Now taking your order: The water sommelier

A restaurant in Los Angeles has a 45-page water menu, and offers a tasting flight for $12.

By Kim Peterson Aug 9, 2013 2:03PM
Image: Restaurant (© Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty Images/Getty Images)Order water at a restaurant, and you'll almost always get what comes out of the tap. But a growing number of restaurants are starting to offer bottled waters from around the world.

Nowhere is this trend taken to more ridiculous heights than at Ray's and Stark Bar in Los Angeles, which is run by a self-appointed water sommelier.

The restaurant has a water menu (see it here) featuring 20 different "varietals" from around the world. And if you can't decide, you an order a water flight of three 3-ounce servings for $12.

The website Jezebel tried the water flight so we don't have to. When Jezebel's writers arrived, however, they learned the flight was sold out, because people read about it in The Los Angeles Times and actually thought it was a great way to blow $12.

Undaunted, the servers cobbled together a $12 tasting for Jezebel's writers, and served small pours of Vichy Catalan, Perrier and a brand called Beverly Hills 90H20 personally made by the water sommelier. (He makes his own water by adding a "personal mixture of minerals" to the contents of a freshwater spring.)

The verdict? "The whole operation is painfully, awfully, humiliatingly Los Angeles," writes Laura Beck.

The term "water sommelier" was actually coined 11 years ago at the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park City in New York, writes Nation's Restaurant News. The idea has bubbled up to the point that one German institution now offers a water sommelier class for about $2,500.

Bret Thorn at Nation's Restaurant News summarizes the spectacle nicely:
How do you convince people to spend that kind of money on something they could get for free from any faucet? The same way you convince them to spend $300 for a bottle of fermented grape juice or $16 for a pint of fermented malt, hops, yeast and water -- you convince them that it's different from the water they could get for free or the wine or beer they could get for a fraction of what you'd like to charge them for it, and that it's not only different, but rare, luxurious and awesome.

Water has become a huge business, and Coca-Cola (KO) and PepsiCo (PEP) jumped into this long ago by acquiring bottled water brands.

Americans drink about 58 gallons of water a year, a 38% jump from 1998, The Associated Press reports. About 21 gallons of that amount is bottled water. Over the same period, American consumption of soda fell 17% to 44 gallons a year.

Aug 9, 2013 3:40PM
Sweet Jesus Christ, only in LA....Are people really this stupid ??
Aug 9, 2013 4:37PM

"The whole operation is painfully, awfully, humiliatingly Los Angeles"


Pretty much sums how the rest of the country feels.

Aug 9, 2013 5:22PM
Aug 9, 2013 6:11PM
Too bad common sense can't be sold for $12 a bottle.
Aug 9, 2013 5:07PM
Its LA. Where everything is out of sight. If it wasn't for the Colorado river, most of that state would be a dust bowl. It already a wasteland with the people that live in it.
Aug 9, 2013 4:21PM
Another fad designed to separate people from their money.  If you think this is stupid, check to see how much you're paying for your cell phone bill because some ad agency convinced billions of people they had to stay connected.  To em, that was the biggest and most successful market strategy ever pulled off.  Millions of people on the phone 24/7 talking about nothing except what so and so said to so and so and what your new dress looks like.  When's the last time you heard a loud cell phone conversation that was about anything except gossip and day-to-day drivel?   Oh, wait.  I heard a deal being made, once.

Yes consider its the real LA [not Lower Alabama] and anything goes.

Aug 9, 2013 5:39PM
hey people with money will squander it on anything even stupid crud !!!
Aug 9, 2013 9:12PM
And what the people don't realize is that it is the same damn water that comes from the tap... lol
Yet another reason to separate california from the rest of this nation.
Aug 9, 2013 9:01PM
Aug 9, 2013 8:46PM
Drink the tap water you dummies !!!!
Aug 9, 2013 7:10PM

Stories like this make me flinch.

For all it's faults, we are drinking the safest water in the history of the modern world..

As long as it's limited to CA we may be saved.

Otherwise we are doomed.

Aug 9, 2013 5:35PM

The best commentary ever on bottled water...

Awwwww MSN deleted the link :S  Go to YouTube and search for Jim Galligan., Bottled Water.  Then my post will actually make sense.  Booooooooooo MSN


Aug 9, 2013 4:23PM
"Americans drink about 58 gallons of water a year" ??? That is horriable.. Men should be drinking a gallon of water a day..Women not far behind that.....Water is all you need...your body and skin will thank you for it!...LOL...but u dont have to pay $12.00 for it at one sitting...I pay $12.00 and that is almost two week (gallon a day supply) and i feel like a yuppie doing that.
Aug 9, 2013 6:35PM
I lost the bet (I bet the 1st Obama comment would be btween 29 and 40). So I have to say "QuackersX9 is a big loser" thank you
Aug 9, 2013 9:00PM
Not only is the government that I call the Taliban screwing us, but now the restaurants too.
Aug 9, 2013 10:55PM

Time to say it

California...The Land of Fruits and Nuts...

Aug 10, 2013 12:41AM
I'll have a sixer of melted Antarctic ice cores, j/k.  Actually I'll stick to the trusty tap water from the Great Lakes, much better than the crapola that makes up the bottles.  The worst is a plastic bottled beer at a ballpark for upwards of $6, nasty!
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