The pastel grip of LaCroix is inescapable. The sparkling water brand inspires endless memes, roasts, and pronunciation debates. It even made a cameo on HBO’s “Girls,” which means LaCroix has either hit peak cultural relevance or is officially uncool.
It’s one of several bubbly beverages making waves. Americans spent $2.2 billion on carbonated waters from LaCroix, Bai Bubbles, Dasani Sparkling, Spindrift, and more last year, according to Nielsen data. Beverage Marketing Corp. estimates we will buy 821 million gallons of the sparkling stuff in 2018, three times the amount we purchased in 2008.
“Americans have a love affair with carbonation,” Caroline Kibler, senior vice president of marketing, Spindrift, says. “A lot of the growth in sparkling water is coming from people who are switching over from soft drinks.”
Sales of diet and regular sodas have declined the past 12 straight years, according to Fortune. Sparkling water companies, and the beverage giants rapidly acquiring them, are happy to fill the void.
“I think we were late to the flavored sparkling water category,” Indra Nooyi, then-chief executive of PepsiCo, lamented in February. The company made up for lost time, launching its flavored sparkling water line, Bubly, in April. This month Pepsi purchased SodaStream for a cool $3.2 billion.
Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired Hiball, a company that makes sparkling energy drinks and flavored carbonated waters. Hint currently offers sparkling and caffeinated waters, Hints Fizz and Kick, respectively, and reportedly plans to release a caffeinated sparkling option.
“I’m surprised my bloodstream is not carbonated,” tech trainer and standup comedian Jess Faulstich told the Wall Street Journal this week. She recently swapped out coffee for caffeinated sparkling water, and beer for hard seltzer.
Spiked sparkling beverages are growing by big gulps. From July 2017 to July 2018, sales of hard seltzers were up 177 percent. Last month Heineken-owned Lagunitas debuted a THC-infused, hoppy sparkling water, Hi-Fi Hops. Sam Adams credits its line of boozy bubbles, Truly Spiked & Sparkling, with helping Boston Beer Co. rebound from a two-year slump, according to the WSJ.
For those who prefer to mix their own cocktails, fruit-infused sparkling waters make excellent foils for easy two-, three-, or four-ingredient drinks. We’re partial to Spindrift, which is available in Target and Costco.
Spindrift embraces its boozy side hustle. The company posts weekly cocktail and mocktail recipes on Instagram, and ran a sponsored content campaign this summer encouraging consumers to use it as a mixer.
Taste, potency, and effervescence of fruit-infused sparkling waters vary by brand. Play around with different labels and flavors to find your favorites.
The key to this Paloma riff is lots of fresh lime.
- 2 ounces tequila blanco
- ½ lime, squeezed
- grapefruit sparkling water to top
- Shake tequila and lime in a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Pour over fresh ice in a Collins glass. Top with grapefruit sparkling water.
- Garnish with a lime or grapefruit wheel. Serve with a metal or paper straw.
- 1.5 ounces gin
- 2-inch cucumber spear, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ tablespoon fresh lime juice
- lemon sparkling water to top
- Muddle cucumber and sugar in a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice, gin, and lime juice. Shake vigorously.
- Pour over fresh ice in a rocks glass, and top with lemon sparkling water.
- Garnish with a cucumber wheel.
- 1.5 ounces white rum
- 1.5 ounces coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- blackberry sparkling water to top
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add rum, coconut milk, and lemon juice. Shake vigorously.
- Pour over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Top with blackberry sparkling water.
- Garnish with mint sprigs.