I Am The Seltzer Man
One carbonated water-lover's enlightening
If I am going to die because of the overconsumption of one thing, it will be this: juice and seltzer.
I chug orange juice with seltzer, grapefruit juice with seltzer, cider with seltzer, or combinations of the above (always with seltzer) all the time. It gets me started and through each and every day. What coffee and 3G are to you, juice and seltzer are to me.
The genesis of my devotion may be hereditary (my father was Jewish, a people who, for reasons lost to history, claimed seltzer as the Chosen drink; my mother is from Germany, where it's common to mix otherwise undrinkable juice concentrates with sparkling water), but I'd rather argue that the appeal is just indisputably obvious, like the smell of warm bread.
Seltzer gives my drinks their pop, and it also modifies the sweetness to my specifications. When I’m not drinking it with juice, I’ll drink seltzer with ice or a squeeze of lemon or lime. It just hits the spot.
My wife and I go through a 12-liter case of Vintage seltzer about every six weeks, which is a fair amount of plastic that takes up an entire shelf in our pantry. Then I noticed the price had inched up a bit. So, I started to think about whether or not I had any other options to keep me in the bubbly stuff. The traditionalist in me had once considered Brooklyn’s so-called Seltzer Man, who would deliver glass bottles off his old truck, but I worked out the numbers and it seemed too expensive and onerous. I’m not even sure he exists anymore.
And then I started seeing ads in catalogs for the SodaStream, a home seltzer maker, originally from Israel, which costs as little as $79. (Stock tip: The company might be a good investment — it is traded publicly — and does anyone even drink juice without seltzer anymore, or is this just a coastal phenomenon?) My interest was piqued, and one day I noticed my friends Jon and Justine had one. They’re the sort of couple that blends exotic salts and serves bacon so thick it could be used as bedding. They love their seltzer maker and often recommend it to friends, because the seltzer tastes “more fresh,” according to Jon.
That’s good enough for me. The nice people at SodaStream sent me a maker from the Fizz line (it costs $149; the Fizz has an indicator telling you when your CO2 is low), and it was so easy to put together, I had this nagging feeling I had missed something. (What, no electricity needed?) But I was set.
It took me a few tries to figure out the variations in fizziness, but I quickly got the hang of it. The SodaStream is definitely for the DIY-foodie generation. And for someone who identifies himself so much as a seltzer drinker, it’s great to be manning my own supply.
And the seltzer itself? It tastes great. I wouldn’t say it’s leaps and bounds above Vintage, but it does taste fresher, and, most important, I never have to settle for the flat stuff at the bottom of the bottle — I can just make some more!
As for the money differential; for $38, I can get two 60-liter CO cartridges replaced in the mail, which should (almost) cover a year’s supply for my family. (Warning: Food Republic's very own Jess Kapadia, a 2-year SodaStream vet, tells me that my estimates may be way off. She goes through her CO2 about four times faster than this. So, either my math is wrong or I'm a bush-league seltzer drinker...or both!) Those Vintage cases cost us $8 a pop, which means SodaStream brings a savings of about $30 a year. That would pay for the machine after several years. (I’d save an additional $8 per CO2 delivery if I brought it into a store, but I’m not going to do that.)
So the money savings is minimal at best. But this is about more than that. It’s less clutter — in my family alone, that’s about a hundred fewer bottles a year — and it’s more... me. Making your own seltzer is a lifestyle choice, like buying a hybrid car, or walking the Na Pali coast instead of flying over it in a helicopter.
One note: SodaStream is putting a lot of its marketing muscle into a variety of ridiculous flavors, some of which the company calls "natural" — but that word is pretty much meaningless. And, anyway, the so-called natural flavors are gross. I’m not sure what demographic SodaStream is going for, but it’s not the eco-friendly, DIY-foodie crowd. I like an occasional cola as much as the next guy, but SodaStream's tastes like RC. If I want a cola, I’ll take a Coke, thank you very much. And if I want lemon-flavored water, I'll squeeze a lemon into it. Nothing like the real thing. The one exception is a tonic “flavor” I plan to try; it could be perfect for my bi-monthly hankering for a gin and tonic (but in case it's not, there are some great artisanal ones out there).
I’m just starting out this journey of being a home seltzer-maker, but I am psyched about it. Now, I am my own Seltzer Man.
Do you own a SodaStream? Tell us what you think the comments below.
More on carbonated water from Food Republic: