New bar in Dubai offers mineral-infused ‘gourmet water’ to ‘suit your mood’

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — First up are banana, berry and wheatgrass smoothies. Then cold brew, triple-shot, milk lattes, craft beers in German, Prohibition cocktails in small batches aged in barrels.

Now a new bar in Dubai, the Middle Eastern hub of all things tech, is serving up “gourmet water.”

Thirty varieties.

Luqel’s Aqua Water Bar harvests its water the old-fashioned way – from the tap. The government claims that tap water is safe to drink and meets international standards, although many Dubai residents prefer bottled water.

Then they use a micro-dosing system designed by German water filtration company Luqel to inject minerals. They offer to match the mineralization of premium water brands, catering to all types of water enthusiasts, from alpine or arctic backgrounds.

“Our water sommeliers have designed the drinks according to your needs and your mood,” says Roia Jabari, the general manager. “We can give you the perfectly mineralized recipe.”

“Runners Heaven”, which is high in sodium and potassium, is designed for joggers recovering from the scorching desert heat. “Vegan’s Choice” offers minerals that could be lacking in a strictly herbivorous diet. Customers can fill their bottles with any of the mineral blends for around 50 cents per 500 milliliters (16 fluid ounces) or pay more for mocktails.

It’s not an entirely new concept.

Bottlers have long marketed water extracted from natural springs or remote mountains. Coke and Pepsi got in on the action years ago, adding sweeteners and fizz as they competed with Evian and Perrier, blurring the lines between water and soda.

These products have become popular as consumers embrace healthier lifestyles and treat tap water with often-justified distrust.

Bottled water is the most widely consumed beverage in the United States, with the average American drinking 46.5 gallons a year, compared to 36 gallons of soft drinks, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, a consulting group. But it’s rare to find a bar that specializes in water, rather than offering it for free to patrons who abuse alcohol.

A water bar serving what it said was heavily filtered New York tap water opened in the city’s East Village in 2012, sparking a torrent of criticism. Another briefly opened in Washington, DC in 2019 to lesser rave reviews. Neither seems to have stayed open very long.

But Dubai, an ultra-modern metropolis built on the sands of the desert, could be fertile ground for the trend.

Alcohol is available in bars and clubs in the United Arab Emirates, the federation of seven emirates that includes Dubai, but the Muslim country has a large abstainer population. As an international business hub, it attracts the wealthy, fitness-conscious types that underpin the wellness industry.

Jabari insists the water bar, although frequented by businessmen in suits who work around Dubai Media City, is not just for wealthy patrons, saying water costs 2 dirhams or 54 US cents for 500 milliliters (about 16.9 fl oz), is not too expensive.

In a nod to sustainability, customers can either refill their bottles or purchase reusable ones starting at around $2.50. “One of the things that feels like scratching a chalkboard to me is seeing people walking around with plastic bottles,” Jabari said.

The initial response seems positive, with the bar enjoying a 4.6-star Google rating based on a dozen reviews.

“(The water) was actually different,” said Bilal Rizvi, who stopped by to try it out this week. “It’s pretty good. The turmeric water was awesome.

Jabari says his favorite drink, the virgin non-alcoholic mojito, is also very popular. “There’s a hint of cucumber and lime, a hint of sweetness, with agave and honey.”

The San Diego, Calif.-born interior designer, who has lived in the United Arab Emirates for 24 years, designed the water-themed bar. Bubble-shaped lights illuminate the blue and white tones of the decor. In an ode to its heritage, the bar also serves Persian cuisine.

She hopes to expand the business, seeing room for growth in Dubai’s parched neighbors.

“Saudi Arabia is a huge market for us. I believe Abu Dhabi is our next step.

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