Category Archives: Seltzer News

2016: The Year in Seltzer

As on-going research for my book, I track seltzer in the news. Who is drinking it? What are they drinking? Why, and with whom?

The trends and highlights I observed I now package for you, my crew of seltzer lovers, as 2016: The Year in Seltzer.

SELTZER IS STILL HOT (AND HIP)

Last year, 2015, was the year the media rediscovered seltzer. Or, rather, finally noticed that America had been rediscovering the drink for decades. “Seltzer’s Fizz Is Back” announced the Wall Street Journal. “How Seltzer Water Became Cooler Than Coke” wrote The Washington Post. The Chicago Tribune’s was my favorite: “How something as tasteless as seltzer water won America’s heart.”

This year, the theme was, as Boston Magazine put it, “America’s Seltzer Obsession Shows No Signs of Fizzling”. The Wall Street Journal offered another example: “New York’s Seltzer Market Bubbles Over– Sales of the fizzy drink are up 42% over the last five years”.

And let’s talk about the hip factor. This one popular tweet captured the seltzer zeitgeist:

As interpreted by a writer at Lucky Peach, “A seltzer renaissance is upon us. The new seltzer wave is much simpler than these so-called ‘analysts’ make it out to be: seltzer is just cool right now. You don’t get a whole wall dedicated to yourself at the new Whole Foods in Williamsburg by being ‘healthy’—you get it because you’re cool.”

SELTZER LOVERS UNITE

From GQ’s combatively titled, “Seltzer Isn’t a Trend, It’s a Way of Life” to the Yale Herald’s “Ode on the soda syphon,” writers were declaring not just their love for the carbonated beverage but claiming an identity as a seltzer lover.

GQ wrote: “Seltzer isn’t a fucking trend to me; it’s always been my beverage of choice, which has nothing to do with an ironically cool can design or using the French word for ‘grapefruit.’ Rather I’m a New York Jew and that’s what we do. We drink seltzer.”

Meanwhile, readers at Yale learned how “Those of us with a die-hard allegiance to effervescence are in a class of our own. We can discuss the mouthfeels and flavors of various carbonated offerings with the kind of technical jargon generally reserved for theoretical physicists.”

How do we know there’s a rise of people identifying as seltzer lovers? Because people are starting to be haters, as in this lame but sincere attempt on Gizmodo: Seltzer Water Sucks”.

UNICORN TEARS AND OTHER FLAVORS

Every season Polar Seltzer, the Boston area-based company, releases seasonal flavors, like Watermelon Margarita and Mango Berry, “to surprise and delight diehard Polar Seltzer aficionados.” They are always warmly welcomed by seltzer lovers. But this year, interest hit a fever pitch.

In March, Polar delivered 5,000 cases of their creatively named, limited-release flavor: Unicorn Kisses. Described by the company as tasting like “sparkling rainbows,” fans came up with their own theories, like cucumber melon mixed with candy apples. Before long, cases were selling on eBay at exorbitantly marked-up prices.

As if one media-savvy flavor run wasn’t enough in 2016, Polar ended the year with yet another new twist: the mystery flavor. Arriving in stores with no warning or description, social media exploded in collaborative efforts to figure out just what was in their seltzer, such as: “It tastes like frosty the snowman melted into a puddle of unicorn tears and angel kisses!”

And unlike in the past, where new flavors were touted on their “Limited Editions” page, this one still remains a mystery, as if it escaped from their flavor research lab out into the wide-world.

THE NEW BUZZ FROM SELTZER

It started in March with Mashable’s “Alcoholic seltzer is the fizz you never knew you craved,” then “Why Spiked Seltzer Will Be Your New Rosé This Summer,” and then it just never seemed to end. Week after week, another article came across my stream announcing the latest trend: alcoholic (or “hard”) seltzer.

Just to give you a taste of the trend, in the last few weeks we’ve seen “Hard Seltzer, A Healthier Alcohol Alternative” (CBS Philly) and “Enter hard seltzer: Alcoholic seltzer finds growing market of health-conscious drinkers” (The Baltimore Sun).

THE SCIENCE OF SELTZER

Every year we see a spat of articles, based on the latest science research, arguing why seltzer is good, or bad, for us. This year science focused our attention on one study that received significant coverage, making the case that cold seltzer is the best way to quench a thirst (compared against warm, flat water). A win for carbonation!

MY BOOK

Last spring I acquired a new editor, who has been fantastic. All summer we worked on the new proposal, and by fall she was out there shopping it around. It you are an editor, or know one, who might be interested in a phenomenal book about this history of seltzer and the passion it ignites in people around the world, please let me know.

I was featured in a fantastic episode of Gastropod, which looked at (everyone say it with me) seltzer.

Finally, I posted by summer 2015 video tour of the Pittsburgh Seltzer Works, the oldest continuous seltzer works in the country. Little did I know, as its proprietor John Seeking displayed his deep commitment to every brutal aspect of running a contemporary works with century old machinery, that he would close its doors just a few weeks later. Will it return some day in a new form? That’s definitely one of the many things to watch for in 2017.

 

Fantastic new podcast episode on seltzer from Gastropod

If you like food, then Gastropod is the podcast for you. Co-hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley turned their microphones this episode on seltzer, and included yours truly to provide the historical sweep.

As you well know, I am a harsh critic of seltzer coverage, as  journalists so often get the story wrong. So imagine my surprise when I not only enjoyed this engaging Gastropod episode, but actually learned quite a few new things along the way!

This is the seltzer podcast not to be missed!

Please check it out and pass it around:

You can also learn more about this episode in its show notes (with fantastic photos, links, videos and more).

Conservative Commentator Believes Seltzer Turned NY Jews into Liberals

I thought I heard them all before! In this clip, Michael Savage, a conservative radio host, tries to understand Bernie Sanders, and ends up on this bizarre rant about seltzer:

“I still think the seltzer has something to do with it. If I had the time, I’d go back to my scientific background and I would do an epidemiological study of the use of seltzer and liberalism and the insanity of liberalism. I think that the high carbon dioxide content, the little bubbles of carbon dioxide poisoned the brains of millions of kids in Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Seltzer bottles. It’s like toxic lead. It’s like Dr. Schuze’s X-ray machines on the feet, the cancer machines.”
Thanks to Right Wing Watch for turning me on to this fascinating soundbite.

Video from my appearance on CBS This Morning

Today CBS aired the fantastic piece on seltzer’s resurgence (take a drink every time you hear the word) which is a sort of a video version of the recent Wall Street Journal piece. Not that I’m complaining – the more press outlets that cover the rise of seltzer the more people will understand how timely my book is, which captures that very transition.

You can watch the full piece on their web site here or just watch it below:

I thought they did a great job with the piece. What do you think?

I will be on CBS News tomorrow

Inspired by the Wall Street Journal article earlier this summer, CBS News contacted me to be the “seltzer expert” in their piece expected to air tomorrow morning, Saturday, on CBS Morning Show (8:15 a.m. in NYC). It was flattering to be asked and awesome to be part of yet another of what I am calling the “seltzer resurgence” meme in the press this summer.

I met them on 11th avenue and 45th street, at a bar that serves seltzer from The Brooklyn Seltzer Boys. I sat at a table with Mark Albert, glasses of seltzer between us, and for a half hour or so we talked seltzer.

Getting my microphone on.
Getting my microphone on.

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I look forward to watching it tomorrow and sharing it with all of you. If you watch, let me know what you think!

 

New Seltzer Article in Wall Street Journal; Mentions My Book

There’s a great new article in the Wall Street Journal on seltzer, “Buy Into These Bubbles: Seltzer’s Fizz Is Back.” Below is the excerpt that quotes me:

Barry Joseph, an associate director at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, began researching seltzer more than a decade ago after writing a review of a SodaStream machine for a Jewish news site. In response, he heard from dozens of people who wanted to share memories—of seltzer delivery men injured by exploding bottles and childhood egg creams, the combination of milk, chocolate syrup and seltzer that tastes like fizzy chocolate milk.

Mr. Joseph has written a book-length history of the beverage and is working to get it published. He says soda water was invented by Joseph Priestley,an 18th century theologian and chemist credited with discovering oxygen, who found a way to infuse water with fixed air. Several years later, Johann Jacob Schweppe, for whom the Schweppes brand is named, founded the technique to mass-produce fizzy water. The rise in inventive and homemade cocktails has helped draw more people to seltzer, Mr. Joseph says.

To read the whole article, check out this pdf a good fan sent me, or go right to their web site.

Latest New York Post article on Seltzer, quoting me

Last January I published a piece on Alex Gomberg. Now, larger news outlets are beginning to take notice:

Prince of Pop

A 25-year-old is bringing the fizz back to the seltzer business
By DOREE LEWAK
Posted: 11:01 PM, March 23, 2013


From the shtetl-icious beverage staple of the old country, to ’60s dime-store pharmacy mainstay, seltzer has been part of the American carbonated beverage landscape for centuries. And it mounted a mean comeback 30 years ago, when Perrier conferred cool status on buying overpriced bottled water.
Even Bruce Willis and James Gandolfini caught the last seltzer wave in the early ’80s. The actors-in-the-making delivered the fizzy stuff while trying to make it big in New York.
After running out of fizz over the past decade or so, seltzer is being given new life by a new company, the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys.
Launched by Alex Gomberg, 25, in September, the BSB is a delivery service that’s equal parts throwback and painfully hipster, making Gomberg the hot new whippersnapper on the seltzer delivery circuit. Make that the only whippersnapper on the circuit and, easily, the youngest seltzer man in the country — there are only a handful left.

Continue reading Latest New York Post article on Seltzer, quoting me

Seattle-based seltzer man raises online funds to build seltzer bike

Webster Crowell, the self-described Head Seltzerman at the Seattle-based Under Pressure, recently led a successful online fundraising campaign to launch his bike-based seltzer delivery business. Using Indiegogo, a Kickstarter-style fundraising site, Webster set a goal of $2,830 to provide funding for:
Construction of a custom delivery cart
Repairs to a one-of-a kind antique filling machine
Filtration equipment
Obtaining more vintage bottles
On Feb 12th, he not only hit that goal but surpassed it, raising $3,910.
Congratulations to Webster and check out the amazing video he put together to promote the campaign and describe a seltzer bike:

And the original campaign here:

Young Seltzer Men in the News

There aren’t that many people in the seltzer delivery business. There are even less who began their work in the 21st Century. So its rare to see news coverage of the young turks. This past week, however, there were two – yes, count them, 2! – different articles, on two different new seltzer men – one in Florida and one in Pittsburgh.
Read about Ryan Pinnell in Florida, in “Seltzer home deliveries beginning to bubble,” and John Seekings in Pittsburg, in “Pittsburgh Seltzer Works Offers Fresh Summer Fizz from Swissvale.”
A sign of things to come, or just the approach of Passover?