Seltzer Makes the News in Boston and New York, and This New Haven Native Laughs.

An article made me laugh aloud yesterday. It was this:

In which some intrepid magazine editor polled a bunch of people around the office and ranked all the flavors of Polar brand seltzer. It seems clear to me that some people do not understand what seltzer is about.

I grew up in a family where we knew from seltzer. For years it was delivered to us in glass bottles, in a wooden case. When I lived in Baltimore for one very, very hot summer, I bought two bottles of Vintage seltzer every single day at Eddie’s and drank it from glasses loaded to the top with ice. In my adult life, I’ve not been able to get glass bottles delivered, and they don’t sell Vintage seltzer in our area, but our household has come to be pretty savvy about buying bottles of Polar seltzer, and cans — they each have their place in our beverage repertoire.  We also have a Sodastream (which only I use these days). We’ve learned that bottles of seltzer are a better deal than cans, but that if you’re making egg creams, you have to use a fresh can for each serving to get maximum fizz into the finished product. Similarly, because I’m the only member of the household who is happy drinking slightly flat (or even completely flat) seltzer, the Sodastream is useful pretty much only to me. (But in the summertime, I drink so much seltzer, it’s worth having around, and not a wasted appliance at all.) We are pros at making our own combinations for drinks. I made raspberry vinegar and mix it with seltzer and lots of ice: this is the most refreshing drink at the end of a hot summer day, and if you want to make it grownup you can add vodka or gin or rum or Pimm’s or whatever floats your boat. The key has always been to start with plain seltzer, though, and build from there.

Flavored seltzers are something we have come to accept with great reluctance and conservatism.  However, we have come to accept a small number of the Polar flavored drinks. The first one we tried, years ago, was lemon, because it seemed to make perfect sense. Why wouldn’t you want lemon-flavored seltzer? Well, I’ll tell you why: because the stuff tastes like Lemon Pledge. We bought it once and vowed never again. Lime was much, much preferred. So for about ten years, if you opened our fridge, you’d see a case of lime-flavored seltzer and one plain. In the last few years, though, we’ve tried other flavors, and deemed some acceptable in a pinch, some completely awful, and one a must-have.

Vanilla: it’s ok, I think, but I’m the only one who liked it at all. Nothing orange flavored enters our household, so the Mandarin is out. Blueberry? Strawberry? Any berry? Why would anyone want these things? It’s a mystery to me. Green apple seltzer? Why?

We accept: raspberry-lime; it’s nice with some mint added and a little gin.

But the one we make a point of getting these days, because it really is so good, is the pink grapefruit. It’s like drinking an unsweet Fresca (and I love Fresca). The silvery pink on the cans is so pretty! And it tastes so good! And it mixes well with other things!

But it’s clear that not everyone understands about seltzer. It’s really not supposed to taste like anything: true seltzer tastes like nothing but cold fizzy water. It’s not supposed to have the salty taste that you get with Pellegrino water or club soda. Really, I judge people on this stuff: if you think plain seltzer tastes weird, it’s a fault in you. I once watched a woman try seltzer for the first time — a woman in her 40s — and the look on her face: totally wretched. She clearly was expecting the kind of sweet blast you get when you drink a Sprite; she must have thought that seltzer was just some kind of colorless special-flavor carbonated drink. She nearly spat it out. She said, horrified, “It’s just WATER!” and I said, “well, yeah — it’s just carbonated water.” She was obviously disgusted, and couldn’t understand why anyone would drink the stuff.

Fine: she can avoid seltzer. It leaves more carbonation in the world for us, those of us who aren’t afraid to say ‘seltzer,’ who don’t pussyfoot around and call it “sparkling water,” those of us who understand that there is no egg in an egg cream.
Which reminds me, actually. I should go make sure we’ve got a bottle of Fox’s U-Bet in the house. Egg cream season is upon us.

The Boston magazine article made me laugh: it was clear to me these folks were amateurs. For a more serious seltzer article, I would recommend this, from the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago:

Then again, the Wall Street Journal is based in New York.


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