God bless the great women and men who, once upon a time, thought to add carbonation to water. Human beings are expected to drink something like a half gallon of water every day and, frankly, it would be a real slog to remain alive if at least some of that water didn’t contain bubbles and taste like black cherries or limes. It’s not for everyone, but for plenty of people, seltzer is a revelation, a way to spice up an otherwise mundane existential mandate.
For this tasting, we played it a little fast and loose with the specs, sipping pretty much anything with fizz, from naturally effervescent mineral water to seltzer to sparkling water. If it was bubbly (and not a soda, i.e. anything with sugar or artificial sweetener), we evaluated it. We also nixed brands with fruit juice in the mix (sorry, Spindrift lovers; we’ll get you next time). For this taste test, the Sporked team was joined by Mythical short-form social producer Eitan Penner, who admitted to using sparkling water and seltzer mostly as a mixer with booze. A perfectly valid use. We emerged from our tasting hydrated, full of burps, and with a new appreciation for the wonders of carbon dioxide.
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- Topo Chico Mineral Water
This beloved Mexican mineral water has been around since the 1800s, but its 2017 acquisition by the Coca-Cola Company has arguably helped it reach critical mass. And that’s a good thing. As anyone who’s sipped this alongside a taco doused in a fiery salsa roja knows, this stuff is refreshing. As a mineral water, Topo Chico has naturally occurring fizz, but there’s also added carbonation, which gives it both zippy little bubbles and those plumper bubbles that glide along your tongue. At least one other glass-bottled mineral water we tasted had a slightly odd residual flavor—but not Topo Chico. It was so good and clean that I’m pretty sure if you opened this at bedtime, set it on the nightstand half-full, and had a much-needed sip when you woke up in the morning, it would taste like good, fresh, still water rather than flat sparkling water with a slightly yucky taste. Eitan predicted it would mix nicely with gin. And if you’re a flavor freak, they also make a Twist of Lime version that would really go well with gin.
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- Perrier Lime
A gas station and convenience store staple for droves of hungover humans, Perrier Lime performed surprisingly well in our taste test. Another mineral water with added carbonation, Perrier Lime has a bright and strong citrus flavor without any cloying sweetness whatsoever. “That’s perfect,” Eitan said after a sip. “That’s what you want.” It has an incredible effervescence that dances on your tongue and it works great as a mixer with clear liquors (Eitan says it’s his go-to). It’s a classic for a reason. Don’t hate!
Credit: Ryan Martin / Walmart
- Polar 100% Natural Seltzer
Polar obviously has a vast lineup of flavors—I’m partial to Cranberry-Lime, myself—but here’s something beautiful, perfect, and understated about an ice-cold can of plain Polar seltzer. In the absence of any flavoring—natural, artificial, or otherwise—Polar has an incredibly clean, crisp, and refreshing taste, making it a perfect blank slate as a cocktail base or, sans spirits, to drink on its own. Nice, big bubbles make it easy to drink, so if still water never quite feels like it quenches your thirst (my mom claims this is the case for her), you can really pound these to stay hydrated. A perfect plain seltzer to the last drop.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Walmart
- Waterloo Sparkling Water Peach
As a person who doesn’t really drink alcohol anymore (ooh baby, did I used to), a fridge full of Waterloo is the ultimate party fantasy. Like, when I go to someone’s house and they offer me a sparkling water and I discover it’s Waterloo, I am pumped. In our taste test, we didn’t try every flavor of every brand, but everyone thought this can of bubbly stuff was leaps and bounds above the fruit flavored offerings we tasted (and peach is one of my personal favorites). Sporked staff writer Jordan Myrick, a sparkling water critic, couldn’t resist it. “I wanted to hate it but it’s pretty good,” they said. “It’s more like peach rings [gummy candy] than actual peach.” That’s what Waterloo nails: perceived sweetness. It tastes like candy but doesn’t have sugar. Science rules.
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- S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
Original S.Pellegrino (San Pellegrino if you’re saying it outloud) wound up being a hit with our tasters. Guest taster Eitan described the taste as “smooth,” and Jordan decided the size and distribution of the bubbles would make this a good fit for people who aren’t accustomed to drinking something quite as fizzy as Topo Chico. Big, sparse bubbles and a classic mineral water taste make it super refreshing—and way more acceptable to drink a bunch of than the brand’s hyper-sweet “Italian Sparkling Drinks.” I mean, they’re delicious, but, dear lord, just drink a Sunkist if you’re going to drink one of those.
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- 365 Ginger Sparkling Water
A few years ago, it became a meme to try to describe the mildness of the fruit flavor in La Croix sparkling waters. A strawberry with low battery. The concept of grape. You get the point. (Also, no, La Croix didn’t make our list. Take it up with them!) This ginger sparkling water from 365 is kind of like the meme, but in a good way. This can contains but a whisper of ginger flavor—but it would really hit the spot if you had an upset stomach. We all grew up drinking sugary-ass ginger ale when we felt ill. In hindsight, that is insane. With a can of this, you get the stomach-settling flavor of ginger, soothing carbonation, and zero sugar so you don’t just make matters worse down there. Honestly, when we first tried this I didn’t love it, but it became the flavor I returned to the most.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon
Best of the Best
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Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!
I’d be interested in a price per ounce or price per pound on these because I also take that into consideration when shopping. Good idea for a website!
Did you try Bubly? They have some of my favorite flavors!
I agree it’s pretty good and I have had Perrier Lime
How is Spindrift not on this list?! They use actual fruit and it’s so good!
best seltzer/sparkling water for soda drinkers?
Bubbly is changing my mind about the Sparkling water game. I love the grapefruit flavor. AHA is disgusting 🤢 mainly because it’s made by the coke-a-cola company.
Seltzer water and sparkling water are actually two different categories. Could we get a ranking for flavored seltzer water.