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Wave of gourmet water consumers creates demand for water sommeliers

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Move over vineyards, there’s a new highbrow beverage in town – and it comes from your hose.

Demand for gourmet water has skyrocketed over the past few years, as The Daily Meal notes, leading restaurants to design water menus — and even water bars. The new spring of water-conscious consumers has created a rare breed of fine dining professional, the water sommelier.

That’s right, restaurateurs are learning the nuances behind the flavor and chemical structure of water to better market the basic element to life.

The Los Angeles Times recently profiled one such water sommelier. Martin Riese, general manager of Ray’s and Stark, the restaurant inside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, launched the restaurant’s first water menu on Monday.

"All waters have unique tastes, and a lot of Americans think water is just water, but I completely don't believe in that," Riese, an immigrant from Germany, told the LA Times. "Water has so many interesting nuances."

The menu will feature 20 different types of water from 10 countries, including upscale brands like Fiji (from Fiji), Voss (from Norway), Badoit (from France), and Berg (from Canada). It will include a photo of each water bottle, the history of the water, the mineral content of the water and a water-specific taste rating system, much like a wine rating score.

The highlight of the menu is specialty water Riese designed himself, called Beverly Hills 90H20, made from Sierra Nevada springs, which retails for $12 a bottle. The price of the other waters will range from $8 to $20 a bottle.

If you think those prices are steep, try tap water from the Manhattan café, Molecule, which goes for $2.50 a glass. And that’s city tap water. Although, to the water’s credit, it is passed through a seven-stage filtration system.

Interested in becoming a water sommelier? There are not many options for where to learn. Riese got his water sommelier certification after completing a week-long course in Germany at Doemen’s. The course costs just over $3,000 and, according to the LA Times, is one of the only schools in the world to offer a water specialist certification.