Don’t mess with Texas—at least when it comes to the bubbly stuff. The state’s affection for a certain Mexican mineral water has inspired cocktails, country songs, and lately, a crop of local competitors. “When we started this thing, Texas didn’t have a sparkling water,” says Christian Helms, who co-founded Austin-based Big Swig in 2017. “We were drinking a lot of Topo Chico, but there wasn’t really a local option. So it made all the sense in the world to build something that was uniquely Texan.” Their independent approach reveals itself in bold can design and even bolder flavors, from Chile Mango and Watermelon Mint to Jalapeño Pineapple and a surprising new addition: Party Pickle.
“Pickles are such a Southern thing,” says Helms, who grew up near Asheville, North Carolina. “But when I moved to Texas, I realized that they’re even bigger here—probably driven by German heritage and barbecue.” The latter, he says, made releasing the unconventional new flavor a no-brainer. “We knew that folks would really be excited by it, and that it would pique curiosity. But we also knew that it would pair fantastically with barbecue.”
The beverage itself has a strong pickle aroma, but the taste is subtler and slightly salty, with a hint of cucumber. It’s easy to see how it might stand up to a thick slice of brisket, or form the base for a pickleback-inspired whiskey soda. Big Swig’s recommended cocktail formula takes cues from a different kind of briny libation—the Martini—by mixing a half ounce of Party Pickle seltzer with dry vermouth and vodka or gin.
“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Helms says of the new flavor. “There are always going to be a handful of folks who aren’t the biggest fans of pickles in general. And, y’know, this is probably not for them.” But Helms says the most common reaction so far has been curiosity—followed by pleasant surprise. “We’re not one of the big guys who are going to ‘focus group’ ideas to death,” he says. “We trust people to want something flavorful and unique in a sea of sameness. And they’ve completely proven us right.”
Being the little guy in a big H2O world does have its drawbacks, though: for now, Big Swig is Texas-only. Twelve-packs of most flavors are available at H-E-B grocery stores, and the Party Pickle flavor (along with Chile Mango and Jalapeño Pineapple) comes in single 16-ounce cans, ripe for convenience-store impulse-buys. (“We’ve started calling them ‘y’allboys’,” Helms jokes.) Helms says online ordering is certainly on the table if Big Swig hears from enough thirsty fans, but in the meantime, curious drinkers will have to pack their bags for Texas—or settle for a pickle-juice fix someplace else.