Vichy Catalan water offers flavorful versatility in drinks
Vichy Catalan water originally turned my head in Barcelona. It was a warm day of wandering, and I needed something cold, so I popped into a bodega and the tessellated can with a resealable red top caught my eye. Clean, cute and functional, plus the fizzy, chilly and, most notably, salty contents satisfied.
Turns out Vichy Catalan contains 27 minerals (including sodium, bicarbonates, sulfates and potassium) that occur naturally in the springs from which it, er, springs. Its incredibly high mineral content comes in at 3,000 parts per million of totally dissolved solids, known as TDS. (In comparison, Perrier contains less than one-sixth of that, at 475 ppm TDS, and San Pellegrino about one-third at about 1,100 ppm.) Harvested since 1818 in Girona, Spain, it is now the most popular sparkling water in that country.
Starting from an aquifer called Puig de les Animes, where the water lives at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, Vichy Catalan passes through natural springs in Caldes de Malavella. A doctor, Modest Furesty Roca, purchased the springs in 1881 and opened a plant to bottle the waters in 1890. The accompanying “health spa” opened in 1898. Now known as the Vichy Catalan Hotel Balneario, it offers, among other spa treatments, a thermal pool where you can bathe in the 93-degree water.
Vichy Catalan claims many health benefits from soaking in and consuming its mineral rich water. But I like it because it tastes so good. Super bubbly and flavorful, the water is a delightful thirst quencher on its own and makes a very successful mixer in cocktails, both with or without alcohol. Just like the role salt plays as a flavor enhancer in cooking, it can boost flavor in beverages as well.
I tried a fernet and soda highball, typically a digestive drink for those with a high tolerance for bitterness — it becomes rich and round when made with the salty mineral water. The complex minty, fruity and herbal flavors that are usually buried in the amaro’s bitterness unfurl.
I also played with the Greyhound, usually a simple mix of vodka and grapefruit juice. Subbing the botanical notes of gin for vodka and topping the drink with Vichy refresh and lighten the cocktail. Since salt tempers bitterness, I added a dash or two of Angostura bitters to restore the balance, and named it Pomelo.
Finally I mixed a salad in a glass, a Vichy cucumber mojito, a drink that could easily be served with or without rum for a fresh aperitif I call a Pepino.
Vichy Catalan can be used as a mixer in drinks.