Unless you live under a rock in a particularly drought-plagued area, you’ve probably noticed that canned sparkling water is everywhere. LaCroix, with its impressionist cans and its highly scrutinized flavor portfolio, will always be synonymous with this bubbly explosion in popularity. But it’s hard to roll through any grocery or convenience store and not notice an army of other bubble-water brands vying for a place in the fridge.
One such brand is Polar. The company's no spring chicken, considering it's been quenching thirsts in and around its Massachusetts HQ for more than 135 years. But it’s the beverage with the most aggressive hold on LaCroix’s coattails. New Englanders have long loved the stuff, and the rest of America is slowly seeing the light on account of Polar aggressively shoving their product on the same shelves as LaCroix at a marginally lower price point. Whether you’re a penny-pincher or a bubbly water diehard for whom the sparkle of LaCroix is beginning to fade, Polar offers a magical new world of wild and weird flavors that are just as divisive and delectable. But which is best?
For the purpose of this piece, we tried the 19 flavors that popped down from the “seltzers” section of their endearingly glitchy site, leaving out its line of Seltzer’ades, Frost, and juicy sparkling “Dry” options, plus weird seasonal options like Unicorn Kisses and Tears of a Yankees Fan. Without further ado, here’s our definitive ranking of the current lineup of Polar Sparkling Seltzer:
19. Toasted Coconut
The only “toasted” flavor I’m getting here is akin to the burning plastic smell that comes out of a freshly unboxed toaster with a few stray pieces of plastic left in it. Once that subsides it’s nothing but cheap island vibes.
Relative to the rest of the Polar lineup, this is obviously a failure reserved for Todd, the soft-spoken loner in your office who’s too boring to be mysterious. You walked all the way to the Polar section of the beverage aisle and emerged with this? You’re fired, Todd.
Vanilla might come in handy when you’re attempting to mask the flavor of booze, but you might as well commit to something more potent like Coke or ginger ale. I’d keep an eye on whoever drinks this on the reg in the office -- there’s a good chance they’re microdosing 151 throughout the day and you don’t even know it.
16. Ruby Red Grapefruit
This is the Imagine Dragons of flavored seltzers: it’s regrettable as it is, and if tried any harder to be more like the thing it’s imitating it would be absolutely terrible. No committed fan of actual grapefruit juice would go anywhere near this no matter how shot their taste buds are from all that citrus, which means those of us who can still taste things have no reason to mess with this.
15. Pineapple Pomelo
I should respect Polar for not overdoing it with the faux-tropical Lip Smackers flavors here, but the fresh Sharpie aftertaste that emerges upon the first sip of Pineapple Pomelo is something I can never forget, and certainly not forgive. This might taste all right with rum, but I don’t own enough Margaritaville-brand clothing to be authorized to perform such an experiment.
14. Black Cherry
This one tastes like memories of rooting through my mom's purse for candy and only finding an old Luden’s Throat Drop. The flavor vanishes abruptly, leaving you wondering if you even drank it in the first place. Wait, is that memory of my mom's purse even real? Did my mom even carry a purse? Was I adopted? Where am I?
13. Blueberry Lemonade
The lemonade flavor is nice, like taking that last swoosh of water used to rinse out the frozen lemonade concentrate to the face. The blueberry flavor, however, is nonexistent. We demand more blueberry; Polar, you can do much better.
12. Georgia Peach
When was the last time you saw peach soda on the shelf? The answer is probably never (unless you're a Juggalo), and a brief encounter with this flavor's cloying, sticky finish explains why.
Lime is a safe go-to that's reliable, albeit a little bit boring if you’re seeking out a more memorable Polar experience. It’d be hard to pick this one out of a lineup, and that’s a real bummer considering how good lime LaCroix and Topo Chico are.
10. Cranberry Clementine
Cranberry Clementine is a bright hit of citrus with a slightly medicinal finish. The aftertaste is a lot like that hangover that makes you reconsider whatever the hell you ate before bed... but, like, luxe. We're not entirely offended.
9. Orange Vanilla
Too weird to love, too interesting to hate. You’re in for a quick flash of orange with a long, creamy finish, the latter of which may rub the typical seltzer connoisseur very much the wrong way. The creaminess toes the line of being too quirky for its own good, but it’s a nice change of pace from the relative blandness of cellar-dwellers like Lime and Ruby Red Grapefruit. Drink this if you're craving a diluted version of a Creamsicle.
The market for lemon-flavored nothing is pretty saturated, but Polar’s offering stands above the rest with a tart effervescence that’s present just long enough to cancel out the salty dishwater flavor that ruins offerings from more popular brands like LaCroix and San Pellegrino. If you’re looking for a sparkling lemon water that tastes good on its own, this is it.
7. Cherry Pomegranate
The pomegranate cuts the cough-drop undertones quite nicely, resulting in a mellow cherry flavor that’s much more drinkable than actual cherry sodas like Fanta or Crush, which always have a chemical aftertaste that’s more like a lab-produced idea of cherries than their actual flavor. When the Water Wars finally leave the Earth barren and cherry-less, this will be a fine substitute.
This is the embodiment of what makes Polar unique: big, bold flavors that aren't typically found in your average everyday seltzer. It’s a disaster in some cases, but the mouthfeel and residual taste of this classic soda flavor work wonders in a category many other bands have swung at and missed entirely. A great culmination of texture, flavor, and fidelity to fruit in spite of being a calorie-free lab experiment. A marvel of science, really.
5. Cranberry Lime
This Polar contains subtle, yet refined, cranberry taste with a slightly acidic lime finish. It’s the perfect Thanksgiving beverage, both with its endearing flavor and its ability to serve as a covert delivery system for clear booze. Your uppity, gin-swilling, Chico’s-loving grandma will love this one, and so will you when you use it to wash down amassive pile of starch, gravy, and unprocessed feelings.
4. Strawberry Watermelon
No true fan of Polar Seltzer has any allegiance to the fruits that inspired their best flavors. Case in point is Strawberry Watermelon, perhaps their finest approach to beverage engineering that tastes nothing like fruit, but is still quite delicious. If you remember when you had to pick out all the watermelon Jolly Ranchers by hand like an asshole because the watermelon-only option hadn’t come out yet, then this is the flavor for you!
3. Raspberry Lime
Like a more successful and less eccentric cousin of Pomegranate, Raspberry Lime is a no-nonsense harbinger of tingly, fruity vibes with minimal undertones and off notes. If it was a beer at a bougie brewery, it would be that lightly hopped farmhouse ale all the homebrewers and heads sip on quietly while the bros dole out high fives over pastry stouts and hazy IPAs. It’s a happy balance of flavor, mouthfeel, and finish that almost anyone can enjoy regardless of background and persuasion, and that right there is a beautiful thing.
2. Triple Berry
Ubiquity is a strange paradox with many upsides. Everyone because they’re seemingly everywhere, which in turn is likely due to the fact that everyone loves them. The same can be said about Triple Berry, Polar's most timeless and popular flavor by a wide margin. When sparkling water was nothing more than a bland alternative to Diet Coke that often gathered dust in the back corner of cold beverage cases, Triple Berry offered a glimmer of hope and flavor for newly woke soft drink consumers who wondered if all that artificial sweetener was actually bad for them. Retribution is now at hand for said consumer, and the faintly floral aroma and melted popsicle flavor of Triple Berry is their trophy for being right all along.
It’s by far the best flavor you don’t need to root through the grocery store to find, and though it’s likely to get stolen out of your office fridge by a hungover temp, you shouldn’t have any trouble replacing it right away. If Polar shunted the rest of their flavors in favor of a more streamlined approach, Triple Berry would definitely keep the lights on. It’s a timeless classic.
It was the summer of 2007. The iPhone just came out, Animal Collective was the soundtrack to the future, and everyone with a PBR-induced hangover was chugging bottles of Vitamin Water XXX. Since then, Animal Collective spun off the face of the Earth, everyone and their mom moved on to IPA, and science debunked the magical healing powers of a trendsetting beverage that was healthy only in name. Still, no one can erase the pleasure of that first time you chugged a bottle of XXX while sweating bullets at a bus station in an unknown part of town with a dead flip phone and a broken Rainbow Sandal.
Everyone is drinking seltzer water now, and Polar has brought the pomegranate-flavored glory days of 2007 into the future with a remarkable flavor that no other brand can touch. It’s a surge of bubbly joy, replete with a delightful sweetness that fades slowly into a mild tang with a very strange and subtle aftertaste of tongue-coating spice. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out in a decade that its secret ingredient is grey water from some grimy restaurant in Somerville, but until that day comes, I’ll chase away every soul-crushing hangover I get with a can of this glorious, once-in-a-lifetime beverage.
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Pete Cottell is a Thrillist contributor.
How many flavors of Polar seltzer are there? ›
In a quest to sort through this carbonated conundrum, I've tracked down every flavor of Polar Seltzer that's been on the market in the past year and tried them all. Here are all 36 flavors I could find, ranked worst to best.What does polar werewolf howls taste like? ›
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- Polar Beverages introduced its Summer 2022 limited edition seltzer collection. The flavors include Dragonfruit Lemonade, Guava Mule, Passionfruit Blueberry, Pink Summer Iced Tea and Strawberry Margarita. Polar Seltzer is sold at grocery stores, package stores, convenience stores and mini-marts across the country.What does polar upside down plum taste like? ›
Upside Down Plum (New)
After tasting this, I don't think I ever want a correctly oriented plum ever again. This is great. The first impression I got is that it tasted like one of those red-white-and-blue Bomb Pop popsicles, to the point where I actually double-checked to see if there was sugar in this.
How that really tastes: The sweet smell of Unicorn Kisses (and almost all of the seltzers) was overpoweringly candy-like, but the flavor, like a fine wine, was much more subtle. It was like a watermelon Jolly Rancher with a bit of strawberry bubblegum aftertaste.What flavor is Polar Dragon whispers? ›
only not so sweet. And tangy. And also citrusy," while Dragon Whispers "reveals notes of strawberry, and perhaps some tropical fruits.