We Blind Tasted A Whole Ton Of Flavored Sparkling Waters In Search Of The Best

The next best thing to the snap, crackle, and bite of a great bottle of sparkling water is one that actually, you know, has a flavor and doesn’t just taste like fizzy water. Generally spiked with a fruity twist, flavored sparkling water still hovers at or around zero calories and is clearly more popular than its flavorless counterpart — convenience and grocery stores carry a shit ton of them.

For our roundup, we got our hands on 18 different flavors. And I know we’re only scratching the surface.

So which tastes the best? In order to figure that out we’re turning to our tried and trusty blind taste test. But before we dive in, I’d like to outline what I think makes for great sparkling water. When it comes to fizzy water, it has to have a high level of bubbles, the sort that sizzle on the tongue and provide a subtle burn to the throat. If it’s flat and just tastes like somebody dropped some fruit in a glass of tap water, it isn’t going to cut it in my book!

PART I — Methodology

Our guidelines for this blind taste test are as follows: it must be branded as sparkling water, it has to have some sort of fruity flavor, and ideally, it needs to have no sugar, or at the most under five grams. The idea here is that this sparkling treat is a true soda substitute, meaning not calorically or sugar-rich.

Some brands out there have too many flavors and because we’re not going to blind taste test 12 different La Croix (again), we kept it to flavors we could buy single cans or bottles of at gas station convenience stores, corner stores, and 7-Elevens. If we forgot your favorite, we’re sorry — sound off in the comments!

Here’s the class we’re working with:

  • Aha Blueberry and Pomegranate
  • Aha Caffeinated Mango and Black Tea
  • Aha Lime and Watermelon
  • Bubly Strawberry
  • Good & Gather Strawberry Mango
  • Perrier L’Orange
  • Perrier Lime
  • Perrier Pink Grapefruit
  • Perrier Pineapple
  • Polar Seltzer Lemon
  • Polar Seltzer Raspberry Lime
  • La Croix Key Lime
  • La Croix Pamplemousse
  • Liquid Death Berry It Alive
  • Liquid Death Severed Lime
  • Spindrift Lime and Mint
  • Spindrift Raspberry Lime
  • Waterloo Peach

PART II — The Tasting

Taste 1:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

There is an initial fizz once it passes your tongue but it quickly settles into a dull flatness that I find offputting. There are some tart lime notes but it tastes more like the rind than the actual fruit. Overall not bad… but not good either.

Taste 2:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Very large visible bubbles and candy sweet on the nose. On the palate, it has a nice fizz followed by a rich berry flavor with a pleasingly bitter aftertaste that makes you want to quench it with more sips. I like this one!

Taste 3:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

A nice sizzling mouthfeel that sustains itself the entire time it crosses your palate. There is a grapefruit tartness to it that tastes very natural and bright. Really excellent!

Taste 4:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

A nice strong fizzle/sizzle but the strawberry flavor of this one comes across as stale. Strawberry is a juicy fruit and it just doesn’t really work here when backed with so much fizz.

Taste 5:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Awful and almost completely flat. It tastes like someone cleaned a dirty lemon in it and then served it to you. Whatever brand this is, avoid it at all costs!

Taste 6:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

It’s pink! This one is noticeably sweeter than everything I’ve tasted so far, but each sparkling water was vetted beforehand so if this has any sugar in it, it’s not enough for it to come across as this sweet. There is a prominent cranberry tart flavor with some fruity berry sweetness. I like it, even if it feels like cheating.

Taste 7:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

A nice bright grapefruit flavor kisses the palate and quickly settles into something more biting and sharply bitter, but in a good way. The bubbles feel noticeably thin, but there is a very nice interplay between the fruity flavors and the steady fizz.

Taste 8:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Very bubbly with a strong fizz that crackles on the tongue. There is a strong sweet lime flavor here and once the bubbles are finished snapping on the palate it settles into something with a soft and smooth mouthfeel. It takes you on a journey, and that’s a good thing!

There is definitely added sweetness here though, definitely one of the brands with sugar.

Taste 9:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Thin bubbles but a great flavor! Pronounced orange notes dominate with a citrus brightness that makes this one very addicting. I like it a lot, bigger bubbles would be appreciated but the flavor is undeniably delicious.

Taste 10:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Another strawberry-flavored one but this works a lot better than Taste 4. It’s very fruity on the nose and palate with a decent fizz and some notes of mango. Very tropical and refreshing.

Taste 11:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Hmm, this one is very interesting, I’m getting some mango notes and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. There is a sort of nutty and toasted quality to it and a very round and pleasing character. I’m honestly stumped as to what this flavor is supposed to be, but it tastes great.

Taste 12:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

A very strong sweet berry-forward flavor. I’m getting some raspberry and blueberry notes with a nice pronounced fizz and some added sweetness. Very delicious.

Taste 13:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

A nicely balanced mix of berry and citrus flavors but the fizz is too flat and weak for me to truly enjoy it. It’s very middling overall.

Taste 14:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Really nice and balanced! There is a delicate floral sweetness here that is mixed with a strong fizz that has some bite to it. The two elements are wonderfully juxtaposed. I can’t get enough of this one.

Taste 15:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

A lot of sparkling waters rely on citrus or berry flavors but this one is watermelon and it’s very refreshing, both in flavor and how different it is from everything else on the market. It has a… cool sweetness to it.

Taste 16:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Whoa, this one is wild. It’s very tart, almost assaulting so with a strong mint and citrus flavor that I don’t doubt would taste amazing with some gin. On its own, it’s good, but a tad overwhelming.

Taste 17:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Of all the lime-flavored sparkling waters in this tasting, this one is the best. Rather than tasting too zesty like a rind, there is some actual sweetness here that tastes a lot like actual lime. There is some tartness here, but the sweetness is the dominating note with a great fizzy body. Really solid.

Taste 18:

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

And we end on a weak note. This one has an overwhelmingly bitter top note that tastes like it’s trying to mimic some sort of fruit, and failing miserably. The weak bubbles on it don’t help either.

PART III — The Ranking

18. Polar Seltzer — Lemon (Taste 5)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $2.29

The Brand:

Generally, I feel a little sympathy for whatever snags the bottom spot in our rankings but I don’t feel bad about this one, it was hands down the worst sparkling water I’ve ever tasted. As a brand Polar has been around since 1882 and produces everything from flavored seltzer water to lemonades, basic bar mixers, cane sugar-sweetened sodas, energy-infused seltzer waters, and plain ‘ol water.

One of those other pillars must be holding this company up because it’s definitely not the seltzer!

The Bottom Line:

The worst lemon-flavored seltzer water you’ll ever drink.

17.Perrier — Lime (Taste 1)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $2.29

The Brand:

Perrier is all over the place. In our blind sparkling water taste test, this brand scored pretty high (and even in this taste test, other flavors landed much higher), but I just don’t like what the brand went for with this lime-flavored version of its sparkling water. It’s too dull, flavored sparkling water gets a lot of criticism for tasting like someone washed fruit in it and this take on lime very much fits that stereotype.

The Bottom Line:

The reason that some people think sparkling water doesn’t taste good.

16. Bubbly — Strawberry (Taste 4)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $3.88 (12 Pack)

The Brand:

Bubbly has over 10 sparkling water flavors and I truly wish I could’ve tried them all, unfortunately, Strawberry was all I good find selling as a single can and I don’t think it represents the brand well. The brand is owned by PepsiCo so if you’re team Pepsi you might find a lot to like here in the texture and mouthfeel of this sparkling water, but I’m team Coke and to me this just tasted flat and dull, like its parent company.

The Bottom Line:

Bubly has a grip of flavors so they must be doing something right, but if you’re trying this brand for the first time skip the strawberry.

15. Aha — Blueberry Pomegranate (Taste 2)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $1.69

The Brand:

Overall, I think Aha is a pretty solid brand but the Blueberry Pomegranate just wasn’t geared to my tastes, it was too sweet. It somehow manages to come across as sticky, sweet, and overwhelming, without having any calories or added sugar. The flavors are just too loud and you don’t get to taste enough of the sparkling water. If a lot of sparkling water taste like someone washed dirty fruit in them, this one tastes like someone dropped some hard candy in it and let it dissolve.

The Bottom Line:

Too heavy on the berry notes; not enough fizz and bite.

14. Perrier — Pineapple (Taste 18)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $6.59 (8 Pack)

The Brand:

Another Perrier? Get used to seeing this brand, they are all over this ranking. The reason I’m ranking the Pineapple this low is that to my palate it didn’t even register as pineapple. It had this weird stale tart flavor that came across as unfocused and, frankly, rancid. The only saving grace was the bubbles and mouthfeel, which were smooth and supple but someone needs to tell Perrier that they need to reformulate this one.

The Bottom Line:

I know, I know, it’s pineapple, but don’t take the chance — it’s not good and Perrier has several other flavors that are.

13. Polar — Raspberry Lime (Taste 13)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $1.79

The Brand:

Your eyes don’t deceive you, this is the same brand that I ranked at the bottom and ironically, this Raspberry Lime flavor marks the section of this ranking where I actually start to enjoy these sparkling waters. This is good! Its only weakness is the lack of bubbles and the overall flat texture.

If it had more fizz I’d easily be able to rank it up a few spots.

The Bottom Line:

Maybe Polar Lemon was a fluke, this brand might have more to offer than I initially thought. This is at the very least good, but not great.

12. Spindrift — Raspberry Lime (Taste 6)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $26 (24 Pack)

The Brand:

This one came as a shock to me because of its bright pink color and strong sweet notes. Once it was revealed to me what brand this was I had to check the nutritional contents again because it tasted too sweet to be under five grams of sugar but lo and behold, it packs a mere one gram. For something that comes across as this sweet, that’s amazing! According to the ingredients list, that sweetness comes from raspberry puree and lime juice, which explains why it’s so intense and tart.

In a way, this allows you to have your cake and eat it too.

The Bottom Line:

Spindrift’s recipe is simple, sparkling water + real fruit juice, and it works! This is the ideal brand for using as a mixer with your favorite spirits.

11. Good & Gather — Strawberry Mango (Taste 10)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $3.29 (8 Pack)

The Brand:

Target’s brand, Good & Gather, generally makes some middling products but I’m surprised at how good this is. It’s got a strong fizz, a great and unique fruity flavor, and it’s dirt cheap. That’s a strong recipe for success. This brand of sparkling water is basically Target’s answer to LaCroix and in addition to this Strawberry Mango flavor, the brand also makes Cucumber Mint, Ginger Peach, Cranberry and Citrus, Pomegranate and Dragonfruit, and more!

I’m all for the two-flavor combination the brand is going for, I only wish more were available as single bottles instead of 8 packs so that I could’ve included more in this ranking.

The Bottom Line:

Target’s answer to LaCroix with its own unique two-flavor concept that allows the brand to stand on its own.

10. Spindrift — Mint and Lime (Taste 16)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $26 (24 Pack)

The Brand:

Spindrift’s so-called “Nojito” isn’t quite as sweet as the Raspberry Lime (and it’s not pink) but it comes across as better balanced, which is why I’m ranking it much higher. This flavor still follows the simple philosophy of the brand, using actual lime juice and mint to provide the flavor, but clocks in at just four calories and 0 grams of sugar. The flavors are transparent and easy to latch on to, so I’m going to go ahead and say this works as a perfect mixer.

I know it’s called the “Nojito” but if you have a bottle of gin and don’t want to carry around real mint and lime, a can of this will give you everything you need to still make a decent mojito.

The Bottom Line:

Minty, refreshing, and slightly tart, Spindrift is the most natural-tasting flavored sparkling water you’ll ever drink.

9. Liquid Death — Severed Lime (Taste 8)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $15.99 (12 Pack)

The Brand:

Liquid Death is the brand that is quite literally funding all of your favorite podcasts. In recent years this brand has exploded and for whatever reason everyone who doesn’t know what this stuff is has a hard time believing it’s just water. I’ve had random people ask me on the street, “is that some sort of beer?” I’ve even puzzled convenience store employees who have asked me to see my ID before scanning it and exclaiming, “wait this is just water?” There is something genius about the way the brand has marketed itself.

At three grams of sugar and 20 calories, Liquid Death is just barely making it onto this ranking but that “under five grams of sugar” rule was pretty much put in place just so we could include Liquid Death because I know that if we didn’t the comment section would blow up with complainers. We hear you, this stuff is popular, but I feel like the Severed Lime comes across as just a little too much to rank any higher than this.

The Bottom Line:

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but I think a few brands are doing the lime flavor better without using any sugar in the process.

8. AHA — Mango & Black Tea (Taste 11)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $19.49 (24 Pack)

The Brand:

AHA’s Mango and Black Tea sparkling water is one of the most unique flavor combinations on the market. It was hard to pin down exactly what I was tasting during the blind portion but in the most pleasant way. It made me repeatedly dive in to try and identify the flavors and in a weird way, I think tasting it blind made me like it more than If I knew what it was beforehand. Looking at the ingredients list is puzzling though, it doesn’t have any tea in it whatsoever, so I’m not exactly sure how AHA is managing to get the essence of brewed black tea in here.

Whatever the brand is doing, it’s working.

The Bottom Line:

One of the more unique flavor combinations of any sparkling water, and it has caffeine so it gives you a kick!

7. Perrier — Grapefruit (Taste 7)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $2.79

The Brand:

Perrier again — but I’m not mad because this stuff tastes delicious. It’s fruity, bright, a little bitter, and has that silky smooth mouthfeel that is characteristic of the brand. Along with the lime flavor, this seems to be one of the most widespread flavors on the market. At each of the six stores I went to round up these sparkling waters, Perrier Grapefruit was at all of them.

The Bottom Line:

Perrier’s best-tasting and easiest-to-find flavor.

6. La Croix — Key Lime (Taste 17)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $11.99 (24 Pack)

The Brand:

You have to hand it to La Croix, they helped to popularize sparkling water a few years back and they still make some of the best flavors on the market. This is my favorite pure lime-flavored sparkling water because it offers something a little different — key lime. Key lime is generally tarter and more intense than regular lime, which translates better when mixed with sparkling water. Instead of coming across as dull and flat like a lot of lime-flavored seltzers, this one is loud and juicy and I love it.

The Bottom Line:

The best pure lime-flavored sparkling water your money can buy.

5. AHA — Lime & Watermelon (Taste 15)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $3.88 (8 Pack)

The Brand:

AHA is all over the place on our ranking but this is hands down the best flavor of the brand I’ve tried so far. Why aren’t there more watermelon-flavored sparkling waters? There is a refreshing juiciness here that no other brand on the market is offering. If you love watermelon, this will be an easy pickup and it represents the juicy melon in the best way, but be careful, you just might find yourself addicted.

The Bottom Line:

If you love watermelon, you’re going to love this.

4. La Croix — Pamplemousse (Taste 3)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $16.85 (12 Pack)

The Brand:

Pamplemousse, a flavor so good FKA Twigs named a song after it. If La Croix has a flagship flavor, it’s this one, and for good reason. It’s simply the best-tasting grapefruit-flavored sparkling water on the market, hands down, no contest. In a blind taste test of just grapefruit flavors, this would no doubt come out on top. It has a bite, a strong fizz, and a juicy flavor.

The Bottom Line:

La Croix’s flagship and best flavor. If you’ve never tried the brand, start here.

3. Liquid Death — Berry It Alive (Taste 12)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $15.99 (12 Pack)

The Brand:

Each Liquid Death flavor has its loyal fans, count me amongst team Berry It Alive because I think this dunks on the Severed Lime. I think berry flavors are some of the hardest to translate to sparkling water, they generally come across as too candied and loud, but Liquid Death’s Berry It Alive approaches the flavor with subtlety. There are shades of raspberry and blueberry here that never distract from the real star of the show, the sparkling water, which crackles on the tongue in the best way. On some days, this could take my number one spot, but since it has sugar in it, that feels like cheating, so I’ll have to leave it with the bronze medal.

The Bottom Line:

Always go Berry It Alive over Severed Lime. Always.

2. Perrier — L’Orange (Taste 9)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $1.79

The Brand:

I have to hand it to Perrier, they have an amazing market reach. Of the six convenience stores I visited, this brand was present at all of them. However, the brand’s best flavor, L’Orange, was one of the hardest to find. Why isn’t this at more stores? It’s amazing. As you can tell from this ranking, sparkling water brands f*cking love lime, but L’Orange ignores the hype and instead relies on lemon and orange for a brighter less bitter flavor, and I love it.

The Bottom Line:

Perrier’s best and hardest-to-find flavor. It single-handedly makes the case that orange is one of the most underutilized fruit flavors in the sparkling water universe.

1. Waterloo — Peach (Taste 14)

Best Sparkling Water
Dane Rivera

Price: $4.29 (8 pack)

The Brand:

Waterloo is a brand I was unfamiliar with prior to this blind taste test. I had seen the cans floating around but they never really enticed me enough to give this brand a try, I figured it was just another La Croix copy. I was wrong, this was far and above the best sparkling water in the whole lineup. Based in Austin Texas, Waterloo uses all the same techniques as La Croix, utilizing fruit oils and essences to flavor its sparkling water, but the way the brand balances those essences with the texture of its sparkling water is what makes it so damn good.

The bubbles and fizz are strong with that snap on the tongue and the burn on the throat that makes seltzer so addicting. The carbonation feels alive on the palate with a clean and natural fruit flavor that actually comes across as sweet and juicy and not bitter. Consider me sold on the brand, if it was as big as La Croix culturally, it would deserve a full line-up review!

The Bottom Line:

Easily the best sparkling water on the market. The way it balances fruity flavors and fizz is unparalleled. It wasn’t even a question as to what deserved the number one spot — from the moment it hit my tongue I knew I was dealing with a winner.

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