Illustration by Lauren Kolm

Battle of the bubbles

Kate Welsh
December 22, 2017

There aren't many nice things to say about 2017, but at least it was a year that everyone suddenly seemed to have an opinion about sparkling water. After the great La Croix boom of 2016, other sparkling waters and seltzers took off as well. In fact, sparkling water sales were projected to increase more that 20 percent in 2017, with no signs of stopping.  

But with more bubbles comes more choice. And to be clear, when it comes to sparkling water, you can't actually make a bad choice—all of them will get the job done. But some choices are better than others. So to help you better navigate the grocery store seltzer aisle, I tried ten widely available sparkling waters. 

Here they are, ranked from least favorite to most favorite. May the fizz be with you. 

10. Voss

With a bottle that looks like something Scott Disick would order at a nightclub, Voss certainly has an expensive air about it. And at first, it seems like you're really going to get to enjoy a seriously sparkling water. When I twisted the cap, the bottle nearly exploded, despite the fact that it had been sitting still for hours. But the actual experience left something to be desired. It was barely effervescent, only offering a suggestion of bubbles rather than the real thing. It also tasted basic—as in the opposite of acidic, though you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. 

9. Smartwater

Instead of the ping-pong'ing bubbles of most sparkling water, Smartwater's contribution sounded more like suds than a small, popping universe. It was no surprise then, that when I poured some out, the bubbles were tiny and not very busy. Taking a sip, I could feel weak percolation on the tip of my tongue, but it immediately disappeared. Basically, if you're not into sparkling water, this is probably the sparkling water for you. 

8. Adirondack

Despite the fact that the bottle nearly exploded when I opened it, Adirondack's bubbles were very quiet—if persistent—in the glass. The water smelled slightly off to me, but that may be because of the plastic packaging. When drinking it, the bubbles started strong, and even hurt a little when the water went under my tongue, but there isn't much staying power there. It's completely serviceable sparkling water, but nothing to write home about. 

Photo by ironstealth via getty images

7. Whole Foods Italian Sparkling Water

While the sound some bubbles make is echo-y, sometimes the sound is smaller and sharper. This is the case with Whole Foods' sparkling water. (Italian, I guess, because it's fancy. The green bottle certainly looks nice.) The bubbles feel exactly like they sound—almost pointy. They don't linger very long, but that's OK. In my notes, I scribbled "Plain Jane but gets the job done." That sums it up. 

6. Poland Spring

It took at least four tries to open up the plastic bottle of Poland Spring. I had to keep stopping for the fizz to die down. The bubbles in Poland Spring had a tin can sound that didn't quit—a good sign—and larger than usual bubbles. The fizz lingered on the tongue for a significant amount of time, which I appreciated. The only downsides? Poland Spring had a slightly sharp taste, and of all the sparkling waters I drank this was the only one that made me burp. But maybe you're into that. 

5. Saratoga Springs

You're probably familiar with the tall, slender, Yves Klein-blue glass bottles this water comes in. But rest assured, this water is not all show. The bubbles are persistent, active, and of all different sizes—a good sign. I could feel the fizz on my tongue before I sipped it. When I took a drink, the strong, small bubbles hit my tongue. While they lost their oomph fairly quickly, the feeling of sharp bubbles lingered pleasantly for awhile. This water leans slightly acidic, but was very good overall. 

4. Mountain Valley

It comes in a bottle that would have looked at home on a camping trip in the 1950s. The water fizzed and spit when I unscrewed the top, and when I poured it out, the bubbles were uniformly small and active. Even in a cup, the bubbles sounded almost like they were in a metal vessel. Instead of feeling individual bubbles, Mountain Valley offered more of a foamy effervescence that coated the tongue. That feeling dissipated quickly, and no flavor lingered. This is a clean, subtle sparkling water. 

3. La Croix

Has everyone heard enough about La Croix yet? No? Good. Because La Croix has fans for a reason. La Croix's quiet, fairly inactive bubbles still pack a punch: You realize that the bubbles are basically perfectly sized—not too big, not too stabby—and they linger nicely, but not for very long. There's a clean, if slightly metallic flavor. No wonder this was the brand that brought everyone into the seltzer game.

Photo  by Andreas Rentz via Getty Images

2. Gerolsteiner

Gerolsteiner is one of the OG bottled sparkling waters of the world, and once you taste it, you get why. These well-sized, persistent bubbles fizz with that tin can, echo-y sound, which is always a good sign. The water is super bubbly—it's pleasingly sharp with an effervescence that coats your tongue. It tastes minerally—this water does not have a neutral flavor—like what you should be drinking after getting out of the sauna at a Northern European spa resort, while you gaze at the Alps. I truly love this one, but it may be a little aggressive for everyone, everyday.  

Winner: S.Pellegrino

This bottle was almost alarmingly quiet when I opened it, but fortunately, when it came to carbonation, I had nothing to worry about. When I poured it out, there were small, metallic-sounding, can't-stop-won't-stop bubbles fizzing wildly in the cup. Drinking it, I was struck by the fact that while this carbonation wasn't wimpy or foamy, the bubbles weren't like tiny daggers on the tongue either—this water struck a perfect bubble balance. The pleasantly minerally sparkling water does linger on the tongue, but only slightly, and in a way that isn't at all distracting. It is the perfect sparkling water to pair with food—and just life in general. 

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