I Taste-Tested 8 Sparkling Waters and There Was a Clear Winner
06.20.17

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.

Shall we?

1.Perrier

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.

2. Pellegrino

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.

3. Schweppes

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.

5. Saratoga

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 

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  • Quinn Halman

    What is “grapefruit” La Croix? I only know pamplemousse

  • Okay but what about Topo Chico?

    • potluck

      I was going to say the same thing. Nothing beats Topo.

    • Hannah Laub

      YAS, I came to the comments just to add Topo Chico. I’m a sparkling water fiend (like, I can kill a case, alone, in two days) and Topo Chico has changed the game. There is nothing that compares.

      • Liz Warners

        I came to do the same thing! I first had it in Austin, TX and have managed to find it in some Mexican Supermarkets in Michigan of all places.
        Topo Chico= everything I need in a carbonated drink. LOVE.

      • Charlotte

        Topo Chico has definitely become pretty ubiquitous in LA

      • belle

        It’s Mexican – outside of Mexico itself I find it to be most ubiquitous in West Texas, but it’s trendy as shit now so it’s all over California and scattered in other stores around the country. Growing up on the gulf coast it was readily available

      • EMCamp1014

        As a San Antonio native that grew up on Topo, I basically just scrolled through this article waiting for it to be the clear winner but was so sad when it wasn’t included. Forever a winner in my heart. <3

    • Harling Ross

      i had never heard of topo chico but someone DM’ed me about it when i posted a sneak peek at the testing for this story on my Instagram. i need to try asap. is it only in Texas????

      • Definitely easiest to find in TX but you can also find it online and at The Greene Grape in BK: http://www.greenegrape.com/2016/08/12/topo-chico-nyc/

      • Rachel Rodenkirk

        I live in Texas, so Amazon prime now might only stock pile topo chico here, but I just ordered a 12 pack on prime now for $0.76. Yes, I typed that correctly.

        • Cristina

          I’m sorry WHAT?! How do I do this?! I live in OK and thank GAWD we get Topo but I need all of that for 76 cents!

      • Cristina

        Oops, just posted the same thing about Topo haha. Yes, the fizziness and freshness can’t be beat!

      • Joy

        I used to get it at my bodega when I lived in East Harlem! It pops up every now and then.

      • Callie Clemons

        Javelina on 18th and Irving has it!

      • EMCamp1014

        It’s a Mexico thing but also a staple here in Texas – particularly the more authentically Mexican parts (i.e., San Antonio and the Valley)

      • emily

        la esquina has it sometimes!!

    • Tara

      Topo Chico is the only way to go!

  • Leilani

    i am obsessed with soda water. me and my boyfriend burn through a 12 pack of canada dry or schweppes cans in less than a week. my favourite way is with ice and a very liberal amount of angostura bitters

    i feel like i should get a soda stream just based off the sheer amount of cans i’m recycling but i’ve heard it’s not as bubbly!!! unacceptable

    • I just learned that that was a thing! Apparently people call it “bits and bubs?” http://www.extracrispy.com/drinks/2782/bitters-and-soda-is-the-best-drink-for-when-youre-not-drinking?iid=sr-link1

    • tinygoldenpins

      I use two 12 packs a week. My daughter got me a sodastream for Christmas. If you pump it more it is bubbly. The downside is getting out and refilling the gas canisters. People will fill them for free but…

    • Harleyuki

      I got a Soda Sparkle about a year ago, if I’d only known that it was the bubbly that I’d craved all these years, I’d have gotten one of these much earlier! I drink 3 liters per day, straight, doesn’t need flavoring and the 2 main parts store easily in a cabinet. No counter real estate taken up at all. I’ve never tried Soda Stream only Soda Sparkle.

  • Hayley

    I love the Vintage seltzer brand.
    Great bubbles, poor packaging (minus the vintage-esque Vintage label), cheap, and tastes good.

    • Abby

      This is also my preferred plain sparkling water selection.

    • Kate Rockett

      YES, I’m drinking Vintage straight from the 2 liter container as we speak.

  • Calli

    Somebody get Harling a Topo.

    • pennyjenny

      Came here to say this. I lived in Austin for five years, and now that I’m back in L.A., I stockpile Topos whenever I find them. (Shout out to the tiny West Hollywood Whole Foods for carrying it, and to Grand Central Market for stocking the lime ones.) Okay but now I wanna try Saratoga. Too pretty!

  • I always drink the plain la croix. People are always so disappointed when they see it’s the only one I have. I think it’s the best one.

  • Willa Konefał Davis

    no gerolstiener?!

  • Sara Mizener

    Seriously!! TOPO CHICO is the best!!! I am also a HUGE fan of Voss sparkling water (specifically lemon cucumber,) but it is difficult to find.

  • Kate Rockett

    Pellegrino is an insult to the whole sparkling water oeuvre.

    • Harling Ross

      concur.

  • Néo Bourgeois — Montecito

    Gerolsteiner

  • A SodaStream will change your life and I highly recommend it. I like my bubbles a little lazy while my husband likes his hyperactive and it lets you have both. Also, we were blasting through a case of seltzer every week which was incredibly wasteful. With this, we trade out our C02 cylinder and get a new one every couple of weeks and have an endless supply of sparkling water.

    That being said, Vintage is the superior choice for store bought sparkling water!

    • Harling Ross

      my boyfriend has a sodastream and i have been known to say that it is the main reason why i can never break up w/ him

  • Sheila T.

    soda stream rocks my world (unlimited sparkling water for the price of tap!!!!!). I think you’re only supposed to hit three buzzes, but I go for four or five and it is the absolute best

  • Victoria L.

    clicked onto this post as a fellow sparkling water lover and i was about to start a fight if you didn’t choose saratoga… but i may be biased since my apartment is filled with the pretty blue bottles

    • Harling Ross

      saratoga 4ever

  • Stephanie

    Pellegrino is my favorite plain, but my body is like 67% LaCroix at this point due to my Wisconsin upbringing. Thank god my boyfriend hates grapefruit-flavored things because HANDS OFF MY FIZZY WATER, DUDE.

    Favorite summer cocktail: Mango LaCroix, grapefruit vodka and a squeeze of lime. Just the very best. I’m a food editor and lobbied in a 100% biased way to have an actual recipe created for it on our site: https://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/mango-grapefruit-lacroix-mimosa/7ea71d87-d123-4530-b82d-d2baa3ab400e

  • Alyssa Neilson

    polar is the best!

  • Naomi

    Badoit! The naturally carbonated bubbles are magical!

    • Laure-Helene

      seconded!

    • Lisa Ingemansen

      I third

  • Laure-Helene

    I deeply appreciate this research topic but why is the mineral content not being taken into account for health benefits? Although that blue bottle would make life at my desk 100% cooler right now, San Pelli has a very high amount of sulfates and a higher magnesium content than Saratoga.

    Badoit forever, for taste, bubbles, and minerals!

  • Julie

    Where was the Talking Rain?? #Justice4TalkingRain (except not the orange flavor cause that’s gross and everyone knows it).

  • kes

    flavored seltzer showdown: lacroix vs. polar! i know i know, i love lacroix (i’m not an animal), but orange-vanilla polar truly has my <3

  • Kristie Flynn

    The Mountain Valley sparkling water is so good! Great choice!

  • nvs

    Y’all are in luck. You can now order Topo Chico online via HEB (supermarket chain based in TX): https://www.heb.com/product-detail/topo-chico-mineral-water-case-12-pk/533893

    Also, be on the lookout for a new sparkling water from Texas. Rambler – http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-daily-post/austin-sparkling-water-start-up-rambler-wants-to-help-you-break-your-topo-chico-addiction/

  • Katie Eisenhower

    Gerolsteiner Sparkling Mineral Water. mineral-calculator.com compare Gerolsteiner with other brands.

  • nicole dinapoli

    Polar defeats La Croix in the flavor department any day of the week

  • Lisa Ingemansen

    I have a case of topo in my car right now. Total game changer. Another game changer is badoit water. Badoit has almost fancy micro bubbles whereas topo is all around bubble awesomeness.

  • Bonnie Nabors

    Gerolsteiner! The best!

  • Cristina

    Ooo girl, Topo Chico is where it’s at! Max fizzinessssss!!!

  • Stephanie

    Also if you’ve ever wondered whether a Costco membership would be worth it, I won’t tell you how to live your life–I’ll just tell you they have LaCroix variety packs for like $7 (24 cans) and double cases just of lime for maybe $8 (30 cans). If you drink so much LaCroix that it’s like you’re allergic to tap water, a $55 Costco membership (that you can also share with a friend) is a solid life choice.

  • Alice

    I like “flatter” ones like S.Pellegrino to drink with food and AGGRESSIVELY BUBBLY ONES to drink instead of plain water. Also there’s one brand where I live that it’s flat, salty, old tasting and blhergh.

  • Tina Telalyan

    Saratoga is indeed the best! I agree all the way!

  • Cecile Villere Colhoun

    Clearly you haven’t had Topo Chico bc that’s by far #1!!!

  • Deanna Rose Garman

    Personally I like the ones with alcohol in them…lol Truly. 2 carbs 5% Alcohol

  • Nellie

    I was never much of a chemistry student, but I do know that pH is a factor in sparkling water, especially if you are a hard core user and abuser (me). Low pH and low mineral content can wear the enamel on your teeth. Just ask my dentist! Straight up carbonic acid w/o minerals is not a good thing. Agree that Gerolsteiner is a great choice. And I love Mivela for its high magnesium content.

  • belle

    I haven’t even read this yet but if the winner isn’t Topo Chico I’m going to set something on fire

  • pamb

    Those of us in the Midwest roll our eyes a bit at the LaCroix craziness; we’ve been drinking it for years. If there are any suburbanites here who live near an Aldi, my husband swears their ‘Vie’ grapefruit sparkling water is even better than LaCroix.

    My favorite flavored sparkling waters are by Polar. Raspberry lime! Cherry vanilla! According to their website they have cans, but I’ve only seen them in plastic (yes, plastic does impart a taste, IMO).

    • Stephanie

      Re: LaCroix–totally! I’ve been drinking it since I was little, but it wasn’t until 5 years ago that I thought of it as anything other than that kind of frumpy seltzer my dad keeps in his basement fridge but I loved anyway.

  • Harleyuki

    I find that the best sparkling water is that that I make at home with my SodaSparkle. I don’t have to lug bottles home and nothing to throw away except for the empty chargers. I filter my tap water, chill the 1- liter bottle then make the bubbly as I need it. Doesn’t need flavoring; I like it plain.

  • Hannah Finnigan-Walsh

    How do you do it? I don’t live in America, I can’t buy any of these waters, what is La Croix? And yet I read this hungrily from beginning to end.

  • Daisy Tinker

    Anyone else here from the UK and now wondering WHERE we can get hold of a Topo Chico??? If anyone knows, lemme know!

    • Hope

      Its really really hard to find — I once saw it in an off-licence in TRENDY Peckham and never saw it again…

  • Paula Rodio

    Just tried Apricot La Croix last night. Oh so good!

  • Olga Barros

    Can we do more research? Seams like we’re missing Gerolsteiner and a few others!

  • Ellie Thomson

    Or buy a SodaStream and reduce your carbon footprint while adding delicious flavors!

  • Caro A

    Yaaaaaas!! Agree on this so hard! Schweppes ftw!

    • Caro A

      I don’t know if we have Saratoga in MN but I am going to try hard to find it

  • Jodi

    The only data point that would make this seriously super helpful review even better? Cost comparison. I was a make-at-home Soda Streamer for a long time, but just couldn’t achieve the level of bubblyness that I need. I went back to Schweppes for all the reasons you identified but would switch to Saratoga immediately if only you had included prices. I guess I’ll have to look that up on my own…

  • Harling, I am a fellow sparkling water lover, but I generally drink perrier from plastic bottles, not glass, and I have to say I think the bubbles are more intense from the plastic bottles. In the name of science, I would love to know if those glass bottles skewed the results.

  • Claire

    Harling you NEED Topo Chico in your life

    • Lindsey

      Yes!!! SO good.

  • Fun Bun

    I love Jarritos Mineragua! Sexy glass bottle & just the right size so that you can drink the whole thing before it goes flat.

    I don’t mind Schweppes, though. Been known to chug so fast it burns. Yesss.

  • Danielle

    Get you a sodastream STAT

    Also Vintage brand is my entire childhood

  • Annelise Barnes

    I skipped reading the author by sheer accident, but the second she started talking about her mother, I knew it was Harling lol.. I want to be her mom when i grow up

  • jessica marie

    I like VOSS sparkling water, but it’s one of those things I only buy from tj maxx because paying full price makes me feel like a sucker. And yeah, La Croix apricot gives me life.

  • Cléo Charpantier

    If you do review flavored bubbly waters, Schweppes Agrume (meaning citrus in French) is the best one out there in my mind. And comes in a cute colorful can! Similar to the LaCroix Pamplemousse but the real european version instead of its rip-off (I’m biased against LaCroix because of how incorrectly everyone pronounces it). I haven’t seen many states side but drink them all summer in France!

  • Christhany Alexis Stephens

    Topo?

  • susan

    I first tried Topo Chico in Austin, and was delighted to find that it’s available in Michigan bodegas (and in the “international foods” section at Walmart, of all places) … but always find it wonderfully silly that my favorite drink is imported Mexican water when water is the one thing you’re never to drink when in Mexico. My husband recently asked me if it was “safe to drink”, haha

  • Mia

    Two words. Sodastream. ™.

  • JoMama

    Polar is my favorite/deliverance while living in Florida – superb fizziness, it feels like you’re exfoliating your esophagus with pixie dust

  • learnin lady

    do a FLAVORED rating one!!~~~~

  • Kammie

    The hidden gem, the crown jewel of sparkling water, is Topo Chico! I was quite literally reborn with my first sip and every one since.