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The first time I ever tried sparkling water, I remember thinking it tasted like Sprite, only missing the good stuff. I’m embarrassed to admit this now, but back then I didn’t realize that the “good stuff” was anything but good. I’ve since learned sodas hide ugly ingredients like sugars, syrups, and artificial ingredients behind fun and bold packaging. DTC beverage brand Ugly Drinks is on a mission to expose this ugly truth and inform people how to enjoy real, raw goodness.
The Ugly Truth
Ugly Drinks co-founders Hugh Thomas and Joe Benn launched their brand in 2016 with the intention of turning the beverage industry on its head -- they intentionally created an undesigned product so that they could focus on what is inside the can rather than what’s on it. Since launching its signature line of sparkling water in London, Ugly has expanded globally and garnered five-star reviews from around the web. Today, they use a digital-first approach to identify and connect with their customers and then send honestly delicious drinks straight to their doors.
When I was in college, I became obsessed with La Croix. I would make down-the-street supermarket runs on the regular, but then I graduated, got a job, and moved into a five-floor apartment complex. The weekly restocking effort just wasn’t worth it. I gradually stopped buying my precious La Croix without even noticing.
Thankfully, Ugly Drinks is mindful of the water-case-schlep. During global lockdowns, they launched the quarantine dream and began delivering cases of their delicious sparkling water straight to customers’ doors. Ordering a case is as easy as logging online and choosing your flavors -- Ugly even has a recurring subscription program that auto-ships cases to your door every 30 days for 10% off the one-time purchase price. After ordering my shipment, I’ve had more seltzer in the past week than the last few months combined.
The Tasty Truth
To be frank, I wasn’t initially sure Ugly’s product would stand out beyond being a more convenient option. However, in the midst of seltzer’s big moment, Ugly Drinks has separated itself from the pack. While I typically sip on the Plain or Lemon Lime, I haven’t been able to stop drinking Ugly’s zany, fun flavors.
Ugly Drinks has created a seltzer that actually tastes different than other sparkling waters I’ve tried in the past (and to be clear, I’ve tried a lot). Ugly’s flavors are so crisp and fresh that I can’t stop chugging them. That may be because they’re made of sparkling water, natural fruit essential oils, and… that’s it.
While I was initially hesitant to try some of their bold flavors like Pina Colada and Watermelon out of fear that they would taste too candy-ish or childlike, I was pleasantly surprised to taste flavors that tap into the childlike spirit of candy, but still go down like a fresh gulp of water. It’s almost like Willy Wonka and Gwyneth Paltrow set out to find common ground and came back with these cans of goodness. In addition to Pina Colada and Watermelon, Ugly offers flavors like Peach, Cherry, Lemon-Lime, and Grapefruit.
Lastly, I wouldn’t be a proper seltzer connoisseur if I didn’t comment on the drink’s finish. I’m elated to report there’s no fake, chemical-y aftertaste, and the bubbles are top-notch. While other seltzers can be met with a painful, burning swallow, Ugly Drinks has a nice initial fizz with a uniquely smooth finish. It almost feels like you’re swallowing still water, which is a sensation I hadn’t previously experienced with a seltzer.
The 'Ugly Mob'
It’s no surprise to me that Ugly Drinks has accumulated a cult-like following, aptly coined the “Ugly Mob.” Ugly Drinks connects with its fans through social media, email, and surveys -- and they prioritize the mob’s feedback so much that they’ve actually made new flavor (and merch!) decisions based on the mob’s votes.
Most recently, Ugly Drinks has introduced limited-edition flavor drops for its mob members each month. Once limited-edition flavors are gone, they’re gone forever -- and their first two drops (Cherry Cola and Sour Apple) sold out in the first week. This month, Ugly Drinks is dropping a brand new Marshmallow flavor, and I’m surprised at my eagerness to try it.
For A Good Cause
Thomas and Benn were serious about conducting business differently -- one of the coolest parts of Ugly Drinks is that the company recognizes that our world is facing ugly truths beyond just the beverage industry… and they’re working to combat those, too.
They’ve partnered with both Girl Up and Oceanic Global to fight gender inequality and plastic pollution -- the brand makes a donation to Girl Up for every can of sparkling water sold and to Oceanic Global with each Still or Energy purchase. I was excited to see that Ugly is putting its money where their mouth is and both speaks and acts consciously.
The Final Sips
Beyond its pure convenience, Ugly Drinks is a brand worth the hype -- in flavor, experience, and fun. They’ve created a phenomenal product in a crowded space, and they’ve done so in a raw and truthful way. I’m excited to continue supporting a brand built on ethics and honesty, and I’m eagerly anticipating their next limited-edition drop. Ugly Drinks has certainly found a new ugly mob member in me -- now, who’s joining next?
Five More Reasons We Love Ugly Drinks:
- Now This, PopSugar, Bustle, and Forbes have all given Ugly Drinks their seal of approval.
- In addition to their sparkling water line, Ugly Drinks also sells Energy Water and Plain Ugly (still) water -- both of which are natural, sugar-free, and calorie-free.
- Their monthly limited-edition flavors are getting more unique and flavorful by the month, so we can’t wait to see what they drop next.
- Ugly Drinks believes sparkling beverages should be accessible to all, so their products are surprisingly affordable -- and subscribers save 10% on each pack.
- Purchasing a box directly benefits either Girl Up or Oceanic Global to fight gender inequality and plastic pollution.