Unlike its flat, from-the-tap counterpart, sparkling water has character and pizzazz: The initial fizz announces itself; the bubbles tickle your nose as you drink, and can settle any upset stomach, or bring a buzzy satisfaction with each sip. But not all seltzers are created equal. Certain brands carry a cult status; their legions of fans buying in bulk to satisfy their insatiable cravings. Here, we take a look at the Mexican mineral water with an international following — how it came to be and why people love it on its own, and in cocktails.
How It All Started
Topo Chico water comes from a spring at the base of the mountain Cerro del Topo Chico, near the city of Monterrey. It is rumored that in 1440, King Moctezuma I Ilhuicamina of Tenochtitlan gave his ailing daughter (the young Aztec woman on the Topo Chico logo) some water from this spring. The princess was cured of her disease, and news of the miracle created a flurry of activity to the area; others sought its healing powers, and eventually the water was bottled and sold.
Flash forward four-and-a-half centuries to 1895, when Topo Chico was founded. The brand survived the bleak economy following the Mexican Revolution (1910 to 1920) and in 1926 received a Coca-Cola franchise, becoming the first Coke bottler in Mexico.
Over the next 60 years, Topo Chico enjoyed steady returns, as distribution methods allowed it to expand from a small bottling plant into a fully fledged soft-drink company. In 1948 it ceased production on Coca Cola to focus entirely on its own mineral water products. (Luckily, you can still sometimes find Topo Chico in those cool Mexican Coke-style glass bottles.) In the 1980s, Topo Chico expanded its reach across all of Mexico, and U.S. distribution got a steady start in the 1990s.
Why It's So Popular
Topo Chico's roster of minerals — sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese — which assist in numerous bodily functions (primarily digestion) and are preserved using stone gavels and ultraviolet lamps, are part of the story behind the seltzer's popularity.
But the real culprits behind the water's cult status are mixologists, who have deemed it the best add-on to any drink, thanks to its flavor-enhancing qualities. Top-shelf bartenders claim its concentration of natural ingredients heightens sweetness, adding a boldness to fruits, garnishes, liquors, and more.
Topo Chico Today
The brand's simple red-on-yellow typeface — which received minor geometric, smoothing updates in 2015 — has a vintage flair that celebrates the brand's rich history. It is worn proudly on T-shirts — in Austin, TX, it is second only to those "Keep Austin Weird" tees — and is recognized in grocery aisles nationwide for its charming simplicity. It is as pure as the production itself: Nothing compromises the natural appeal of Topo Chico.
The brand's products — from the flagship mineral water to flavored soda to Sangria Light — are now available in bodegas and corner delis nationwide. And now that "Mexico's Best-Kept Secret" is out of the bag, we recommend that you first try it on its own — that's where the addiction starts. Next, add it to a variety of cocktails; we suggest tequila and lime, for starters, although it's also delicious when paired with brandy, spiced rum, or even Aperol.