At most restaurants, the only alternative to quaffing potentially metal- and bacteria-laden tap water is posed as the up-selling query, "still or gas?"
Yet, a handful of local restaurateurs are approaching water with the same artistry as they do their menus, infusing the life-sustaining liquid with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Jeff Rossman, owner and executive chef at Terra American Bistro in La Mesa, infuses highly filtered drinking water with the local, organic produce he buys for his seasonally-driven delicacies.
Rossman began with tamer pairings such as mint and cucumber, later moving on to more ambitious combinations like orange and star anise, or lemongrass and citrus waters. His most intriguing blend so far pairs basil's sweet earthiness with the dual fruitiness of melon and pineapple.
Taking a cue from native plant experts, Jay Porter, owner of North Park restaurant The Linkery, infuses his water with locally grown white sage.
"The local Kumeyaay Indians used to infuse their water with white sage to give it nourishing properties," Porter says.
Andrew Schiff, co-owner of Spread in North Park, uses fresh-cut flowers and herbs from the hydroponic garden behind his restaurant to punch up his water's flavor profile. He has added fresh rose pedals, African blue basil, flowering rosemary and chamomile to his aguas.
"We have 62 plants in our garden," Schiff says. "We just clip and cut whatever we have. It changes every single day."
The result, he says, is a total sensory experience, arousing diners' sense of sight, smell and taste.
Schiff says the nutrients from freshly cut flowers and herbs also give his waters an energizing boost.
"When food is in its flowering form, that's where the sex actually takes place," he says. "That's the most energizing force that puts life on the planet."
Sexy water? H2Whoah!
Terra American Bistro
7091 El Cajon Boulevard
2879 University Avenue
3794 30th Street