Onda is the sort of vibe-driven, lifestyle drink brand that I usually detest. Its brand image is handsome people wearing (and sometimes not wearing) nice clothes in gorgeous places, always having a good time (or sometimes a nap). It’s Island In the Sun, with prettier people—Weezer is many things, but handsome is usually not considered one of them—and even more ’90s nostalgia. That said, Onda also sells hard tequila-based seltzers. The company, along with a few others in the fast-growing category, is essentially peddling canned tequila soda with a little additional punch of flavor. If your first question is “why not just make a tequila-soda?” you’re not wrong, but you are missing the context. It’s beach, backyard, and boat drinking—not a long-ass-Wednesday drink. Given how much money is being poured into tequila seltzers and ready-to-drink cocktails in general, Onda will have more company soon. For now, it appears as one of the more quality-focused options. But, is it any good?
Drinking: Exceedingly Likable
Cleaner, Snappier Booze
Back to the very reasonable question posed earlier: why not just make a tequila-soda? Skipping the convenience discussion—Ondas are canned and portable, while tequila-sodas are not—let’s talk drinking.
Onda is more seltzer than “canned cocktail” or soda. What I mean is it drinks fizzy, light, and easy rather than overly flavorful. This isn’t a knock—most of that “flavor” in that canned cocktail comes from buckets of sugar or worse (high-fructose corn syrup)—it’s meant to highlight the drinking experience. If you like Fresca or La Croix, you’ll almost assuredly like Onda. The flavors come off more perfumatic or essence-like rather than fundamental flavors. You can smell the lime, mango, or grapefruit more than you can taste it; you do get hints in the form of slight bitterness for grapefruit, or a little more acidity for the lime.
Fundamentally this means it’s easy to absolutely crush these things. We had some friends over for smoked ribs and, within about 60 minutes, I was on can number three and feeling good. Each can is 5 percent ABV, 100 calories, with zero added sugar—what sugar there is comes from the teentsy amount of fruit concentrate used to flavor the drinks. And while the brand doesn’t disclose the source of its tequila, it does note that it is from Jalisco, Mexico (where most great tequila begins) and, crucially, the official ingredients list includes tequila. As silly as it sounds, many tequila seltzers or canned tequila cocktails do not contain tequila; rather, they use a grain alcohol or another more economical booze stand-in combined with flavors Americans relate with tequila, like lime or a little salinity. Altogether, the cans are feather-light, and drinking them doesn’t result in crushing hangovers or headaches.
The Competition: What’s a Good Buzz Worth?
Onda currently comes in eight flavors—lime, grapefruit, mango, pineapple, passion fruit, blood orange, watermelon, strawberry—and a few different case sizes (mango is probably my favorite). No matter what quantity you get, they’ll come in red-orange (my partner described them as “bad sunburn color”) boxes with the same PG-13 Miami Vice branding as the cans. If it matters to you, the cans look good and evoke a summer feeling (even if it’s mid-50s and cloudy as I’m writing this).
If you shop Onda’s site, you’ll see fewer flavors only sold in 24-pack cases, which run $65 plus shipping (or about $3 a can). If you shop Drizly or another online retailer, you’ll find four-packs (~$12) and eight-packs (~$24) as well, and generally more flavors. It’s also available in some stores, though it’s tough to say just how many at the moment.
Compared to other tequila-based canned drinks, Onda is a premium product, but, as it is with premium beer and ultra-macro beer, the difference is marginal. Hornitos brand tequila seltzers are $11 a four-pack, for example. Almost all of the options wind up between $2.50 and $3.50 a can. Having tried most of the canned tequila drinks, I prefer Onda’s lighter take on the beverage over all its competitors, save maybe one or two (Volley’s slightly more expensive cans are excellent as well).
The Bottom Line
I’d buy a case of Onda for virtually any outdoor social gathering where the weather is above 65 degrees. It’s not sticky sweet like other seltzers, so nasty hangovers are out of the discussion, and the flavors aren’t overbearing. Yes, at $3 a can, it’s pricier than most beer or mixing tequila-sodas yourself, but in the heat of the summer, I’d rather have something lighter than beer that’s still a pop tab away.