In case you’ve been living under a rock and hadn’t noticed, sparkling water (and not just the hard stuff, either) is having a moment, and for damn good reason: It’s delicious and utterly refreshing. Call it what you will — sparkling water, seltzer water, carbonated water — it delivers it delivers flavor and refreshment without the calories, sugars, sodium, or preservatives found in most other carbonated beverages (here’s looking at you, soda and beer). There’s also the added benefit of being alcohol-free, should you see such as a benefit — I know I do when I’m parched in the middle of the work day or when I crave tasty refreshment but also need to drive a car filled with two kids and a wife around town. (The benefit of being alcohol-free, too, is that you can add alcohol to it and make it even better!)
Whether you’re looking to replace sugar-filled sodas with something lower in calories, trying to find a great substitute for your post-workout or lawnmower beer, or you’re already a fan of flavored fizzy water, you’re in the right place. I was slurping back cans of club soda long before sparkling water worked its way into the zeitgeist, and I’ve thrilled to see the this section of the grocery store beverage aisle grow. By my quick estimation, I’ve probably tried 20 or more different kinds of flavored, carbonated waters in recent years, so you can trust me when I say these are the five best sparkling water brands you simply must sip this spring and summer. (And hey, why not kick ’em back in the cooler months of autumn and winter, too? I know I do.)
Waterloo Sparking Water
Waterloo sparkling waters hail from Austin, Texas, and they are Texas-sized in flavor. Whether you’re sipping watermelon, grapefruit, black cherry, or any of their other flavors, you’ll probably find yourself checking the nutrition facts with incredulity, surprised to find that this stuff is indeed free of sugars, calories, sodium, and … well, everything. The company states that the huge flavor profiles are created thanks to a three “class” system: Class A ingredients are aromatic extracts captured from steam boiled off fruits, Class B ingredients consist of concentrated fruit oils extracted using high pressures, and Class C ingredients are “all-natural botanical elements” that help “bond Class A and Class B ingredients together.” I’m not 100 percent (or even 43 percent) sure what they mean by Class C, but I am 100 percent sure that these are the most flavorful seltzer waters I’ve ever tasted. (In fact, they taste too much like soda for my soda-averse wife to even drink. Yeah, seltzer water with too much flavor. Whodathunkit?)
La Croix Sparkling Water
If you’re a fan of fizzy water, then you already know La Croix. This brand is “sweeping the nation” as my friend Tom so aptly put it, and they’re doing so for one reason above all (in my opinion): There does not seem to be a single fruit La Croix has not yet used to create a seltzer water flavor. (OK, maybe the breadfruit.) In fact, the brand is even running out of blends of fruit at this point! There’s coconut, passionfruit, key lime, apricot, mango, and oh so many more. Blends include peach-pear, pineapple-strawberry, sweet and sour blackberry-cucumber, and so forth. At the time of this writing, La Croix offers more than 2o different flavors, but by the time you read this, I’ll bet they’ve added jackfruit-huckleberry and kiwi-fig. (Full disclosure: There are several empty cans of La Croix Passionfruit sitting on my desk right now. For real. I should probably recycle them at some point.)
Schweppes Sparkling Water Beverage
People have been drinking Schweppes for what historians term a long-ass time. The brand was founded back in 1783, so that means a 235-year history as of 2018. Me? I’ve only been drinking Schweppes for about three decades, but that’s only because I didn’t drink sodas or seltzers or anything of that ilk until my elementary school years. While perhaps best known for their tonic waters, ginger ales, and classic club soda, today Schweppes offers seven flavored sparkling waters that are refreshing, tasty, and priced to sell. My personal favorites are black cherry and cranberry lime, but who knows, you may be a pink grapefruit or pomegranate fan. Side bar If you mix some Schweppes seltzer water with a fine booze (bourbon and orange FTW, or a good vodka with any of ’em), you’re doing it right.
If you love soda but realize that drinking more than a couple of sodas a week is really not best practice, then you owe it to yourself to try Polar Beverages. Sure, this company makes a lime flavor, a lemon, and an original just like everyone else, but Polar also offers some blends that are tasty enough to curb your desire for cola or root beer. Try orange vanilla, triple berry, granny smith apple, or strawberry watermelon if you want something sweet, and don’t miss cranberry lime or ruby red grapefruit for pure refreshment. Ah, what the hell … just try all 17 flavors they offer.
Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
You’ve drank plenty of Perrier in your day, no? You’ve sipped it on airplanes, in hotel rooms, at the house of that one friend whose mom always had lots of Perrier around, and so on. So you know what this stuff is, then: sparkling water with minimal mineral flavoring. Right? Wrong! Oh, you’re so wrong. In recent years, this staid water purveyor has added numerous fine flavors to the lineup. Perrier now offers flavored seltzers like peach, watermelon, strawberry, green apple, and more. Now look, Perrier waters don’t pack as much flavor punch as most other brands, and they sparkle with less vigor too. But that’s kind of the point here — sometimes you don’t want to be overwhelmed with taste and effervescence, you just want a bit of mild refreshment. When that happens, grab these new twists from a classic brand.
Like the waters that flow down the rivers through the Adirondack Mountains, Adirondack seltzer is crystal clear (well, obviously), but that clarity also translates to the flavor profiles of their flavored seltzers. Take the lemon-lime, for example. It is crisp and bright and doesn’t taste like you’re drinking a chemical solvent of some sort. Adirondack also gets bonus points for creativity — the brand sells a white chocolate-flavored seltzer. It won’t be for everyone, but it is definitely something to try at least once.
Bubly Sparkling Water
Pepsi’s entrant into the sparkling water game is Bubly, a hell of a name for people who hate the red squiggle on Microsoft Word, but also a hell of a beverage. Designed with (we can only guess) millennials in mind, the cans are bright and offer up greetings on the tabs, automatically making you feel like you’re making the right decision by opening a can. The brand has eight flavors, with mangobubbly, cherrybubly, and limebubly being some of the top flavors (and yes, they’re all spelled like that, for better or worse). They manage to pack a lot in without the flavors being overwhelming and veering toward soda.
Deer Park Sparkling Water
A standard when it comes to regular ol’ bottled water, Deer Park also makes a fantastic sparkling beverage. Using real fruit flavors, their line of nine different flavors covers a good deal of the fruity landscape. The pomegranate lemonade is zippy and tart while the wild berry has a roundness to the flavor profile that makes it great when it’s ice cold. If you’re used to drinking Deer Park bottled water, then this will be an easy transition when you want something with a little more kick to it.
Simply Balanced Sparkling Water
Sold exclusively at Target, Simply Balanced (one of Target’s in-house brands) is a line of sparkling waters that come in 10 different flavors, is sold in easy-to-store slim cans, and (perhaps most importantly) is pretty dang cheap — an eight-pack will run you $3. The flavors are nicely balanced and make great no-calorie mixers for a wide range of highballs (making it easy if you want to do, say, a highball bar cocktail party). Start by trying the pineapple coconut (with rum) or cucumber mint (with gin), then branch out from there.
Spindrift Sparkling Water
OK, so one on this list is not like the others, and it is Spindrift. Unlike the other beverages listed above, Spindrift uses real juice (just squeezed, according to the brand) to flavor their sparkling waters. There are pros and cons to this approach — if you want a calorie-free beverage, then this isn’t for you. If you want real flavors (as opposed to the “natural flavors” you’ll find in most seltzers), then Spindrift is for you. Also, because of the fruit, the drinks are bright and colorful, which is aesthetically a nice touch. The blackberry, raspberry lime, and cranberry raspberry all made for great refreshers (though if you’re in for Spindrift, you won’t be disappointed by the other six flavors, either).
And remember, if you love sparkling water but always wished it came with booze already in it, there’s plenty of hard seltzer out there too.
Article originally published by Steven John on April 11, 2018. Last updated October 2018 by Sam Slaughter.