Back in the day, soda ruled our world. Whether you were more of a Sprite or 7Up drinker or you preferred good old-fashioned cola (we won’t start talking about the Coke vs. Pepsi wars here), there was something about those bubbly drinks that you couldn’t resist. But after some time, we realized how bad they are for us. They’re absolutely loaded with sugar, and they often feature dyes and additives you probably don’t want in your body. You’ve probably heard the horror stories about how you can actually clean your toilet with Coke. Yikes.
So many of us turned our backs on the bubbles, thinking they were out of our lives forever. But those of us who had experienced sparkling water in other countries or in fancy restaurants knew the truth … that there was a bubbly, sparkly, refreshing delight just waiting to tickle our taste buds.
Enter sparkling water into the U.S. market in the latest seltzer craze. According to Barry Joseph, author of Seltzertopia: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary Drink, "Seltzer is a chameleon. Through time and all around the world, people have filled it with meaning, with the idea that it can communicate something about who they are and who they want to be."
It’s certainly true that seltzer, or sparkling water, is currently going through a whirlwind of popularity. But which brands are best? Check out our favorites and … not so favorites. These are popular sparkling water brands, ranked from worst to best.
Why is Zevia at the very top of this list? Well, we just weren’t that pleased with it when we tried it for ourselves. The problem is the fact that Zevia hasn’t completely renounced its soda status. When most people look for sparkling water, they want just that … water. But Zevia is basically just giving us watered-down soda. The flavors are quite strong, and they don’t taste particularly good. From the cucumber lemon to the blackberry, it’s just a little too much when you want something that’s actually refreshing.
But the real problem here is the fact that these sparkling water drinks are actually sweetened. To us, adding sweetener to a sparkling water is a cardinal sin. Though the can reads "a little bit sweet," the sugariness is really quite noticeable when you pop open a can of what you thought was going to be more neutral. Our verdict? Pass it up in favor of another brand.
12. Poland Spring
You may recognize Poland Spring as the bottled water that was in your university library’s vending machine right next to the neon-colored Mountain Dew that you likely chose instead. But the company is trying to stay relevant with its line of sparkling waters. And we have to admit, that was probably a smart business move. At the end of the day, though, Poland Springs is definitely better off sticking with the still stuff.
A reviewer at CookingLight had this to say about the Poland Springs Triple Berry Flavor: "Personally, I thought the bubbles were lacking, and the water had a funky floral aftertaste reminiscent of the Bath and Body Works’ spray I wore as a teen."
Oof. That’s not exactly a glowing review. In our view, sparkling waters are better off keeping it light on the flavor and focusing more on the bubbles. We’re all there for the fizziness, anyway, right?
If you’ve had many cans of Schweppes in your life before, you probably associate it with a drink at the bar. It’s almost considered essential in your gin and tonic, if that’s your thing. But did you know that the company also makes sparkling waters? No? Well, we’re not surprised. It’s not exactly the most popular brand out there. And while it’s not terrible, it’s not particularly good either.
One reviewer took to Influenster to express their opinion of the drink: "I personally really hate this stuff. I tried it for the first time … a few weeks ago and it almost made me sick. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone unless you just simply like foul-tasting drinks."
Considering that sparkling water is supposed to settle your stomach, that’s not exactly a review we like to read. Though we don’t think that this is the worst sparkling water ever, would we bother to spend our money on it? Probably not. There are definitely better options out there (and ones that are probably easier to find as well).
When it comes to Waterloo sparkling water, what you’ll get is going to be pretty hit or miss. Some of the flavors are fantastic, and others, for us, just fall flat. That’s because there seems to be little consistency between the flavors. When you get the lemon-lime, for instance, you’re barely going to taste the flavor at all, and the bubbles aren’t even that intense. It’s not an experience we’d recommend to anyone.
But some of the other flavors, like the black cherry and the grape, have an overly strong flavor that can be overwhelming when you want something truly crisp and refreshing.
Our suggestion? Try the blueberry, the grapefruit, or the coconut. They all have an appropriate bubble-to-flavor ratio, and you should be decently pleased with them. But when you have to tiptoe around all the different flavors just to find one that you really like, it makes sense to just go with another brand entirely, right? That’s just our take.
Recess is a bit different from other sparkling water brands out there. That’s because it’s more than just some bubbles. The can says it’s "infused with hemp extract and adaptogens." What does that mean? It means there’s CBD in your bubbles.
CBD comes from the hemp plant, the same plant that produces marijuana. Don’t worry, though — drinking Recess isn’t going to get you high. That’s because CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive properties. CBD simply makes you feel a bit calmer without messing with your mind.
A reviewer at Pop Sugar decided to try these drinks to see how they would feel: "I did feel a little calmer after drinking a can. I was also able to crank out more posts at work than normal, which could have been the coffee I had earlier or my newfound focus from a magical sparkling water."
Sounds interesting if you’re looking for something slightly different than your average sparkling water. However, the flavors aren’t that great, in our opinion. And when you consider that a pack of six of these cans costs a whopping $30, you can see why it doesn’t get a better rating from us. If you’re in the mood to try something totally new, though, it may be worth that hefty price tag for you.
8. Kirkland Brand
Have a Costco membership? If you do, you’ve probably made your way past those huge cases of Kirkland Brand sparkling water. They come in three flavors: lemon, lime, and grapefruit. Sounds simple and satisfactory enough, right?
In truth, they’re about as basic as you can get. If you want sparkling water, these should do the trick. But would most people go out of their way to go pick them up from Costco when they could more easily get a better brand closer to home? Probably not.
There’s also the fact that one of the flavors really misses the mark. While the grapefruit and the lemon flavors are pleasant and innocuous, the lime has a chemical aftertaste that you can’t get out of your mouth for some time. And since these bad boys come in a pack together, you’re going to have to endure the lime to get to the much-better grapefruit.
In the end, we wouldn’t pass up on these if we really wanted some sparkling water, but there are definitely better choices out there. If you want to buy in bulk, though, this is certainly a nice option to have.
Sanpellegrino is one of those brands that has been around forever. In fact, the company started in 1899, and it’s been impressing customers ever since. A longstanding symbol of elegance and wealth, it’s been a favorite amongst elites for ages. But now, Sanpellegrino has reached the masses in the form of its flavored sparkling drinks.
If this were a rating of sodas, then Sanpellegrino would take the winning spot on this list. However, this is a rating of seltzer, and for us, Sanpellegrino just has too much flavor to really even fall into this category. Sure, it’s not overly sweet, and the flavors are undeniably tasty. We’ll grab an aranciata when we want something that’s more on the flavorful side that has all the bubbles we could ever ask for.
But in the end, if you just want a refreshing sip of sparkling water, Sanpellegrino just isn’t going to cut it.
How can you not enjoy a classic like Perrier? It’s likely that you tried this stuff before you even thought of taking a sip of anything like Spindrift. Perrier came out all the way back in 1863, so they seriously know what they’re talking about when it comes to their sparkling water game. At first, it (and copycat concoctions) were distributed by pharmacists (and if you’ve ever taken a sip of the stuff when you have a wicked hangover, you know it could be accurately described as a medication).
But it was in the 1980s that this stuff really boomed. According to The New York Times (via Elemental): "At a time when the haut monde has turned to Perrier and other sparkling waters in its relentless effort to inject all life with effervescence, a coincidence of nostalgia and the desire for unadulterated products and calorie-less treats has focused attention on the city’s ineradicable and thriving seltzer underground."
It’s more than just a drink. It’s a symbol. So while the taste of Perrier might be pretty standard, it still has a fanciness attached to it that makes us love cracking open a glass bottle of the stuff (when we can still find it).
You’ve got to hand it to Montane: They offer some unique flavors that you won’t be able to find anywhere else … not even in La Croix’s surprisingly long lineup. While there may not be a ton of options, the options you do have are surprisingly tasty. The cucumber lime flavor is probably the most common of the four offered (apart from the unflavored sparkling stuff), but it still has a distinct taste that you won’t get with many other sparkling waters. The cucumber taste is quite strong but not too strong — and luckily, it actually tastes natural.
But from that point, things start going off the rails into seriously creative territory. Forget your plain old boring grapefruit-flavored sparkling water and turn to a grapefruit peach flavor from Montane instead. Or, you can go really bold with a lemon honeysuckle flavor that’s not sweetened but still somehow has a touch of sweetness to it.
While we personally really like these flavor options, they’re not going to be for everyone, which is why Montane isn’t higher on our list. These unusual flavor combinations are perfect for a specific palate, but the brand might be better off overall if they introduce some more common flavors into the lineup for broader appeal.
While you may not have heard of Spindrift until recently, it’s quickly rising the ranks to become one of the most beloved sparkling water brands out there. And in fact, it’s actually been out since 2010. Perhaps it’s the latest seltzer craze that has catapulted it to the success it’s seeing now. According to Food Dive, the brand has racked up millions in investments in 2020.
What sets Spindrift apart from other sparkling waters on the market is the fact that it’s not just sparkling water. It’s actually seltzer mixed with real fruit juice. Unlike other flavored waters out there, the real fruit juice makes these drinks actually taste natural, which we love. In fact, that’s precisely the reason Women’s Health rated it as their favorite brand of sparkling water.
But in our opinion? It has just a bit too much flavor to earn its way into the top three. It basically tastes like unsweetened soda. It’s delicious, but it’s not exactly what we want when we reach for a sparkling water. Do we still have a variety pack of this stuff in our fridge? Of course.
3. La Croix
"When the first time they ask you if you want sparklin’ or still? Why you tryna act like you was drinkin’ sparklin’ water ‘fore you came out here?" Famed musician and poet Kanye West posed this question for us in his hit song "I Love It," and we have to admit, there was a time when we didn’t know about the joys of sparkling water. But that all changed with La Croix.
Some of you may be surprised that La Croix doesn’t earn the top spot in this list. It’s basically the sparkling water that kicked off this latest seltzer craze. It’s your chance to buy pamplemousse instead of plain old grapefruit. And who doesn’t love looking at those weird ’90s-inspired cans?
The flavors are amazing, and there are a ton of them. As The Manual notes, "There does not seem to be a single fruit La Croix has not yet used to create a seltzer water flavor. (OK, maybe breadfruit.) In fact, the brand is even running out of blends of fruit at this point!"
Thank you, La Croix, for blessing us with your wealth of flavors. But at a price point that is often drastically higher than the competition, we can’t really justify picking up a case of this stuff too often … until you want apricot-flavored sparkling water.
Even if you’re new to the sparkling water scene, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen the brand Bubly popping up at your local grocery store. Have you given it a try yet? If you’ve yet to take a sip of the stuff, then you should try it out soon.
While it tends to be more expensive than the Kroger brand, we do like the package design more. It’s not much, but who doesn’t love sipping on something that looks expensive? But it’s the taste that really gets us. That’s probably why you can find glowing reviews all over the internet. One experienced reviewer on Amazon had this to say about the brand: "I have tried all the brands, LaCroix, Dasani, Perrier. Bubly has the most flavor and the best taste. Price is decent as well."
Another thing that we absolutely love about this brand? If you just want a few sips of the bubbly stuff, you don’t have to haul an entire crate of the drinks around the store. You can often find them sold individually, so you can grab one on the go.
1. Kroger Brand
This may be a controversial opinion, but we said what we said. Kroger Brand sparkling water is the sparkling water to end all sparkling waters. There are a few different factors that go into this ranking. First of all, there are a wide variety of flavors available. The cranberry lime and the blackberry citrus are our personal favorites, but the raspberry, lemon, and lime are also out of this world. You’ll have plenty of others to choose from as well, so almost everyone can find a flavor they like.
But we also love the price when it comes to this brand of sparkling water. It’s way more affordable than most of the well-known brands out there, and it tastes better than all of them. Why would you pay more when you know you can get top quality for less?
This brand of sparkling water has the perfect amount of bubbles in every sip and definitely doesn’t go flat quickly. And with so many flavors to choose from, you should get yourself to a Kroger to get your sparkling water fix ASAP. For those of you who don’t live anywhere near a Kroger … we’ll keep you in our thoughts.