Is Dram the beauty queen of sparkling water brands? When we walked down the sparkling water aisle and saw them, we just couldn’t help but stop and stare at their arresting and elegant visual design.
If there was a Venusian ideal for a sparkling water can, we would offer this to the heavenly bodies.
The Libras of the bubble zodiac. The Helens of sparkling Troy.
Ok, maybe we’re being a little dramatic, but they’re just beautiful to look at, okay? Minimal, sophisticated color palettes. Promises of fantastical herbal flavor combinations: lemon lavender! cardamom and black tea! Um, yes.
But are these just an exercise in aesthetics? We immediately bought every flavor in sight to find out.
The cardamom & black tea was especially intriguing: it sounds delicious but intense. How would it translate to sparkling water, a beverage known for primarily delicate and fruity flavors?
Upon first pop, the nose gives you a preview of what you are in for: lithe hints of black pepper, a healthy dollop of cardamom, all wrapped in a blanket of delicate sweetness.
The cardamom is almost overwhelmingly enveloping at first, arriving thick and smoky on the palate, entwined with a strong and unexpected sweetness. Black cardamom is a bold choice — the green kind is usually the choice for sweeter pairings — but the smoky black creates a rich depth of flavor that helps cut the sweetness.
We keep saying sweet. Although these contain no sugar, there is glycerine in here. That’s unusual for a sparkling water! Glycerine is often used for herbal and botanical extracts, so we wonder if it was used intentionally to add sweetness, or if it’s just an unavoidable, but pleasant, side effect of the extraction process Dram uses.
Or both, and they just choose their flavors to blend with the glycerine-ness?
Update: Dram helpfully clarified the inclusion of glycerine: “It’s not added as a sweetener. It’s how we make our plant extracts.”
The slight sweetness lingers after the initial cardamom explosion has disappeared. It eventually fades, opening space for the bitterness of black tea and black hawthorn (yet another novel herbal addition).
This is essentially sweet chai as sparkling water, and it would pair perfectly with a gulab jamun at the end of a decadent Indian meal. And you might need something like this after said decadent meal!
The comforting carbonation is paired with some additional benefits: cardamom is a renowned stomach soother, so we’ll keep this handy when we want to forgo the port for a healthier digestif.
While we really like this one overall, we do wish it was just a little better somehow. The sweetness is more or less balanced with the herbal notes, but it’s still too prominent, and the fact that it’s a sparkling water, not a chai, means there’s no richness from milk to act as an additional counterweight.
Still, it’s one of the most complex and unexpected herbal sparkling waters we’ve found out there, and we are always here for the full vegetal spectrum. More herbal waters please!
Note: while this does contain actual fair trade organic black tea, the caffeine here is minimal to nonexistent. Dram’s website claims that it’s about the equivalent of a quarter cup of black tea. It’s not nothing, but if you’re really looking to blast off, we recommend a Hiball.
Purified Carbonated Water, DRAM Black Bitters (Non GMO glycerin, Water, organic Cardamom, organic Black currants, organic Hawthorn Berry, organic Fair Trade Black Tea, Herbs and Spices), Lemon Salt