The lounge. The smell of chalky beans in a microwaved burrito. Cold Chinese leftovers. A squashed tuna sandwich. Most of your co-workers wash their food down with water from the cooler or a diet Coke. However, one guy pulls a plastic vial from his pocket and waves it over his cup of water. Red ribbons lash out and the water turns the color of Gatorade. “What's that?” you ask. “It's water enhancer,” he replies, as if granting a gift.

Water enhancer looks like the stuff of a futuristic cocktail bar, an elixir that extraterrestrial barkeeps might squirt into steaming beakers of murky space-booze. Kraft's MiO makes six varieties of sugar-free water enhancer, including Sweet Tea and Orange Tangerine, and advertises its wares as an opportunity for consumers to customize their drinks down to the drop.

“Make water awesome again,” pledges the company. As reported in Beverage Daily, on Oct. 1, Coke is getting in on the act with its own line: no-calorie Dasani Drops, in nine flavors, including Pink Lemonade, Pineapple Coconut, and Mixed Berry.

Generally speaking, the idea is that water is good to drink — but also that water is boring. With water enhancers, you can add flavor at a fraction of the cost of a bottle of juice or soda (for example, Dasani Drops will sell for $4 per pack), and avoid the calories those beverages tend to harbor.

Get a lemon, you might suggest. Try some mint, a few cucumber slices — even a chunk of apple submerged in the depths of your canteen. But to people accustomed to soft drinks, such natural enhancers don't deliver the teeth-rattling, pseudo-sugary payload. And cutting fruit is way more work than delivering a squeeze.

Over in the lounge, you ask to try it and your co-worker obliges. You take a sip from your newly anointed cup. Your water had been transformed into a liquid lollipop. You choke it down, refill (sans enhancer), and retreat to the bathroom to wash your mouth out. You might consider that your next cup of water — the boring, naked sort — has been enhanced by the experience.

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