects of alcoholic beverages such as Twisted Tea in a safe manner. Some ways we can practice safe alcohol consumption include the following actions: 

  • Quit/cut back. Quitting or cutting back on alcohol helps to minimize or eliminate the harmful effects of alcohol on our health and well-being. 
  • Find alternatives. Plenty of other non-alcoholic drinks offer the same effect that Twisted Tea claims to bring: refreshment during hot summer months. Alternative activities to drinking can also promote social connection — without the inclusion of a toxic substance.
  • Manage sugar consumption. The added sugar in Twisted Tea only adds to the alcoholic beverage’s negative impacts. Being mindful of our sugar consumption in other areas of our diet can help decrease overconsumption of sugar. Skip out on the sugary creamer we may add to our morning coffee or opt for a piece of fruit rather than a cookie for dessert.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking adequate amounts of water can help us combat symptoms of dehydration. We can space out our drinking by incorporating water or an electrolyte-rich drink in between to stay hydrated and decrease overall alcohol consumption — killing two birds with one stone. 

These strategies help us practice mindful consumption, not only with Twisted Tea but also with alcohol in general, to help us make more mindful choices. 

Untwisting the Facts

Viral memes and social media posts about Twisted Tea can make us feel like we’re missing out on something special. However, the only thing we’re missing out on by avoiding Twisted Tea is a whole host of health issues; the alcohol in Twisted Tea gives a twist to iced tea that isn’t beneficial to our overall health. Drinking is commonly associated with “having a good time,” but regular alcohol consumption is tied to a wide range of health issues. So, stick with good old-fashioned non-alcoholic iced tea. If you do decide to drink, keep it light! Mindful consumption can ensure you’re here for a good time and a long time!

Summary FAQs

1. Does Twisted Tea have alcohol in it?

Yes, Twisted Tea is an alcoholic beverage. The alcohol content ranges depending on the specific Twisted Tea product. 

2. What kind of alcohol is in Twisted Tea?

Twisted Tea is a malt beverage, brewed in a similar manner to beer.

3. What are the other main ingredients in Twisted Tea?

Aside from the alcohol component, Twisted Tea is made with black tea leaves, sugar, and other flavorings depending on the variety. 

4. Is Twisted Tea beer?

Not exactly. Twisted Tea is not beer or liquor. It’s categorized under flavored malt beverages (FMB) also known as “malternatives.” Beer also falls under the category of malt beverages but does not contain other additives like Twisted Tea does.

5. When was Twisted Tea made?

The original Twisted Tea was first introduced in 2001.

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