Europeans have been sipping bottles of bubbly water since the 18th century, when the spa town of Niederselters, Germany filled clay pots with the naturally carbonated, supposedly medicinal waters from its thermal springs. They shipped the vessels around the world, and the town name morphed to "seltzer" as it traveled west.
Today Europeans drink cases of the stuff for the same reasons we savor our favorite brand of seltzer: a refreshing taste and fizzy sensation. And while they might not have LaCroix Pamplemousse or Polar Unicorn Kisses, they do have some unique options, many of which are found only in Europe.
Some might just be worthy of a trans-Atlantic flight.
There's a long list of culinary must-haves in Catalonia, including Jamon Iberico, churros dipped in chocolate, and fresh seafood. Vichy water should be added to that list. High in minerals with a vigorous effervescence, it has a mild, slightly saline flavor that might be as addictive as your favorite seltzer brand. Don't be surprised to find yourself stuffing bottles in your suitcase to smuggle home.
Some call this Georgian seltzer an acquired taste, while others go hunting it down the minute they step off the plane. The water, taken from the Borjomi Gorge in the Caucasus Mountains, has a pronounced salty flavor. Drink it cold; a warm bottle tastes like a gulp of the ocean.
It's no surprise that one of best-selling waters in France exudes the same small, light bubbles that gives Champagne its distinctive mouthfeel. Light in minerals and neutral in taste, it's the kind of beverage that can be sipped all day at your desk, or paired with fine food. It's available in lemon, lime, or mint. (Bonus: You can also find it on Amazon.)
A visit to Italy is not complete without pizza, pasta, and a strong espresso. In many cities they serve a small glass of seltzer, poured straight from a tap, alongside the petite cup of coffee. Ferrarelle, with a crisp and clean flavor, is most reminiscent of those sparkling house waters. It's also available in every supermarket, train station, and corner market in Italy.
A favorite among American expats living in Belgium, Spa is easy to drink and easy to find in the Low Countries. Each bottle is packed with strong bubbles that retain their fizz as the day goes on. The water is low in minerals with a soft mouthfeel, despite the heavy carbonation.
The original seltzer, this popular German water comes in bold or light fizz. Its bright-blue bottle makes it easily recognizable on store shelves. It's got high mineral content and a mild flavor, which is said to pair perfectly with wine and light foods.
You'll need to visit Corsica or a high-end import shop to find Orezza. Packed with large, strong bubbles and with a neutral, clean taste, it's likely worth the jet lag.
This Romanian water starts its life deep within the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania. By the time it bubbles up, it's full of calcium and magnesium. It also has strong carbonation and a pleasant, crisp taste.
For most, the Adriatic coast of Croatia conjures up visions of sailboats, island sunsets, and meals overflowing with fresh fish and local wine. The warm climate also creates an environment where sparkling water is the preferred method of hydration. Jamnica is the local favorite. One sip and you'll see why; the slight mineral taste and moderate fizz is like the Adriatic coast in a bottle.
Tried the local fizz but still have a hankering for Pamplemousse? This is your go-to option. While it's less fizzy than American brands, the flavored variety is easily found in Western Europe (and you can also order a case on Amazon). The one difference is you may need to ask for an extra-cold one, as not all Perrier is served as cool as American palates prefer.