Tonic Water vs. Seltzer Water vs. Mineral Water vs. Club Soda
With more and more Americans—and especially young Americans—choosing to fore- go heavily sugared soda in favor of other beverages, we’re seeing one clear trend bubble to the top. Classic takes on plain old water are positively effervescent in the minds of today’s savvy consumers. But do you know which water’s which?
The crème de la crème of waters, mineral water comes from a min- eral spring that contains various naturally-occurring salts, sulfur compounds, and other minerals. It is often naturally carbonated as well, owing to trapped gases. Nothing is added to mineral water, and the effervescence is natural (though some brands add extra, artificial carbonation for a fizzier water). Mineral water has a distinc- tive taste, and will usually carry a price premium.
Popular brands: Topo Chico, Perri- er, San Pellegrino
If you’re looking for the fizzy feel of soda without the sugar, seltzer water is for you. It’s plain tap water that’s been carbonated, and that’s about it! Some seltzer water is available with mild flavoring, usually in flavors like lemon, lime, orange, or berry, via a touch of citric acid or an essential oil. Seltzer water contains no salts or other additives. (The name is said to have origi- nated from the town of Selters in Germany, which became known for its Selterswasser more than 200 years ago.)
Popular brands: La Croix, New York Seltzer
Some will swear that club soda is identical to seltzer water, but true club soda contains some trace added minerals like potassium bicarbonate or potassium sulfate where seltzer water does not. Aside from this the drink is essen- tially indistinguishable from seltzer, but some devotees swear there is a detectable—although very mild— difference in taste.
Popular brands: Q-Club, Canada Dry, Schweppes
If you’ve ever enjoyed the distinc- tively bitter fizz of a gin and tonic, you’re familiar with tonic water. Tonic water starts as seltzer water, but takes on a transformation as a medicine called quinine is added. Historically used as a treatment for malaria, tonic water once con- tained higher doses of quinine that gave it a strong and bitter flavor. Today, quinine is added in relatively low, non-medicinal quantities to create tonic water. Consequently, modern tonic water is less bitter and usually sweetened. Check the nutrition labels! Some tonic waters can contain as much sugar as soda. Unsweet- ened traditional-style tonic water is available, but less common.
Popular brands: Fever-Tree, FentimanSchweppes