My mom drinks sparkling water like most people breathe air – constantly, and without much thought. When dining out with her, I observe the following conversation over and over again:
Waiter: “Can I get you something to drink?”
Mom: “A big bottle of sparkling water, please!”
I have inherited her love of carbonation, but not her disturbing nonchalance regarding what makes a sparkling water worth consuming. The way I see it, not all sparkling is created equal. I’d take regular tap over sub-par bubbles any day of the week.
By chance (a.k.a. fate), my editor assigned me the task (a.k.a. honor) of ranking different sparkling waters, which was about as serendipitous as a squirrel being asked to review nuts. I am, in other words, perfect for this mission. I’ve basically been researching it for years.
I decided upon three key evaluation categories: 1. Bubbliness (a flaccid fizz maketh an unhappy Harling), 2. Presentation (aesthetics are a uniquely important aspect of sparking-water enjoyment) and 3. Overall Taste (pretty self-explanatory). I ranked eight popular sparkling waters in all three categories on a scale of 1-5. Oh, by the way, “sparkling water” is a broad categorization that can include club soda, seltzer or sparkling mineral water. Just wanted to clarify.
Bubbliness: 1/5 Honestly, a huge disappointment. It tasted more like flat water.
Presentation: 3/5 The green bottle was very pleasing, and I enjoyed the gracefully slender neck. Like a swan celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.
Overall taste: 2/5 I’m not a huge fan of Perrier. It has a fun-to-say name that connotes picnics in the south of France, but the taste is subpar, IMHO. Perrier comes from a natural spring and is supposed to have a slight mineral-y taste, but I couldn’t detect it. Perhaps my palette is unrefined from eating too many Hi-Chews.
Bubbliness: 2/5 Pellegrino isn’t bubbly enough for me. The bubbles are what I would call “lazy” — exerting very little effort in the fizz department.
Presentation: 4/5 There are very few bottles chicer than a Pellegrino bottle — what with its green glass and vintage-esque label.
Overall taste: 3/5 Pellegrino also comes from a natural spring and has 10mg of sodium per 8ml, so there is definitely a slight saltiness to its taste. I didn’t love it.
Bubbliness: 5/5 Excellent bubbliness quotient. The bubbles were energetic and seemed to ricochet around in my mouth to a uniquely pleasing extent.
Presentation: 1/5 Nothing to write home about presentation-wise. A boring plastic bottle with a cheesy label.
Overall taste: 5/5 I found the taste very enjoyable — almost sweet. Schweppes club soda usually has sodium and other mineral-like ingredients added to enhance the flavor, but I got the sodium-free kind because I don’t like my sparkling water to taste salty. Highly recommended.
4. Poland Spring
Bubbliness: 5/5 Very good bubbles.
Presentation: 2/5 Plastic bottle, boring label. That’s all you need to know.
Overall taste: 3/5 I found the taste to be kind of salty. When I turned over the bottle to read the nutrition label, I was shocked that it contained zero sodium. Maybe my mind was playing tricks on me. It definitely wasn’t my favorite, though.
Bubbliness: 5/5 These bubbles were a whole different level of delightful. They were the perfect size, shape and fizziness. Delicate, but still powerful.
Presentation: 5/5 I am obsessed with Saratoga’s blue glass bottles. I might start collecting them in my old age.
Overall taste: 5/5 I want to exclusively drink this stuff for eternity. The taste was clear and crisp. Like water you would drink in Narnia.
6. Canada Dry
Bubbliness: 4/5 Solid bubbliness. No complaints.
Presentation: 1/5 Plastic bottle. Snoozy design.
Overall taste: 4/5 I’m a big fan of the taste of Canada Dry sparkling water and appreciate the brand’s ubiquity in pretty much every Duane Reade and corner deli around NYC. Yvonne makes fun of me for purchasing it on weekday mornings to drink alongside my breakfast. Sometimes she sarcastically asks me if I have the stomach flu. Despite this harassment, I persevere.
7. Sparkling Smart Water
Bubbliness: 4/5 Strong showing.
Presentation: 3/5 I enjoy the design of Smart Water’s products. The bottles look like sleek columns.
Overall taste: 3/5 I’ve been a pretty regular consumer of flat Smart Water since embarking on my Jennifer Aniston diet, so I was excited to try the sparkling version. The taste had a slight tang to it, though, which threw me off. Not bad, but not my favorite.
8. Mountain Valley
Bubbliness: 4/5 Mountain Valley really stood out for being bubbly, but still super smooth.
Presentation: 5/5 I love the green glass bottle with the touches of bright blue and the silver screw top.
Overall taste: 4/5 Delicious. It actually tasted like it came from a mountain valley! Also, is it just me or does a glass bottle really make a difference when it comes to the taste of sparkling water?
I don’t need to be a math genius (fortunately) to see that Saratoga is the only sparkling water to which I awarded 5 points in each category. Ergo, henceforth and thus, I crown it prom king of the sparkling-water community. Second and third place go to Mountain Valley and Schweppes, respectively.
A note for rabid fans of LaCroix: I hear you, I see you, I am one of you. I chose not to include LaCroix in this roundup because I feel like the whole point of LaCroix is the flavor selection. I wanted to limit my rankings to plain, unflavored waters only, for the sake of purity. That being said, I am fully obsessed with grapefruit LaCroix, and if I ever do a flavored sparkling-water ranking…well, I actually don’t need to because I already know what the winner would be.
Now, the moment I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for: Dispense your sparkling-water opinions in the comment section, pretty please. I know I can’t be the only one with strong feelings. Which ones did I miss? What’s your all-time favorite? Should I do another round? Will I ever stop burping? Let’s talk.
Photos by Edith Young