Earlier this month, Poland Spring — a company that filters free, decently clean water, and then packages it and sells it for a profit — launched a “cheers” campaign highlighting its status as New York’s number one beverage brand. The company did so in support of the NYC Marathon, which is a fine enough gesture. But come on, New York, bottled water?
Unless you live in a place with no access to clean drinking water (by our gutted EPA’s standards, anyway), drinking bottled water is a wasteful exercise. Yes, yes, we all need water to live, and if you’re in Central Park, a public water fountain is certainly a risky proposition in these days of Uber-riding Ebola doctors.
Poland Spring predicates its entire existence upon being from Maine, and it isn’t — at least not entirely. Nearly every bottled-water company purports to source from a specific body of water, but what hits the shelves is mixed and matched from many sources. It’s like blended whiskey, except this is inherently worse because it’s flavorless water that you can get for free. Poland Spring’s water comes from Poland Spring, yes, but also from nearby towns and as far away as Massachusetts.
Moreover, we city dwellers are supposed to be famously proud of our tap water (we’re famously proud of a lot of things, come to think of it…maybe we should cool it a little), so the fact that bottled water could be the most consumed beverage in this town of big ideas and bigger bladders is a travesty. Poland Spring being the number one beverage brand in New York is the quaffable equivalent of Taylor Swift being our ambassador.
We think we should change this — so here are five of our favorite local beverages that deserve the people’s love more than some bottled water. And these are just beverage brands. To us, New York City’s official drink will always be a tossup between an egg cream and a tepid, half-drunk coffee spilled on the floor of a subway car. Cheers!
5. Dr. Brown’s Sodas
The good doctor’s fizzed things up since 1869, and it’s now produced by PepsiCo in its NY bottling plant. For many New Yorkers, this line of soft drinks recalls trips to the local deli. Available in classic flavors like cream, root beer, and black cherry, Dr. Brown is perhaps best known for the celery-flavored Cel-Ray, one of the few vegetable sodas in the world. It’s an acquired taste; the soda is slightly bitter, like tonic and most New Yorkers.
4. Kombucha Brooklyn
Brooklyn’s practically a global brand, and this crunchy outfit fomenting the fermentation revolution seems as good a drinkable mascot for our city as any. In addition to offering DIY kits that let you nurture your own SCOBY mother to fizzy fruition, the company sells bottles of its proprietary brew for a reasonable $3 per bottle. Plus, think of the children: Kombucha comes with a built-in science lesson that’s just waiting to be Googled.
3. New York Distilling Company
Alan Katz, Tom Potter, and Bill Potter have carved out a little slice of malted heaven in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Launched in 2011 with a duo of gins (including a navy-strength that’s become a favorite of city bartenders), the team recently introduced a classic rock and rye. A mix of rock-candy syrup and rye whiskey, the vintage liqueur — a pre-Prohibition favorite — found a place in medicine cabinets during our nation’s dry spell. While other distilleries release white dogs and under-aged whiskeys, these guys have found a niche market and really gone for it.
2. Brooklyn Brewery
As co-founder of both the New York Distilling Company and Brooklyn Brewery, Tom Potter has done more to wet New York’s whistles than nearly any other beverage entrepreneur. While the Bronx is burning up with carboys and tons of hops, the current multi-borough beer renaissance has this ubiquitous King’s County brand to thank for its fermented futures. Started by Potter and Steve Hindy in 1984, Brooklyn Brewery has achieved success thanks in large part to the efforts of outspoken and lauded brewmaster Garrett Oliver, who recently bit back at David Chang for his staunch opinions about suds.
1. Manhattan Special
Nonstop is what New York does best, and this centuries-old espresso soda couldn’t be a better representation of our values. This city can exhaust even the most ambitious among us, and this drink can help you gain your competitive edge one sugary, caffeinated sip at a time. It also happens to taste great, with a satisfyingly strong coffee flavor met with a clean cane-sugar finish. You want versatile? Try it in cocktails, mocktails, or straight up, or, hell, freeze it for some of the best granita you’ve ever tasted.