H-E-B's Holiday-Themed Sparkling Waters: Festive Tastes for Your Table at Two for $1

There's nothing like a candy cane or a caramel apple to quench your thirst.

So says H-E-B, which recently began offering a new line of zero-calorie sparkling water in holiday-inspired flavors such as cranberry apple, candy cane and caramel apple.

I spotted this trio of festive beverages (there may be more than three flavors) during a sort of photographic scavenger hunt for seasonal/limited-edition holiday products at H-E-B. I was already reeling from finding a cranberry Sprite Zero and frankly almost couldn't handle another exciting libation discovery. But I pulled myself together for your sake, dear readers, and picked up two bottles (two for $1) to sample.

FYI, I skipped the cranberry apple variety because it seemed less tethered to the winter holidays than the other two flavors. Also, I'm not quite ready to be the gal who has two different diet cranberry-flavored beverages in her fridge.

I was most excited to try the candy cane sparkling water, as I've long believed nonalcoholic mint beverages are underrepresented in the market. This flavor was fine but confusing; I associate peppermint -- not spearmint -- with candy canes, and the water was redolent of the latter more than the former. A squeeze of lime and a few ice cubes livened up the water's mild taste, but it still isn't something I would buy again.

The caramel apple variety was shockingly sweet. It's difficult to believe there is absolutely no real sugar in this mixture, though I guess copious amounts of phenylalanine can go a long way in making a saccharine beverage. If I hadn't read the label, I never would have guessed this water was supposed to have an apple component. Its flavor is straight (fake) caramel, which makes it less ideal for hydration purposes, but probably well-suited for mixing cocktails, especially those involving whiskey.

Take-home message: $1 will buy you about two liters of different seasonal sparkling waters at H-E-B, but don't have high, or rather specific, expectations for their flavor. I guess the holidays taste different to all of us.

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