The Best Seltzer You Can Buy at the Grocery Store
When it comes to seltzer, it seems that everyone has one brand they are die-hard loyal to. We all have that one friend who refuses to drink anything but LaCroix, while New Yorkers claim Hal's is sparkling holy water. We wanted to see if these loyalties actually had anything to do with taste—rather than just good marketing—so we set out on an office-wide taste test.
We know, we know. It's water. But though it seems like a product impervious to significant differences, we found plenty. Some were disappointed; others were triumphantly reaffirmed. But after tasting eight brands, it's safe to say all were full of bubbles and burping all afternoon long.
For this test, we stuck to bottles that labeled themselves seltzer or sparkling water, no mineral water. As the name suggests, mineral water has added minerals, which may affect taste. We also stuck to plain-flavored seltzers, since not all brands had the same flavors, and tested for taste and carbonation.
Our Top Picks
The contrarians in us hate to admit it, but LaCroix had the most people buzzing by far. Tasters noted its standout refreshing, natural tap taste and fine microbubbles that had just the right amount of tingle.
Schweppes is known as "the original sparkling seltzer water" and came in a close second. With a recipe more than two decades old, Schweppes has definitely mastered the carbonation ratio, scoring it an excited "Now that's got a ZING to it!" from one editor.
This cult favorite also made our top three with its high flavor scores. Tasters liked the refreshing flavor, though they admitted it was slightly over-carbonated.
While Trader Joe's scored high on flavor, it did not have nearly enough carbonation for our tasters. Most thought it tasted flat, almost like Sprite that had been sitting out overnight. (We still love you though, TJ's.)
This pantry staple scored only slighty less than TJ's, but for the opposite reason. Flavor was great, but carbonation was too aggressive for the likes of the TT tasters. Most said they would actually need to let this one breathe before drinking it straight.
An extremely overwhelming carbonation made it difficult to taste anything else in this New York brand. Of all the brands, tasters said Hal's was the worst in terms of having too much carbonation, making it taste almost acidic. Flavor scores also ranked below average.
For a brand whose ginger ale is so popular, it's not surprising our tasters thought the seltzer actually tasted like "watered-down ginger ale." Though, if you have a stomach ache and don't like the taste of ginger ale, this might be a good alternative.
Oh, Polar. This was the brand we all wanted to win, considering that for most of us, it's our go-to. After the first sip, one hopeful taster muttered, "I really hope this isn't Polar, because this tastes like a dirty penny." Other tasters concurred; Polar had a metallic flavor that left a tinny, unpleasant aftertaste. Though Polar ranked by far the lowest in terms of taste and overall likelihood of purchase, loyal Polar fans promised to continue buying it.
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