I'm fairly certain sparkling water is the only reason I'm alive today. Seltzer, club soda, soda water -- this is my lifeblood, my primary source of liquid sustenance, my best friend from dawn to dusk and all the tequila-scented, dry-mouthed, night stand-groping moments in between. In my heart, sparkling water comes second only to beer, a beverage upon which I've built my entire career. Real talk.
When our passionate love affair began nearly 10 years ago, the world's most perfect beverage was actually quite hard to come by outside of New York City (aka the country's unofficial soda water capital). I'm thrilled to report, however, that the seltzer revolution has finally arrived on American shores, thanks largely to LaCroix's growing cult status among thirsty devotees. And with new brands hitting the shelves every day, it's high time someone as informed, experienced, and trustworthy as me ranked all these bubbly babies. Here they are, from worst to best.
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My first swig began with a bang -- a violent, intensely carbonated bang that took approximately three years to abate. As soon as the enamel-stripping blow lifted, however, my entire mouth filled with what can only be described as liquid morning breath with a dash of nickel. Man, did I ever miss those bubbles.
15. Gold Emblem original seltzer
Gold Emblem's cap let out a hiss so loud and long that the entire Thrillist office thought I was shushing them (sorry again, guys). All rudeness aside, the water itself tastes nothing like the label's sky-blue hue and charming vintage seltzer bottle might indicate, unless that seltzer bottle hadn't seen a sponge in a while.
14. Whole Foods Italian sparkling mineral water
This is clearly the Jersey Shore version of Old World Pellegrino, assimilation having left its diluted, deflated mark on this poor, plastic, resolutely assimilated generation. It's the Domino's to Pellegrino's pizza Napoletana.
13. Pellegrino sparkling natural mineral water
I know plenty of H2O enthusiasts who swear by it. But, weirdly for a taste-test... this has more flavor than I generally look for in my sparkles. Sorry, Pellegrino. It's not you, it's me.
12. Hal's New York seltzer water
It tastes fine enough, but Hal's carbonation is like an enraged New Yorker who's late for work, and my mouth, unfortunately, is a tourist dawdling down a narrow walkway. My dumbstruck palate is simply no match for this unbridled fury. You'll just have to go around me, pal.
11. Q Club Superior club soda
Q Club drinks a lot like a diluted peach Clearly Canadian, which is a sensation I'm more than happy to leave back in the fourth grade where it belongs. Now that I think about it, with its champagne-like packaging and strange fruity undertones, this probably wasn't intended for pure unadulterated consumption -- like, I could see a splash of Q spritzing up some cheap rosé on a hot summer night, but there's no way I'm reaching for this at 6am the next morning.
Imbibing Poland Spring's sharp, dense carbonation feels like getting your mouth scrubbed out with Irish Spring -- painful yet somehow strangely comforting, like a lesson learned. You know it's coming and you're pretty sure you deserve it, but you'll be damned if you get caught saying that word in front of grandma again.
9. Whole Foods 365 club soda
The first swig is refreshing and very soda-like, with a drying, ever-so-slightly salty finish that makes me want to shotgun the entire can... which is probably the right move, since it began to taste like stale beer about 10 minutes after cracking it open.
8. Mountain Valley sparkling spring water
Though I liked the old-school Americana label, Mountain Valley immediately lost points for its heavy glass bottle -- what poor thirsty soul wants to carry that bowling ball around? Beyond its obvious weight problem, it's surprisingly tasty, with a balanced effervescence and a bone-dry finish that begs for another sip.
7. Saratoga sparkling spring water
Based on the design, I assumed this to be some half-ass Pellegrino clone, but it actually leaves my mouth feeling fresher than a 90-second Listerine gargle. My only complaint is that the CO2 concentration diminishes drinkability, so it's not ideal for those in dire need of hydration.
6. Polar 100% natural seltzer
When I first tried to twist this sucker open, it sputtered and hissed like a rattler stuck in a burlap sack. But after it calmed down a bit, I found it to be perfectly flavorless, ending with a subtle bitter wash that kept me coming back for more (albeit cautiously).
5. Canada Dry original sparkling seltzer water
Canada Dry's micro-bubbles smack against the back of my throat in crashing waves, the initial shock ebbing to reveal a sweet, sandy beach beneath. I've never felt so alive.
Adirondack exploded all over my computer like a pissed-off fire hydrant when I opened it, which made me hate it. But then it actually tasted like freshly melted snow so we're fine now.
3. Schweppes club soda
Like some sort of mouth hug, Schweppes' velvety, microscopic bubbles embrace my tongue with the reassuring geniality of a cool autumn breeze. Call me, Schweppes!
2. Glaceau smartwater sparkling
Smarty-pants over here appears way too carbonated, its tiny bubbles elbowing their way to the top like a bunch of little capitalists racing up the corporate ladder. But man, is this crisp! Like an immaculate mountain spring fed by gentle, purposeful bubbles. I straight-up feel like a doe drinking this stuff.
1. LaCroix natural pure sparkling water
The gold standard. Those other seltzers can try, but they'll never match the crystal-clear perfection, the effortlessly graceful carbonation, the unparalleled thirst-quenching powers encased in this modest blue can. Bravo, LaCroix, you did it again.
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Meredith Heil is a staff writer for Thrillist. She was on her late-night thirsty, ‘cause it was late night and she was thirsty. Get quenched at @mereditto.