Seltzer Water, Club Soda, and Tonic Explained

If you're looking for a refreshing and fizzy beverage, you'll probably encounter club soda, tonic water, and seltzer water. Whether you want a healthier alternative to soda or a mixer for cocktails, each option offers something unique. Use our guide explaining the characteristics of each fizzy drink to help you make the right choice for your bar.

What Is Club Soda?

two Tom Collins cocktails with cherries and lemon slices as garnishes

Club soda is carbonated water with added compounds for taste. Although it may differ from brand to brand, club soda usually contains ingredients such as sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride, and potassium sulfate.

Though club soda has zero calories and no caffeine, the sodium content may vary based on the brand and serving size of the liquid. Most brands of club soda have below 5% of your daily value of sodium, so don't worry about excessive sodium intake if you drink club soda in moderation.

What Does Club Soda Taste Like?

Club soda has a slightly more salty, mineral flavor than traditional seltzer. However, it still boasts a clean and fresh taste and can easily be swapped out for seltzer.

What Is Club Soda Used For?

Club soda is an excellent mixer for many cocktails. This beverage is a staple in several well-known drinks like a Tom Collins, a gin rickey, or a paloma. You can also use club soda to make non-alcoholic drinks, like Italian soda or bubbly lemonade.

Did you know? If you replace water or milk with club soda in your dough and batter recipes, the results will yield an airier product. This trick is ideal for creating fluffy pancakes and waffles.

Club Soda vs Seltzer

While club soda is carbonated water with additional ingredients, like sodium chloride and potassium sulfate, seltzer is artificially carbonated water. So, if you want a slightly simpler taste, seltzer water is a good choice. However, you can use seltzer and club soda interchangeably in recipes with no flavor difference.

What Is Tonic Water?

vodka tonic with ice cubes, straw, and lime slice in glass

In its simplest form, tonic water is carbonated water with high-fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate (a preservative), citric acid, and quinine (a naturally occurring compound) that adds to its flavor and calorie count. Tonic water is delicious in the classic gin and tonic or vodka tonic.

What Does Tonic Water Taste Like?

Tonic water has a bitter and somewhat sweet flavor.

Did you know? Quinine was originally used as a medicine for malaria, so British soldiers would mix soda water, sugar, and eventually gin to help the bitter taste go down a little more easily. Quinine is also fluorescent, so the next time you get a chance, hold your gin and tonic underneath a black light.

Tonic Water vs Club Soda

Tonic water and club soda contain similar ingredients and are artificially carbonated. However, the quinine in tonic water significantly alters the flavor, making it stand out compared to club soda. Due to the slightly bitter taste of tonic water, using it instead of club soda may change the taste of your drink. However, there won't be a noticeable flavor difference if you plan to replace tonic water with club soda.

What Is Seltzer Water?

Seltzer water in glass

Seltzer water is simply water that has been carbonated artificially with carbon dioxide. It contains no other additives, like salts or sweeteners, so it has zero calories and no sugar. Because of its neutral taste, it makes an ideal base for different types of drinks and is found in popular beverages, such as White Claw Hard Seltzer. You can easily make your own hard seltzer with seltzer water.

What Does Seltzer Taste Like?

Seltzer water has a clean, simple taste with a lot of fizz. If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to soda, seltzer is a good place to start.

Did you know? Seltzer originated in a small town called Selters in Germany. Beginning in the late 8th century, the area was renowned for the supposed healing properties of its natural springs. It became a symbol of health and wealth over time, as only the rich could import this special water from Selters.

Tonic vs Seltzer

Seltzer does not have minerals or additives, but tonic contains corn syrup, quinine, and several other ingredients. Both are artificially carbonated. If replacing a drink with tonic water that usually calls for seltzer, your drink may have a slightly bitter flavor. However, since seltzer water has a clean taste, replacing your beverage with seltzer instead of tonic water will not drastically change your cocktail or mixed drink.

What Is Sparkling Water?

Sparkling water in glass

Sparkling water is just naturally or unnaturally carbonated water. Similar to seltzer water, it does not contain additional preservatives or compounds. Naturally carbonated water is mineral water that is carbonated from naturally occurring gases, while unnaturally carbonated water may be mineral water or another type of water (tap or bottle) with added carbonation. You can make sparkling water on your own with a soda siphon.

What Is Sparkling Mineral Water?

Sparkling mineral water comes from a natural spring or well. It may be carbonated organically from naturally occurring gases or artificially carbonated. As the name suggests, mineral water naturally contains minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, sodium, and zinc. Sometimes it is referred to as sparkling water, though not all mineral water is carbonated, and not all sparkling water is made from mineral water.

Seltzer vs Sparkling Water

The difference between seltzer and sparkling water comes from the carbonation process. While seltzer is artificially carbonated, sparkling water is naturally carbonated. Neither contains additives, but sparkling mineral water contains minerals from the water source. Seltzer and sparkling water have identical tastes, so use them interchangeably in drink recipes.

Can Club Soda, Seltzer, and Tonic Water Be Used Interchangeably?

Club soda and seltzer water are interchangeable with little to no flavor change, but tonic water should not substitute club soda or seltzer. With its distinct bitter or citrus flavor, tonic water may drastically affect the flavor of the drink you are trying to make. Conversely, replacing tonic water with club soda and seltzer in a cocktail will yield a more neutral taste than with tonic water.

Create Your Own Carbonated Water

Though $1 for a one-liter bottle is reasonable, making your own carbonated water can help save money for your business. Use a soda siphon and charger to create seltzer easily and affordably. The soda siphon is a one-time purchase and you only need to replace the chargers occasionally.

With an understanding of the variances between club soda, seltzer, and tonic water, you can correctly choose what to stock in your bar. Tempt your guests a new and unique cocktail on your beverage menu by combining liquor, juice, and your choice of sparkling water.

Posted in: Bars & Breweries|Kitchen & Cooking Tips|By Hannah Herrera
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