Water on its own is a perfectly fine beverage, but it’s not very exciting. Not everyone is blessed with tasty tap water, either; plenty of us have to cope with municipal water that’s just barely tolerable, or well water laden with minerals that a filter never quite takes out.
The obvious solution is to flavor our water, but many water flavorings – especially those little packets you get at the store – are packed full of sugar. You want to flavor your water, not turn it into a DIY soft drink, right?
What can you use to flavor your water, without adding in a bunch of sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other unhealthy substances? We’ve put together 20 ideas to get you started.
Adding spices to foods, smoothies, and soups is one thing, but water?
It feels weird adding spice to plain water and calling it a beverage, but in the right combinations, it can work very well.
- Cinnamon. Add a stick of cinnamon to water and let it steep for a few hours or overnight.
- Cloves. Lightly crush one to three cloves for a typical bottle of water, and let them release their aromatic oils for a few hours.
- Nutmeg. Grind a small amount of fresh nutmeg into water for the best effect.
- Turmeric. A classic of detox blends, this yellow spice can work fine in water, though it might be a little potent if you add too much too fast.
Remember to remove or strain out any solid bits from your beverage before you drink; you want the flavor, not the grit.
Cucumber is a classic additive to water. The vegetable itself is already mostly water, with a cool, refreshing taste to it. We recommend peeling it before you add it, simply to make sure no residue from the peel makes it into the water.
Cut it into larger chunks or slices and add to water, letting it sit for a few hours or a few days. After a day or two, filter out the chunks; they’ll be turning mushy and you don’t want them to rot in your beverage! One cucumber can flavor a couple of gallons of water, though you can adjust the amount to adjust the strength of the cucumber flavor.
We tend to think of tea as a hot beverage, or when we think of cold tea, we think of sugar-laden iced tea. The reality is, any tea you brew with water will work just fine as a cold beverage.
You have two options to make it, too! You can brew it hot and chill it later, or you can brew it cold. Just keep in mind that if you brew it cold, you’ll need to steep the tea for longer than with a hot water. Be sure to taste it from time to time, to make sure you haven’t over-steeped and let the water get bitter. That just encourages you to add sugar to balance it out.
Drinking salt water is bad for you, but adding a small amount of salt to a sufficient quantity of water is fine. In fact, all those "electrolyte" beverages, like Gatorade and whatnot? The "electrolyte" they’re adding is generally just salt.
You have two choices here. One, you can add a pinch or two of salt to a water beverage, just enough to give it a hint of flavor. That gives you some electrolytes and can enhance other flavors you put into the water later.
The other choice is to go all-in with a "sole water" beverage. Made by saturating water with salt, this produces very saturated saltwater. Add a tablespoon of this saturated saltwater to your regular water in the morning.
Carbonation isn’t a flavor, exactly, but it adds a texture to the water you’re drinking, turning water into something more like seltzer. Some people love it, while others find it bitter.
Adding CO2 to water isn’t difficult, at least, so you can make your own carbonated water if you don’t like buying bottles of whatever seltzer water you can find locally.
What is broth if not a water-based beverage? You can buy bouillon or make your own broth, and we recommend the latter. You have plenty of options here; a vegetable broth with your usual carrots, onions, and celery is a great base. Mixing in a few herbs gives it more flavor.
You can also boil the leftover carcass of a chicken or turkey you’ve made for dinner, or the bones from a ham or bone-in beef cut. Bone broth has the added benefit of being high in collagen, with all the benefits that entail as well.
All kinds of citrus fruits are great for flavoring water. Lemons and limes are wonderful on their own and go great together. Orange is a mellower flavor, though it depends on the variety of orange you get.
There are also a variety of unorthodox citrus fruits you can try if you can find them locally. Juice them, or just slice them and add them to your water. Add some zest to get more of the oils from the rind, too!
Berries can be added whole to let their flavor slowly release in water throughout the day. Alternatively, they can be crushed – possibly with some ice – to release much more of their flavor.
Strawberries and blueberries are great traditional options. Raspberries are delicious, but the seeds might get annoying. You can also pick up some more modern berry trends, like goji berries or acai berries, for a slightly different blend of flavors. Use one berry variety or a handful of mixed berries to your tastes.
Most of us are familiar with ground ginger, an earthy spice that goes great on meats.
Where ginger really shines, however, is in its fresh form. Fresh ginger smells fruity and has a potent twist to it that doesn’t come through in the dried, ground stuff. Buy fresh ginger, peel it, and slice it into your water, or really release the flavor by grating it and adding the resulting pulp.
Mint is a great little herb, and fresh mint is a component in a wide variety of delicious beverages. Add a few leaves, fresh-picked from a plant you can grow easily on your windowsill, and lightly crush them up.
This releases the aromatic flavors without overdoing it. The specific term for this, in case you’re curious, is called "muddling" and it’s a key skill bartenders learn.
No, we’re not saying you should just be sipping booze all day. A simple, flavorful wine like plum wine or umeshu – a Japanese plum liqueur – can be mixed with quite a bit of water. This leaves you with a beverage that has a faint plum wine taste, without the alcohol content that would impair your faculties at all.
Peaches are an interesting fruit because they’re available throughout much of the year, but there are only a few short weeks where the peaches are really, truly delicious.
Getting these peaches and adding a few slices to your water will give you an amazing peach flavor, which you can enjoy on its own or add to other fruit flavors. Hey, try out peach mint; it might sound a little odd, but it’s really tasty.
Lemongrass might not have all that much to do with lemons, but it’s still a nice flavor to add to some water. Take a sprig or two of lemongrass and add them to water, and let it steep for a couple of hours before you start drinking. You’ll get the flavor, as well as a variety of potential health benefits stemming from the nutrients and vitamins in the grass.
14. Apple Cider Vinegar
There are all kinds of different kinds of vinegars you can add to some water to make a tangy beverage. Almost like lemon, but on the opposite end of the pH spectrum, the easiest kind of vinegar to use is apple cider vinegar.
However, if you happen to have a local store selling on-tap vinegar, check out some of the more interesting fruit-based balsamic vinegar. They can be pretty strong, but they’re very good as a sort of natural flavor syrup.
Pineapple is a nice strong fruit flavor, and one single pineapple can produce enough fruit to flavor water for weeks. You have a few options. You can juice the pineapple and mix some juice with your water. You can cut the fruit into larger chunks and use them to steep, similar to how you would use cucumber. You can crush the pineapple and mix fruit and juice together with water. You’ll have enough pineapple to try and experiment with different flavor combinations as well. Try pineapple mint!
Pomegranate seeds can be a little annoying to eat, and there’s nothing worse than buying a pomegranate hoping for delicious fruit, only to get one that’s not quite ripe and is more pith than flavor.
Still, getting a good pomegranate – or some juice, free of sweeteners, of course – and mixing it with your water gives you that great, unique flavor you don’t see anywhere else.
17. Strawberries and Mint
Now let’s talk about some combinations. We mentioned a couple up above, but there are a few combinations that stand out as particularly good or worth mentioning for one reason or another. First and foremost among them is strawberry mint. Mixing up some crushed or sliced strawberries with some muddled mint gets you this classic, cool flavor combination. It’s great for hot summer evening, or for an active day where you want something sweet without the sugar.
18. Cucumber, Melon, and Lemon
Cucumber on its own is a nice, cool, refreshing flavor, but if you add a few other flavors to it, you can kick it to the next level.
Melon is a great addition, and cucumber melon is a time-honored flavor combination for that reason. We like honeydew, but the best is a lemon drop melon. You can also add some lemon juice to the mix, just enough to add a hint of sour to liven up the entire beverage.
19. Ginger and Citrus
Ginger goes great with citrus as an added flavor. You can play with the balance between the two, depending on whether you prefer the ginger to lead the charge, or if you prefer having a citrus beverage with a hint of ginger to it. If you’re using full fruit slices or chunks, you’ll want to steep it longer before you add the ginger, but if you’re just mixing in some fruit juice, you’ll be good to go right away.
20. Juice and Crushed Ice
Mixing your flavors with water is one thing, but why not water in another form? Fill your glass up with crushed ice and add some fruit juice to it. Fresh-squeezed is best, of course, and you can mix several juices together before you add it to the ice.
Finely crushed ice makes this close to a snow-cone style beverage, and as the ice melts – if you haven’t used all the flavor away already – you get a nice, delicious fruit beverage.
Now we’re handing it over to you. What are your favorite flavors to add to water, that doesn’t involve sugar or a sweetener? Sure, adding a little honey might be fine, but we’re looking for something that doesn’t have to rely on sweeteners to get you through the day.
So tell us; what are your favorite flavors, and combinations thereof? Leave your recipes in the comments, if you would.