photo ©Pixel-Shot / Adobe Stock
Ok! Today we are tackling one of the stickiest subjects in western civilization: sugar. Central to centuries of slavery, colonialism, diabetes, and childhood, sugar is eternally the center of fierce controversy, moralizing, addiction, and it haunts the aisles of every grocery and big box store across the land.
You may have noticed that we don’t review juice-containing brands like Spindrift or artificially-sweetened brands like Sparkling Ice. We have a strict zero-calorie, zero-sweetener policy here at the Bubbleverse. Why?
Well, sugar is kinda bad for you. And personally speaking, we don’t really have much of a sweet tooth, so anything sweet in our bubbling beverages is often way too cloying for our taste.
And also, we’re purists: we hold fast to the true meaning of the words “Sparkling Water.”
Does Sparkling Water have sugar?
No. Sparkling Water, understood as a term of art, does not contain sugar.
In the long history of carbonated water, from Victorian Mineral Spas to LaCroix leading the Sparkling Water Rennaissance, sugar has never been an ingredient. Once you add sugar, you enter Soda Territory, where angels fear to tread.
We consider it basically the same for artificially-sweetened brands like Sparkling Ice: once you add any sort of zero-calorie sweetener (Sparkling Ice uses Sucralose), you may as well call yourself a Diet Soda. Harsh, but we stand by it. Seriously, what’s the difference?
Does Sparkling Water have calories?
No. The only ingredients in Sparkling Water should be carbonated water and flavoring. By flavoring, we mean “flavor essences,” those chimeric and mysterious molecules that are extracted by various proprietary methods.
While LaCroix was subject to a high-profile lawsuit regarding their “naturally essenced” flavorings, and no one is willing to divulge their trade secrets, we’re not going to wade into the debate about whether or not flavor essences are “natural” here.
We just want to highlight that there’s a vast difference between the traditionally used “essences,” and the other most popular method of flavoring: fruit juice. Fruit juice might have some benefits over “essences,” but it unavoidably adds a little sugar and extra calories: 17 calories, in the case of Spindrift.
Sparkling Water Brands with Juice
Spindrift threw open the doors to the Sparkling Water with Juice dimension in 2010, and is rapidly gaining market share in the bubbleverse.
Technically, if you want to go way back, it might be more accurate to say Izze popped this particular juice-cherry, but considering that even they call themselves “Sparkling Juice,” we’re not going to include Izze in this category.
Either way, a number of other brands have arrived on the juice train, like Sanzo, and even Perrier and San Pelligrino have launched juice-tinged offerings.
However, most new arrivals have not stopped at juice! Instead, they’ve carved out an entirely new kingdom:
Functional Sparkling Water
Functional Sparkling Water is the hot new trend in the beverage world. These elixirs contain adaptogens, vitamins, nootropics, amino acids, caffeine, CBD, and a whole cosmos of plant-based or other supplements.
Here’s the thing, though: most of these functional sparkling waters contain some type of juice or other calorie-bestowing ingredients, making it difficult to consider these ones true sparkling waters – let’s just call them “sparkling beverages.”
Because, ultimate, the root word in Sparkling Water is Water. Maybe it’s just us, but there’s an implication there that the water is the star of the bubble show. And there’s a fine line between enhancing that water with additional ingredients, and adulterating it with sweeteners, juice, or anything that detracts from the pure agua at the heart of all true sparkling waters.
So, that said, here’s our (non-exhaustive, we’re always working on it!) list of:
Unsweetened Sparkling Water Brands
- Aura Bora
- Good & Gather
- Liquid Death
- Topo Chico
- Ugly Drinks