Other than oxygen, I’m pretty sure that the substance I mainly live off of is seltzer water. The first day I walked into this office years ago, I gleefully noted the small fridge filled with La Croix (and whatever, Diet Coke and Sprite I guess) and mentally added a $2,000 bonus to my salary, based on how much seltzer I would likely drink in a year. And seltzer-fixation is pretty widespread around this workplace; we all cheer up on pamplemousse day, and I have tried to be open-minded about people who prefer the plain blue can (shudder).
La Croix is the perfect seltzer, I thought. Until the day that Ice Mountain sent me some sample Zesty Lime seltzer with my five-gallon bottles for my water cooler at home. It was like a lime-flavored punch in the face. Someone at work joked—and I don’t know where this originated but it’s certainly true—that a lot of the time La Croix flavor is like if the can whispered the name of the flavor into the room and then ran away. There was no mistaking the flavor of Ice Mountain’s Zesty Lime. It took its Zesty designation seriously. After years of La Croix, I loved its revolutionary sourness.
Since seltzer is my main beverage (yes, more even than coffee or chardonnay), I was intrigued. What other different levels of limeness could there be? I purchased a few more brands for a blind taste test, using the most discerning seltzer drinkers I know—my coworkers—as judges. What happened? Let’s find out!
Unsurprisingly, a few people recognized the La Croix that they drink pretty much every damn day (although a few did not). There was a lot of talk about carbonation (honestly, if someone wants to put out a Seltzer Spectator magazine, complete with rankings, just sign these people up) and the La Croix appeared to fall short. “Bland, barely a hint of lime,” said one taster. At least the aroma (you’ll find that seltzer appeals to all the senses except for touch and sight) was pleasing, with a “fragrant, Fruit Loops, almost a candy smell to it.” “Subtle but not very bubbly” was the definitive response, like “flat club soda that someone squeezed a lime into.”
I found Pepsi’s new Bubly brand, which I’m seeing everywhere lately, more appealingly fruitier than the La Croix. My friends noted that it was also “heavier on the lime,” like a “lime Life Saver.” Or “watered-down Sprite.” One taster complained that the taste was too “generic citrus… You could tell me this was lemon and I’d believe you.” Still, the Bubly was “refreshing,” although “more mineral water than carbonated.”
I was excited for the tasters to check out my own personal favorite, but they weren’t as into the lime-flavored punch in the face as I was. They thought it was almost too carbonated (they’re like the Goldilocks of carbonation, this crowd), so that it “almost overwhelms the flavor.” Although Zesty Lime had a “sharpness” and a “bite,” the “afterkick is where all the flavor is.” One carbonation fan found the roughness appealing like I did: “I like it real scratchy,” she said. Another found the ZL more in the cocktail realm: “It tastes like an odd tonic water,” he said. “Like a gimlet without the liquor.”
Are you sitting down? Because this next one is a shocker. Remember when you were a kid and Perrier was the height of fancy water? Compared to all these newcomers, it tastes like lime-covered ass. Specifically, lime-covered ass you would use to clean out your cabinets. Sounds like a misnomer, but hear me out.
Almost every single taster said the Perrier reminded them of a cleaning product: “like Lemon Pledge”… “tastes the way cleaning supplies smell”… “smells like something I would spray on my kitchen counters.” And, almost every single one was then shocked—shocked!—upon discovering that this heinous substance was in fact Perrier. The tasters did note that the Perrier had the most delightful fizzy sound of all the seltzers, and “made some good looking bubbles.” But the water “tastes like a lab from where scientists are trying to figure out what a lime tastes like.”
Dasani—a ringer from the Coca-Cola company. The carbonation, for one thing, was top-notch, in the Don Ho variety: “lot of tiny bubbles,” “good bubbles,” “most satisfying bubble.” While the flavor was more subtle, the tasters seemed to prefer that to the obnoxiousness of Ice Mountain or lab-reminiscent of Perrier. “It’s innocent,” enthused one. “It’s the kind of flavor I would take home to meet mom. Wouldn’t offend anyone.” After the heartache that they had all been through on this taste test, maybe it was a low bar: “I’m not mad at this one.” The Dasani was dubbed the “most drinkable,” “most fizzy,” “most refreshing,” with “the cleanest balance to it.” Ergo, it is the winner.
Disappointingly, not many of the tasters were fans of my all-time favorite La Croix, Key Lime Pie, which is like pie in seltzer form. Some thought it was too sweet and too artificial. So maybe the judges panel is skewed, despite all their considerably complex carbonation and citrus flavor opinions. Or more likely, I am.
Still, it’s interesting to find out that Perrier has been fooling us all these years, and that La Croix may want to watch its back with contenders like Bubly and Dasani on the rise. And that apparently, I get to keep the Ice Mountain Zesty Lime all for myself.