I popped my first San Pellegrino two days ago, and its bubbly, cutting coldness was unlike any water I’ve tasted before. I’ve courted La Croix and flirted with Perrier, but they felt like puppy love compared to this bottle-green queen. Europe hooked on sparkling water, so being the fanatic I am, I read the San Pellegrino blog thoroughly, drinking in the photoshopped pictures and superfluous words.

An article entitled Learn to Taste a Premium Water caught my eye, and it introduced the concept of a “water connoisseur” to me: someone who is an expert at tasting and categorizing different water types.

Salty? Flat? Bubbly? Plastic? Just like a wine connoisseur, water specialists need an acute tongue and a library of sensations on which to pull from. According to the article, there are five steps to conduct an accurate and appealing water taste test: first taste, visual assessment, smell, second tasting, and taste/aroma. 

Per these standards, San Pellegrino passes the exam with vivid blue and green colors. Its visuals were streamlined and classy, its taste persistent and invigorating. However, I wanted to ditch the sparking pretension and assess the gritty tap water of Atlanta to see how it compared.

I used the San Pellegrino test on the waters of downtown Atlanta on Peachtree Street. Public tap water has the reputation for tasting substandard, so I wanted to try out the free taps and write my own opinion.

Downtown Atlanta

Mackenzie Patel

I work in a fancy office building (golden lobby and all), but the tap water on the 19th floor is still as gritty as the free fountains outside. I looked like a weirdo, smelling my paper cup and smacking my lips with water, but water tasting did give me a greater appreciation for the makeup of H2O. I subjected the water of 191 Peachtree Street to the bourgeoisie San Pellegrino test, and these were my results. ~

First Taste

coffee, milk, beer, tea, beverage
Mackenzie Patel

This is when the initial impressions and feelings of the drinker are recorded. Upon first sip of the Atlanta water, the word “glib” came to mind. It’s not related to food, but the filmy, smooth associations describe the water perfectly.My lips felt almost oily, and I could taste the pipes in the liquid. Although my palate felt plastic afterwards, I was compelled to keep drinking. It was translucent, but milky (in the best way possible).

Visual Assessment

beer, wine
Mackenzie Patel

How does the water appear? San Pellegrino describes this as “perlage,” but that is fancy term for synesthesia or evocation of certain images from a different sensation. For example, the bubbles in a San Pellegrino could remind the drinker of fizzy pearls.

Seeing as the Atlanta water was in a $.05 Dixie cup, the visuals weren’t the height of aesthetic. There were a few bubbles on the edges, lethargic and stagnant. The water was reflective, the blinds of this 19th floor office mirrored on the surface. There were striated lines throughout, like the liquid was a moving M.C. Escher doozy.


ice, alcohol, water, cocktail, tonic, soda, vodka, liquor, sake
Mackenzie Patel

Does the water smell like a bubbling brook or chemical factory? The olfactory system and taste and linked, so assessment from one is dependent on the other.

For the ATL drink, is refreshing pool water too harsh of a description? The smell was no San Pellegrino, but there was an odd satisfaction in sniffing sterilized liquid. The scent was also slightly sweet – whether that is accurate or just my nose remains to be seen. I was reminded of those cone-shaped cups and water dispensers at a doctor’s office – that water isn’t crisp, but it is a drinkable stale.

Second Tasting

wine, alcohol, liquor, beer
Mackenzie Patel

San Pellegrino writes that the second taste is important to “evaluate the acidity, flavor and structure.” Acid water should stand out, but the word “structure” mystifies me. An image of hydrogen and carbon atoms competing for the best flavor comes to mind, but it likely means the makeup and hardness of the water. Is the liquid lukewarm or biting?

The chemical aftertaste of the office water washed over my teeth, but again, I kind of liked it. Why is my palate so strange?! It wasn’t acidic nor was it flavored like a Crystal Light packet – and yet I found myself reaching for a third and fourth sip.

Taste and Aroma

wine, water, alcohol
Mackenzie Patel

Final thoughts are concentrated on the nose and tongue – how does the aftertaste feel? And does your mouth feel refreshed and balanced after a few sips? 

My mouth felt chalky and dry afterwards, but it wasn’t extreme. There was no nausea or flu symptoms after an hour, so success! Although I prefer a sweating bottle of S. Pellegrino to Dixie cup tap water, I’m happy to drink Atlanta’s finest in the office. 

Also, regular tap water would taste amazing if there were no fancy brands around – we’ve been conditioned to expect watery grandeur.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t know water tasting would pique my interest; to be fair, I never thought Tchaikovsky or Italic calligraphy would either. My attraction to Atlanta tap water is the same as my lure to the city in general: it’s gritty and authentic (and has more street cred than I’ll ever have).