A Cuban-American Floridan, who asked to be called Jolene, was strolling past Los Angeles's trendy Line Hotel when she spotted a bearded man sipping from a yellow LaCroix can. "Stop appropriating my Fort Lauderdale slut water!" she screamed.
She was not alone in her anger. Jolene and I attended the same high school, and over the past year, I have heard many former classmates complain that Fort Lauderdale locals were chugging the flavored beverage for over a decade before hipsters and tech bros dubbed it the sparkling water de jour. Now Florida girls want their credit.
"Everyone is entitled to drink their LaCroix, but Florida girls deserve their percentage," demands Sophie, a Floridian who now lives in Brooklyn. "We deserve to be recognized as the OG drinkers of LaCroix."
LaCroix's parent company, National Beverage Corp., has made the ritzy Fort Lauderdale suburb Plantation its home for over 20 years (they did not respond to Broadly's multiple requests for comment), but like many Florida-based families, LaCroix originally hails from a colder state. In 1981, the family-owned GE Heileman Brewing Company brainstormed the drink in Wisconsin. They struggled to promote it (some blame their lack of experience with non-alcoholic drinks) till the early 1990s, when the company reestablish itself as Perrier's chief competitor. Enough stores caught on to LaCroix for the National Beverage Corp. to buy the product in 1996. They rebranded the flavored sparkling water, creating its distinctly Floridian can design.
"The packaging looks like Deco Drive meets that sign outside the strip club in every 90s movie," Jolene describes. She has always associated LaCroix with her hometown: "That song 'Girls, Girls, Girls' by Mötley Crüe mentions Fort Lauderdale specifically. LaCroix is that song." Emily, another Florida girl, agrees. "I feel like I've drank it since infancy, but probably middle school realistically."
Some learned of the drink at high school jobs—one girl told me she took her first sip at American Apparel—but most were handed LaCroix by their mothers who viewed it as a local delicacy. "My mother put it in my bottle," recalls Sophie.
Many mothers went so far as stockpiling LaCroix in the garage fridge like a doomsday supply. "Hurricane season is always weird because moms will buy the LaCroix instead of water," Jolene notes. "[LaCroix] tastes like home, like a humid Florida garage."
The flavored sparkling water has also built a reputation as a party drink throughout the Sunshine State. "Moms use it to make white wine spritzers with ice cubes," remembers Sarah, another Floridian.
I first spotted LaCroix at parties, where girls filled empty cans with vodka. Jolene would fill them with vodka, sangria, and orange juice to make a concoction she called "the Florida girl." As a Floridian named Shideh explains, "[LaCroix was for] girls who wanted to have a good time, a relaxed moment."
Many ragers even took place in Plantation, where the National Beverage Corp. operates it headquarters. In the suburb's $27,000-a-year private school American Heritage, one of my friends often went to the bathroom to fill a LaCroix can with vodka. She sipped her mixed drink during lit mag meetings.
No wonder hipsters' and startup dudes' LaCroix obsession befuddles Floridians. Many of us drank LaCroix from our bottle to bottle service years, and we've always considered the drink commonplace but not trendy. "I am shocked to learn it has become hip," Jolene admits. "Have 90s Fort Lauderdale strip clubs also become hip?"
Other Floridians have grown angry over the beverage's newfound popularity. When Sophie moved to Brooklyn, she got pissed at the northerners acting like they discovered Lacroix. "I hate Brooklyn," she says. "I'm very Florida." Rian, also a Florida expat in Brooklyn, complains, "I am mad at hipsters for making LaCroix something instead of just a drink… People who go to backyard parties in Florida [drank it first]."
Most Florida girls, though, laugh at LaCroix' new cultural relevance. "For me, hipsters don't take away the appeal," Jolene remarks. "It's amusing to know they're drinking from the Fort Lauderdale fountain of youth."
Photos and additional reporting by Melanie Metz. Makeup by Shideh Katei