My friend's daughter calls sparkling mineral water "busy water" (a take on fizzy water, I believe).
It seems quite appropriate to me: bubbly water is liquid on the move. It's the busiest water you're going to find.
As much as I adore New York Tap, I also happen to be a big fan of the sparkling stuff. It replaces soda pop as a recreational beverage for me (no calories, no sugar, lotsa fizz!) and I like the way it settles my upset tummies.
Though busy water also causes me a bit of consternation. It comes in large, heavy glass bottles, and the stuff I've been drinking happens to be from the south of France. Quite a carbon load on that glass of fizz, if you see what I mean.
So J and I recently tested out a group of sparkling candidates from near and far in the hope of tracking down the best of the busy. There's a New York State candidate in here, one from Arkansas, a couple of locally bottled, the French stuff I've been drinking and the most famous Italian contender (just for good measure).
Meet the candidates:
I wanted this tasting to run the gamut from the supremely thrifty and widely available (Canada Dry Seltzer Water) to the very elusive and expensive (Mountain Valley). From the local (Saratoga, NY) to the distant import (San Pellegrino Terme, Italy).
#6: I hadn't expected much from the Canada Dry Seltzer Water. After all, a sodium-free seltzer really couldn't be any match for a good mineral blend, but I threw it into the ring for its wide availability and populist appeal. Vigorously fizzy, but lacking in a pleasant personality, it rated last, thanks to a strange lingering aftertaste. I'll probably still drink it if I can find a slice of lime to throw in the glass.
#5: Initially excited to discover Saratoga, a local sparkling spring water bottled in gorgeous cobalt blue, I was taken aback by the large, vicious bubbles. Sharp and violent, this water actually irritated the tongue and throat with sharp high notes and a bitterness at the back of the mouth. A shame, too. It's local and it's lovely to look at... I just can't drink it.
#4: The Poland Spring Sparkling Water had a medium-low fizz and a flavor that was inoffensive, but nothing to write home about. It paled in comparison to the top three candidates.
#3: Perrier is the fizzy water I've been sipping for years, so I was surprised to put it in third place. It had large, vigorous bubbles and it flowed nicely across the tongue, but it had a flavor that struck me as a little citric, while J found it to be "almost acidic."
#2: Mountain Valley Sparkling Water is drawn up from Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas and artificially carbonated.
It has a very mellow fizz, tiny bubbles and a very soft, round mouthfeel. Sipping Mountain Valley, I was reminded of the way Mountain Dew differs from other, more highly carbonated sodas like 7UP.
It should also be noted that ounce for ounce, this was the most expensive water in the tasting. Even if it was the first-place winner, I wouldn't be able to justify the pricetag.
#1: Our overall winner turned out to be San Pellegrino.
With dainty bubbles, a very nice effervescence, a gentle, satisfying mouthfeel and flavor that tasted sprightly, but not too lively, this seemed to be the best-balanced of the bunch. The company claims that even the great Leonardo da Vinci was a fan.
Unfortunately, San Pellegrino is also the contender that comes from farthest away, so it doesn't help my carbon footprint issue in the least. Bummer.
Maybe I should just pick up one of those CO2 systems and start carbonating the New York tap water to suit my sparkling needs.
Yours in food and drink,