Difference between Seltzer, Club Soda, and Tonic Water

By: | Updated: Feb-10, 2020

The most common types of carbonated water are seltzer, tonic water, and club soda. Knowing the differences between these beverages can help you decide which type of drink is best to order at a restaurant. It can also help you decide which kind of cocktail will best suit your taste. Read on to determine the differences between seltzer, tonic water, and club soda.

Summary Table

SeltzerClub Soda Tonic Water
No additives, just carbonated waterHas added minerals like potassium bicarbonate, potassium sulfate, or sodium citrateContains quinine and sweeteners
Taste is closest to water (but sometimes has a citrusy flavor)

Slight salty flavor

Has a bitter-sweet flavor

Definitions

Seltzer

Seltzer is a type of carbonated water with no additives or minerals. It originated in Germany, a place where they bottle and sell naturally occurring carbonated water. Since seltzer does not have any minerals added to it, it still tastes a lot like water. However, there are certain brands that manufacture citrus-flavored seltzers.

Club soda

Club soda is a kind of unflavored carbonated water that is usually used as a mixer for cocktail drinks. It has added minerals such as potassium bicarbonate, potassium sulfate, or sodium citrate. This makes the drink taste a little on the salty side.

Tonic water

Tonic water contains carbonated water, a sweetener, and quinine. Quinine is a naturally occurring chemical compound extracted from the bark of cinchona trees. It was originally used as a prophylactic against malaria. Nowadays, quinine is used to give that bitter flavor to tonic water.

Seltzer vs Club Soda vs Tonic Water

The main differences between seltzer, tonic water, and club soda are in their additives and tastes. Seltzer does not contain any added minerals, thus having the closest “true taste” of water. Certain manufacturers, however, enhanced seltzers with citrus flavors. Seltzer is sometimes used as a substitute cocktail mixer for club soda.

Club soda is carbonated water with added minerals such as potassium bicarbonate, potassium sulfate, or sodium citrate. This gives the drink a slightly salty and mineral-y taste. Club soda and seltzer are interchangeable and can be used as an alternative for each other when preparing cocktail drinks such as gin rickey recipes.

Tonic water, on the other hand, is the most unique among the three carbonated beverages. It contains quinine, which is found in the bark of cinchona trees. In the past, tonic water was primarily used as a prophylactic drink, to help prevent malaria. At present, tonic water only contains small amounts of quinine – just enough to give it that bitter kick. It also contains sweeteners to improve the taste. Tonic water is often used in mixed drinks, like gin and tonic.

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