After the wettest and one of the coldest Junes on record for Portland I’ve been impatiently waiting for some real summer weather to come around… and it finally did, on July 6th. And boy, this week has been quite the scorcher with temperatures into the high 90’s. Finally! And though I can’t celebrate this fabulous weather with liters of bubbly wine like I normally would this time of year, I am instead exploring my other favorite bubbly beverage… sparkling water.
Since sparkling water will be my primary drink of choice this summer I needed to explore my options to make sure I am making the right decisions when it comes to my bubbly water purchasing decisions. So I sent my hubby on a mission, specifically to Trader Joe’s (where we do a good deal of our shopping these days) and told him to buy every variety of sparkling water they have available (non-flavored) and blind taste me. There were four. Perhaps in the near future I will branch out to some other local stores to continue this journey…
And today I sat in the back yard in 90+ degree heat as I conducted my first blind sparkling water tasting. I am still sitting here, in the sun, as I type the results sipping on my new favorite bubbly drink (recipe below) imagining I am actually sipping on real Champagne. Come on, a girl can dream, right? I figured since I am not drinking a lot of bubbly wine these days I better find the next best thing in a non-alcohol version. So sit back, relax, and allow me to geek out a little over some sparkling water.
How I tasted:
The water bottles were refrigerated for one day prior to the tasting and poured for me in four small clear water glasses. I decided to taste them out of the glass most commonly used for drinking water instead of Champagne flutes like my original plan (over dramatic). I tasted them all for bubbles (size, length, and feel in the mouth), flavor, and overall balance. I chose non-flavored waters so they would all be judged equally. Even though I prefer a good wedge of lime in my bubbly water. Actually what I really prefer is real Champagne or even a simple sparkling wine… but please indulge me for the purpose of this post.
And here are the results, in order of my preference.
Favorite for overall balance:
San Pellegrino, Sparking Natural Mineral Water
San Pellegrino Terme, Lombardy Region, Italy
Out of the four, this water had the best balance of bubbles, mouthfeel, and flavor. It had a good, refreshing, bubbly mouth without being too powerful, nor did I find the flavor of the minerals in the water distracting, but rather neutral. It is delicious and refreshing and I could drink it all day long.
Runner up and longest lasting bubbles:
Trader Joe’s Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, United States
The large bubbles on this water lasted forever and certainly had the most fizz on the mouth. The flavor, like the San Pelligrino, was neutral and not a strong “minerally” flavor or aftertaste. For those who like long lasting bright bubbles and a neutral flavor, this is a good choice. My daily go-to water is actually the Trader Joe’s Lime Flavored Sparkling Water, but for this blind tasting I wanted all non-flavored waters. I’m glad I still enjoyed this one (sans the lime flavoring).
Gerolsteiner Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, Germany
The bubbles on this wine were decent but didn’t last very long (about 3-4 minutes in the glass). The mouth, however, provided a strong fizz despite the lack of visual bubbles, almost harsh. If you like a strong kick to your bubbly water then you may like this one. To me, it was good, but very middle of the road.
Blu Italy Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, Italy
I was least impressed with both the bubbles and flavor of this water. The bubbles dissipated almost instantly (within 1-2 minutes of being poured), and had the most off balance flavors of the four waters, with a slightly oily finish. This water had the strongest “mineral” flavors, which can throw some people off. Personally I like the flavor of natural minerals in my water if balanced by a good mouth of bubbles.
And now for my new favorite summertime bubbly water recipe. I found myself with an overabundance of fresh berries after a trip to the farmers market last week and came up with this most refreshing drink. I’ve since made it everyday and hope you enjoy it.
- 1 pint glass filled ½ full with ice
- 2 medium size fresh Oregon strawberries OR a small handful of mixed berries (for this photo I used raspberries and blackberries)
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 1 teaspoon sugar (more or less for preferred sweetness)
- optional 1 oz good vodka (if you want an “adult” version)
- Sparkling water
Fill your glass ½ way with ice and add the berries and sugar. Muddle them together until the berries are well crushed. Note: you do not need a muddler, I used the backside of a butter knife and it worked just fine. After the berries are nice and crushed add the fresh lemon juice and fill the rest with sparkling water and stir together. Taste for desired sweetness.
Variations: You can omit the sugar and lemon and just mix the berries with your favorite lemonade mix. I first tried this recipe with just berries and a small amount of crystal light lemon mix (no sugar and no fresh lemon). It came out great. But if you are trying to avoid artificial sweeteners (like I am these days) then go the natural way by making the lemonade from scratch.
Alcohol drinkers? Just add an ounce of vodka into the mix and it will make for a super refreshing berry cocktail.