beck_water
Laura Beck

UPDATE: I misread the page numbers on the menu as prices, because $44 water actually sounded MORE plausible than a 45-page water menu. But Beck was clear that the menu is in fact a small book — I just missed it. Thanks @dontsayisaidbut for pointing that out.

Turning water into wine is really hard to pull off, so L.A.’s Ray’s & Stark Bar has decided to just treat water like it already is wine and see where that gets them. To that end, it has got a “water sommelier,” $12 “water flights” that let you sample three different varieties, and an extensive water menu on which some bottles cost upwards of $40 up to $20. Jezebel’s Laura Beck tried it, because she is an asshole — her words, not mine! — and has reported back for you from inside the world of people with so much disposable income that even their water needs to be artisanal.

The main take-home message is that there seem to be two kinds of fancy water: water that tastes like water, and water that SUCKS. Besides plain old Perrier, Beck sampled one of each. Beverly Hills 90H20 — $40 a bottle, no extra charge for awesome name — wasn’t even trying:

It’s flat, it tastes like water. Like San Francisco tap water, which I maintain is the finest in the country. It’s refreshing because it’s water, but when I try it side by side with tap water and Arrowhead Spring and also Walgreens brand Pure, it all tastes exactly the same. I mean, maybe slightly different, but the overwhelming similarity is the taste of water.

Vichy Catalan ($34 a bottle), on the other hand, was trying too hard:

Unfortunately, it tastes like polluted sea water. Like, if you were forced to drink from Ariel’s seashell bra after it had been left out in the sun a few days too long. It was putrid. The waiter was basically all, “Yeah, everyone hates it. It doesn’t pair with any foods. I don’t know. That’ll be one million dollars, please!”

Is it possible you just can’t really improve on water? Well, maybe, but don’t tell rich people that. They’re having a grand old time plonking down serious bucks for something most of the world would be thrilled to get unbottled, un-pedigreed, dirty, and free.

Beck’s fully aware of this, of course:

Especially considering that nearly 1 billion people live without clean drinking water worldwide. Of course, that’s not Ray’s fault, but when you juxtapose it with the effects the bottled water industry has on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil, it’s a whole lot of clueless.

Go read the rest of her thoughts, and if they make you thirsty, hopefully you can find a few twenties in the couch cushions.