Vichy Cata­lan water of­fers fla­vor­ful ver­sa­til­ity in drinks

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - FOOD - By Lisa Fut­ter­man Chicago Tri­bune Lisa Fut­ter­man is a free­lance writer.

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.

E. JA­SON WAMBSGANS/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE; SHAN­NON KINSELLA/FOOD STYLING

Vichy Cata­lan can be used as a mixer in drinks.

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