Club Soda vs. Seltzer: What's the Difference?

Everything you need to know about these fizzy favorites.

Have you hopped on the SodaStream trend yet? There is increasing interest in on-demand carbonated water for a number of reasons: It saves you money, reduces your carbon footprint, and helps to satisfy your soda cravings.

The term "carbonated water" is really an umbrella phrase that can refer to a number of fizzy beverages, including seltzer water, club soda, sparkling mineral water, and tonic water. If you didn't know there was a difference between these drinks, you're not alone. Here, you'll learn the difference between the different types of carbonated water and how to use each of them for cocktails, sodas, and more.

What Is Seltzer?

Sparkling water with lime and ice on green and yellow burst background
Jack Andersen/Getty Images

Seltzer is the simplest form of all carbonated waters, so we'll start there. Seltzer water is simply water that has been injected with carbon dioxide. It's the base of so many favorite drinks, like our beloved LaCroix.

You get seltzer water when your at-home soda maker injects carbon dioxide into distilled water. Use seltzer water as a base for homemade sodas by adding soda syrups like this strawberry soda syrup from Chef John or trying this homemade cream soda recipe. It can also be used as a substitute for club soda in cocktails.

What Is Club Soda?

Club soda is water that has been injected with both carbon dioxide and added minerals like potassium bicarbonate and potassium sulfate. These minerals give the drink a bit of a salty taste, helping to enhance the flavor of the water.

Club soda is most commonly used as a mixer in cocktails thanks to its enhanced flavor from the minerals. Try it in a classic cocktail like the Tom Collins or this non-alcoholic punch.

What Is Sparkling Mineral Water?

Sparkling water is made from natural spring water, meaning it has naturally occurring minerals like magnesium, calcium, and sodium. Sometimes these minerals will give the water a bit of a natural effervescence, but most sparkling mineral water sold commercially has added carbon dioxide.

Depending on the mineral content of the water (it can differ based on where the water is from), sparkling mineral water can taste salty like club soda or even bitter. You'll find that different sparkling mineral water brands will have their own unique flavors. Use sparkling mineral water any way you would use club soda, or drink it on its own to enjoy the unique mineral makeup.

What Is Tonic Water?

Gin and Tonic
Gin and Tonic | Photo by France C.

Made famous by the classic Gin and Tonic, tonic water is carbonated water that's made with added minerals and one special ingredient: quinine. Quinine is a compound found in the bark of cinchona trees. It is responsible for the bitter taste often associated with tonic water. You'll likely also find bottled tonic water with added sugar or flavoring to improve the taste.

Because of the quinine, it's unlikely you'll want to drink tonic water by itself. However, it pairs well with lime and gin, hence the drink. you can also try it in other cocktails and mocktails like this prickly pear tonic and lime or this watermelon gin and tonic

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