You'll Never Guess Why These People Are Paying $20 For a Bottle Of Water

Out to dinner with friends and don't want to drink wine? Think the regular ol' tap water they are serving you is déclassé? Still want to feel chic? Then I have the perfect solution for you. In cities across the U.S., a growing number of restaurants are now offering a diverse selection of high quality water from all over the world. Simply ask the waiter for the water menu and you will be able enjoy a refreshing glass of Badoit from France or Berg from Canada. According to water sommeliers, experts who are versed in the nuances of water, the texture and taste of certain brands can complement your meal, just like different wines. You may find this concept strange, but people are actually buying and enjoying this wave of gourmet water.

At Ray's and Stark restaurant in Los Angeles, General Manager Martin Riese is preparing to launch his water menu, which consists of 20 varieties of water from Germany, France, Fiji, Norway, and the U.S. A bottle can sell for anywhere from $8 to $20. Now you would think that no sensible customer would pay $20 for a bottle of water, yet according to Riese, the distinct taste and texture of the varying waters makes a big difference. At his tasting table outside the restaurant, during an interview with the L.A. Times, Riese had a half-filled glass of common tap water from the restroom. "Smell this tap water. It smells like chlorine," he said. "As a restaurant person here in L.A., I can say I would never drink that water. When you have good food, good wine and good spirits, you don't want to contaminate that with this water."  

When Riese pours a glass of water, he treats it like one would a glass of wine. Swirling the liquid around, he takes a gentle sip, and savors the flavor. The L.A. Times says he recommends drinking Voss water, from Norway, with salads because of its bitter taste, and Fiji water from, well, Fiji with dessert due to its sweetness. Riese is a certified water sommelier, a certification he obtained after a weeklong course at a German academy. He has worked at numerous Michelin star restaurants around the world. "All waters have unique tastes, and a lot of Americans think water is just water, but I completely don't believe in that," commented Riese. "Water has so many interesting nuances." 

In 2010, a water menu, which included water from "ancient" Roman times, was also introduced at the famed Los Angeles restaurant Bazaar, at the SLS hotel. The types of water offered were of "the most microbiologically pure, natural drinking water known to the world."

Last year a small start-up cafe in New York City gained national attention when it began selling 16oz. bottles of NYC tap water for $2.50. The Molecule Water Cafe owners called it "pure H2O." The water has been run through a $25,000 filtration system that cleanses it of all potential pollutants and adds tasteful minerals. 

In early 2011, the European Parliament attended its first water-tasting event, titled "Discover the Natural Mineral Waters of Europe." The increased demand in Europe for restaurants to have unique water menus has in turn created a greater demand for water sommeliers like Riese. It will be interesting to see how Americans take to this emerging concept. Though I am very skeptical that people will be compelled to pay such a high price for water, I find it very interesting that different waters could add another dimension to a dining experience. Only time will determine if in fact this new trend will endure. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Nicholas Demas

Former Editorial Intern at PolicyMic. I am a junior at Tufts University majoring in Economics with a minor in Entrepreneurial Leadership. I have a profound passion for the American political process and a love for my country.

MORE FROM

‘Girls Trip’ finishes second at the box office, outperforming expectations

The film's success once again demonstrates how diverse films are underestimated at the box office.

‘Insecure’ season two is television for us, by us — and it’s even better than before

Creator Issa Rae shouldn't sweat the Emmy snub — her connection with her core audience is what really makes this series shine.

We talked to military experts about who will win the Iron Throne

Does Dany have a chance? Historians, tacticians and scholars weigh in on the ultimate outcome of 'Game of Thrones.'

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7, Episode 2 Trailer: New alliances may form in “Stormborn”

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen may have an unexpected intermediary.

Tyler, the Creator is still a “walking paradox” on the rumor-baiting ‘Flower Boy’

Is he queer? Maybe. Does he know how to use the speculation to further his art? Definitely.

Note to Ryan Murphy: ‘American Horror Story’ reveals don’t need to be a scavenger hunt

The title and premiere date of the seventh season of 'American Horror Story' were revealed Thursday.

‘Girls Trip’ finishes second at the box office, outperforming expectations

The film's success once again demonstrates how diverse films are underestimated at the box office.

‘Insecure’ season two is television for us, by us — and it’s even better than before

Creator Issa Rae shouldn't sweat the Emmy snub — her connection with her core audience is what really makes this series shine.

We talked to military experts about who will win the Iron Throne

Does Dany have a chance? Historians, tacticians and scholars weigh in on the ultimate outcome of 'Game of Thrones.'

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7, Episode 2 Trailer: New alliances may form in “Stormborn”

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen may have an unexpected intermediary.

Tyler, the Creator is still a “walking paradox” on the rumor-baiting ‘Flower Boy’

Is he queer? Maybe. Does he know how to use the speculation to further his art? Definitely.

Note to Ryan Murphy: ‘American Horror Story’ reveals don’t need to be a scavenger hunt

The title and premiere date of the seventh season of 'American Horror Story' were revealed Thursday.