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The bottled-water section dizzied me as I searched through the sea of containers for flavored water with no sugar. I was hunting out beverages for Jennifer, a pregnant pal of mine who has gestational diabetes. "No fruit juices, sodas, wine, or margaritas," she had complained last week at the coffee chat. "My mouth is dying for some refreshment other than milk." I detected frustration in the mama-to-be. "I've been buying sparkling flavored water," she grumbled, "but, frankly, my stomach is gurgly enough without the carbonation." I offered to find some refreshment for her and headed off to the stores.

To my amazement, neither Henry's nor Trader Joe's carried sugar-free flavored water without carbonation. Even the Glaceau Vitaminwater contained sugar. Better head home to make some calls before I waste steps, I thought. "We sell Metromint waters, which are a flavored sugar-free drink," answered the saleslady at People's Natural Foods Market.

After a couple hours of shopping, I returned home. Close to midnight, hubby Patrick and I sat down for some sipping. We started with Nestlé Pure Life Lemon Splash ( $3.19 for six half-liter bottles at Ralphs), sweetened with Splenda, Jennifer's warning rang in my mind. "Anything sweetened with a sugar-free sweetener always has a terrible aftertaste." We each took a slug and Patrick's scrunched-up face said it all. "Tastes like a flavored lemonade mix made really weak," he said. "Too sweet to me for a water," I replied as I read the bottle's label, "and an unbelievable amount of chemicals for just water."

Nestlé Raspberry Splash fared no better, so we set the Nestlé aside and moved on to Fruit2O Natural Strawberry ( $3.29 for a six-pack of 16-ounce bottles at Ralphs). It was less syrupy and sweet than its Nestlé cousin, but it was hard to imagine drinking a bottle to quench my thirst.

Fruit2O Natural Cherry smelled like a cherry scratch 'n' sniff. "This tastes like ass," moaned Patrick, never one to mince words. "Why do they put 'natural' on it? Nothing natural about it. The only good thing about it is that it makes our terrible tap water taste good," he said, slugging some tap water to wash away the taste.

We twisted off the cap of the Metromint Lemonmint water ( $1.59 for 16.9 ounces at People's). "Strong mint-leaf smell, instead of mint toothpaste," I noted. "It's like dry wine," Pat added. "It has a dry finish instead of the other waters that left your mouth too sticky. It leaves your mouth refreshed as if you had brushed your teeth. Feeling the Chill Factor yet?" I joked, reading the label on the bottle: "Experience the chill factor: the cooling sensation you can only get with Metromint. The real mint naturally stimulates the nerves, instantly opening your senses to send a fresh, cool feeling throughout your body."

The Orangemint relative was our second favorite. "Definitely thirst-quenching, and it wipes away the Splenda taste of the Nestlé, a winner in my book," I said.

We set the two bottles aside as clear winners and took a slug of the Metromint Spearmint. "This is still refreshing but a bit too much like mouthwash," Patrick said. "I feel like I just gargled. It could be good to offer a coworker if they had bad breath. Less offensive than offering a bottle of Scope or a mint."

Metromint Peppermint was our least favorite of the clan. "Tastes like liquid Altoids," was all my man could say.

The next family of waters up for tasting: Hint ( $1.50 for 16 ounces at Ralphs). The first variety, cucumber, was a winner. It smelled just like a freshly cut cucumber and brought us back to the day Patrick and I spent sipping cucumber water between massages and pedicures at SK Spa in La Jolla. "It's called Hint," Patrick said, "but that's more than a hint of cucumber, it is more like a strong suggestion."

The Pear flavor was Patrick's favorite of the evening. "You can almost imagine sweetness from the smell of pear, but it isn't sweet, it's very clean and subtle."

The Pomegranate-Tangerine Hint and the Peppermint Hint both failed the taste test, but the Raspberry-Lime Hint was a surprise winner. "Smells so much like a Jolly Rancher that I was all prepared to not like it," I explained. "But just the right amount of flavor without losing the water effect."

Both of the next bottles, O Water ( $1.39 for 20 ounces at Vons), were losers. "Call me crazy, but I can taste some chemical taste in these naturally flavored waters," noticed Patrick.

Our last selection was a wild-card item. While I perused the shelves at Whole Foods, the Hi0Silver Original Oxygen Water had jumped out at me ( $4.99 for a four-pack). The aluminum can stated, "The best water you can drink." How could I pass that offer up for my morning-sick pal. It also stated, "Ten times the oxygen of ordinary water." My curiosity got the better of me; it had to be tasted. Much to our surprise, it was the best water we had tasted. "Almost tastes like flavored water, though it has no flavor in it," Patrick said. "A very light water has the feel of an effervescent water but without the bubbles," I added. "Jennifer would love this water, too," I thought, setting it aside.

When all the waters had been tasted, Patrick flopped onto the couch with a bottle of beer. "This is my idea of flavored water."

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