Is Sparkling Water an Acquired Taste?

Woman drinking sparkling water from a glass bottle

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Sparkling water is a wildly popular beverage option today, largely because of a recent trend toward healthier food and drink choices. Even with hundreds of flavors and dozens of brands to choose from, you might be a little confused about the hype surrounding carbonated water.

Many people perceive sparkling water as less flavorful, satisfying, or enjoyable than other beverages. If you are accustomed to the ultra-sweet flavor of soda, you may be more likely to consider sparkling water an acquired taste.

What is an Acquired Taste?

An acquired taste is something that you may not immediately like or appreciate. People often describe beverages that have flavors of bitterness, sourness, or those that contain alcohol as being an acquired taste. This might include drinks like coffee, beer, kombucha and yes — sparkling water.

Whether or not something is an acquired taste is very subjective. Some people will find that they immediately enjoy a drink, while it may take others several tries before they decide they like it. Some may find that no matter how hard they try, they simply never acquire a taste for it.

Soda cans on shelves

Switching From Soda to Sparkling Water

Sparkling water falls in line with many peoples’ health goals. True sparkling water contains no sugar or artificial sweeteners. If you are trying to lose weight, cut down on sugar, protect your teeth, attempt intermittent fasting, or simply start living a healthier lifestyle, switching from soda to carbonated water is an easy place to start.

However, sparkling water may not provide the same satisfaction you used to get from soda. Sure, it can be flavored, but it’s typically quite subtle. You’ve probably heard the jokes about LaCroix’s flavor being subtle. Some say it tastes like someone whispered the name of the flavor from across the room.

Sugar is addictive. You may develop a dependency on the feeling that sugar gives you. Unfortunately, you will not find the same relief in drinking a sparkling water that contains no sugar. Over time, it is possible to break away from your dependency on sugar. You may even begin to enjoy beverages without added sugar.

Finding Your Flavor

Since sparkling water was first manufactured on a large scale, we have been adding all sorts of flavoring additions to the beverage. It may take some experimentation to find a flavor that you like. From citrus varieties to berry, cherry, coconut, mint, and even cola, there are a ton of options to choose from.

Similarly, you may need to experiment with how bubbly you like it. Some sparkling waters have a mild carbonation, like Perrier. Alternatively, people know Topo Chico for its intense fizziness.

Even after trying dozens of flavors, you may find that you simply don’t enjoy sparkling water – and that’s okay. Low and no calorie options like cold, flat water with a splash of lemon or lime juice can be very satisfying.

Keeping it Cold

Most people will tell you that sparkling water is best enjoyed cold. Whether you chill a can or bottle or serve it on ice with a twist of lemon, the cold can certainly reduce the impact of any undesired flavors. Flavor increases when food or drinks are warmed, and the opposite is true when cooling them.

Woman holding a glass of sparkling water

Why Does Sparkling Water Taste Bitter?

Sparkling water may taste bitter to you. This is especially likely if you are used to a beverage that contains sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Sparkling water tastes bitter because of its carbonation. Carbonation is added to beverages using CO2 gas, otherwise known as carbon dioxide. When you add CO2 to water, it reacts chemically to form carbonic acid. Carbonic acid has a bitter and mildly sour taste.

Other carbonated beverages like soda and beer also contain this acid. However, sugar or more intense flavors typically mask its flavor. Flavored sparkling water typically has a subtle taste. That means you are more likely to notice the mild bitterness of the carbonic acid.

How to Get Rid of the Aftertaste

The mildly bitter aftertaste of sparkling water might be a turnoff for you. If you enjoy the carbonation but not the flavor, there are things you can do to make it more palatable.

Adding a splash of fruit juice is a great place to start. Citrus juices such as lemon, lime, or orange pair well with sparkling water. Similarly, berry juices like cranberry or grape can also impart a refreshing flavor.

Fresh herbs are another flavorful addition to sparkling water. Mint is a popular choice that always pairs well with lemon. Lemongrass, lavender or lemon verbena are other herbs you can experiment with.

You Can Acquire a Taste for Sparkling Water

Many of us are accustomed to more sugary carbonated beverages. The mildly bitter flavor of sparkling water can be a bit of a turnoff initially. While you may not immediately enjoy sparkling water, after trying it several times, you may acquire a taste for it.

Avoiding drinks with excessive sugar can help to reset your perception of the flavor of sparkling water. However, it may take some time. Keep trying different flavors, brands and tasty garnishes until you find your favorite.