Deep in the heart of Texas, a labyrinthine subterranean limestone honeycomb twists and snarls for hundreds of miles, carving bizarre and psychedelic underground caverns and waterways from the fossilized skeletons of billions of tiny, prehistoric organisms.
On Memorial Day in 1981, Austin’s limestone aquifer was deluged with 11 inches of rain, resulting in a massive flood which swept cars into creeks, destroyed houses, and left 13 people dead.
Also in 1981, a french philosopher by the name of Jean Baudrillard published his opus Simulacra and Simulation, unleashing a torrential downpour of postmodern sociology that left us with The Matrix trilogy.
Coincidence? We think not.
Because 36 years later, in 2015, Rambler Sparkling Water bubbled forth into the world, a perfect simulacra of Texan limestone minerality.
You see, Rambler is mineral water, but not in the same way that, say, Topo Chico is mineral water.
Whereas Topo Chico is milked straight from the teat of the Sierra Madres, with its crystalline solids already present from long geological steeping, Rambler creates their lithic nectar through a process of “Texas Limestone Filtration.”
Presumably because Texas’ aquifers are under intense strain from overdevelopment and drought, Rambler alludes to being a “sustainable” source of mineral water. Their process involves filtering reverse-osmosis water through limestone, resulting in a carefully-calibrated minerality that, in their words, “you can’t put your finger on but keep coming back to.”
Well, here in the Bubbleverse we love nothing more than attempting to put our Finger on It, so let’s saddle up and ramble into this can.
There’s more than just minerals at play on your tongue with this one. Even though this is unflavored, there’s a definite taste. It’s the taste of rocks. It’s the taste of Permian Karst, dolomite, quartzite, an oyster shell chipped off and flaked into your mouth.
There’s a certain salinity, although as they clearly note, this is sodium-free. Because Rambler isn’t technically “mineral water” and they use a proprietary filtration process, they don’t post a water analysis report. So we’re left to conjecture!
They do list the “minerals for taste” on the can: calcium chloride, magnesium sulfate, calcium carbonate, and potassium carbonate. In our Topo Chico deep dive, we discovered that this kind of salinity can also be invoked by chloride, sodium’s twin flame.
Whatever mineralmancy is being performed here, the overall effect is a sharp, crisp, super-refreshing water with a little bit of geological heft, a mouthfeel that isn’t overwhelming but still serves as a solid bedrock – you feel like you’re drinking something, in a way that plain-ass water just doesn’t.
And the bubble quality is pretty perfectly matched to the taste of the limestone. These aren’t the big juicy bubbles of Topo Chico, or the languid, subtle bubbles of Liquid Death. These are small, fizzy little bubbles with a sharp bite that balances the earthiness.
In interviews, the Rambler founders speak of the painstaking experimentation they underwent to craft a delicate balance of minerals and bubbles, creating an artesian spring ex nihilo in an Austin laboratory. And they did a pretty masterful job.
Perhaps a little too masterful? There is something maybe a little too perfectly calibrated: this artesian spring bubbles forth from a Baudrillardian Uncanny Valley. Every mineral/carbonation note is hit with geometric precision, leaving no spirit of the unbalanced dark underground wildness of true mineral water.
But you know what? That’s fine. In fact, it’s a good thing. This sparkling simulacra gushing out of the Desert of the Real is exactly what we need, as our pathologically semiotic civilization lays waste to any last traces of wildness in the world. Weeeee doggie!
Instead, Rambler serves us a virtual mineral water while partnering with the Texas Parks & Wildlife foundation to preserve and protect the aquifers that we might otherwise suck dry.
Here’s hoping they’re able to help at least a little, to allow the sparkling blood of the earth to persist and participate in the endless, geological and ecological cycles so eloquently articulated by our favorite band, The Bubblemen:
I fly a starship
Across the Bubbleverse divide
And when I reach the other side
I’ll find a place to rest my empty aluminum can
Perhaps I may become a sparkling water again
Or I may simply be a single drop of rain
But I will remain
I’ll be back again and again and again and again and again and again
Sparkling Water, Minerals For Taste (Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Carbonate)