The Untold Truth Of Liquid Death Canned Water

There's no denying it: The punk rock renaissance is upon us. Millennials are once again strutting around in ripped, baggy jeans and tight tank tops. They're screaming the lyrics of Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi" while watching her debut TikTok video. Kourtney Kardashian is wearing combat boots and tattooing Travis Barker's sole remaining patch of bare skin. Just the other day, the Venice Beach boardwalk erupted into punk-rock madness during Machine Gun Kelly's impromptu rooftop concert. Yes, the metallic, sweaty smell of punk rock is in the air. And apparently, it's also in the water.

Liquid Death, the latest venture from Netflix creative director Mike Cessario, bills itself as water that "murders your thirst" better than any other water out there. The water in question is sourced in the Austrian Alps and comes in tallboy aluminum cans that look a lot like intimidating energy drinks or craft beer. Liquid Death's logo — a skull that appears to be melting or on fire — stretches across the front of each can beneath the words "murder your thirst" and the brand's name, etched in gothic lettering. Honestly, the last thing you'd expect to find inside a can of Liquid Death is plain old water.

A canned water designed for punks

You can get your Liquid Death sparkling or flat, in a six-pack or solo. You can buy it straight off the company's website or from a few well-known grocery and convenient stores, like 7-11, Sprouts Farmers Market, Whole Foods, and Sheetz. In this sense, Liquid Death is really no different from any other brand in the bottled water industry. Sure, it's putting an unnecessary price tag on H2O (just another one of American capitalism's hilarious quirks), but really it's selling you a message, one it hopes you'll be able to identify with. While Fiji Water may target the yoga instructor, Boxed Water the unassuming supermodel, and Topo Chico the trendy city dweller (we could go on forever), Liquid Death's marketed message is simple: Punks need water, too. Especially the punks who shop at Whole Foods.

Of course, Liquid Death knows that, stripped of all its "deadly" design, its product is nothing more than water in a can. And they want you to know that they know. The brand's website states its intentions very clearly. "Liquid Death is a completely unnecessary approach to bottled water," the company's About Us section reads. "In fact, we strive to be unnecessary in everything we do. Because unnecessary things tend to be far more interesting, fun, hilarious, captivating, memorable, exciting, and cult-worthy than 'necessary' things."

Water, but make it a joke

While Liquid Death recognizes its superfluity, the brand is also pointing a finger at the exclusivity of bottled water in the health and wellness game and claims that "most products in the health and wellness space are all marketed with 'aspirational' fitness models and airbrushed celebrities. And many of us are tired of it." Liquid Death, on the other hand, rejects the "aspirational" take on bottled water, opting instead for a more sarcastic approach. "Why should unhealthy products be the only brands with 'permission' to be loud, fun, and weird?" the statement on the company's website continues. "And let's be honest, almost all marketing and branding is just theater. So we're going to treat our theater like a movie theater and have more fun with it."

Basically, Liquid Death is water for people who don't want to take their water so seriously. An interesting argument for a brand who claims its product is equivalent to death in a can. But alas, it's all part of the joke. Ha, ha.

While a lot of the branding for Liquid Death is really nothing more than smoke and mirrors, the company is doing a few productive(ish) things worth mentioning.

A water bottle company that actually recycles

First of all, its aluminum cans are more easily recyclable than most plastic water bottles (although The New Yorker noted this does not entirely offset the environmental toll of mining and processing aluminum). If you buy a six-pack of Liquid Death, you can rest assured that, as long as you dispose of it in the right place, it will be recycled.

To further emphasize this point, Liquid Death has even provided an outlet through which you can exercise your frustrations with the bottled drink industry. In an initiative they've jokingly titled "Loving Homes for Plastic," the brand will ship you a pack of prepaid postage stamps that you can stick on any Coca-Cola or PepsiCo bottle (this includes all the bottled drink brands that these corporations own) and ship it directly back to the respective company's headquarters. After all, if those bottles can't be recycled, they may as well be "returned to sender."

A contradiction in a can

Of course, like virtually every for-profit business, Liquid Death is full of contradictions. While the brand gladly invites its customers to "stick it to the man," so to speak, by mailing nonrecyclable plastic bottles back to the billion-dollar corporations that produced them, it's also made its six-packs available on Amazon. For a company that basically bills itself as a giant prank on the bottled water industry, it's already raised $1.6 million in venture funding, no joke. And as The New Yorker notes, its recyclable containers aren't nearly eco-friendly enough to make up for the environmental cost of freighting thousands of gallons of Austrian Alps water for the consumption of Americans who consider themselves too punk for the tap (whatever that means).

Finally, there's the contradictory nature of the product itself, and the question that Liquid Death, like many of its competitors, is skirting: Is it even ethical to sell water? After all, more than 1 million Americans are estimated to lack access to clean, free drinking water. It could be argued that Liquid Death has attempted to bury this question beneath a joke-y facade, focusing instead on marketing its gag products, like stuffed animals strangled in plastic trash or the "no brainer," a head-piece made of four koozies that, when stuffed with cans of Liquid Death, is intended to fend off the incoming "zombie apocalypse."

It's just water in a costume

All in all, Liquid Death may be small potatoes compared to its competitors in the packaged water game, but, at least for the time being, it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. And if you're going to buy water, you may as well buy it in its most recyclable format from a company that's at least attempting a little humility. But in the end, despite its punk-rock image, the water inside a can of Liquid Death isn't all that different from the water inside, say, a Fiji bottle, or a can of La Croix. It's just water, dressed up. 

Ultimately, the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to drink water is to simply fill a reusable bottle. While a can of Liquid Death may look cool, we suggest you stick to the advice your mother gave you the first time you smeared black eyeliner across your eyes: It's what's on the inside that counts.