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Difference between tonic, soda and sparkling water

If you hit the mixer section of your bottle shop or supermarket, you will see an array of tonic, soda and sparkling mineral water for pairing with your gin. But what's the difference? After all, they are ALL bubbly water right? Flavoured versions aside, surely you could just substitute one for the other? And what's the deal with these seltzers hitting the market?

WHAT IS SPARKLING MINERAL WATER?

The carbonation in sparkling mineral water often occurs naturally in the springs from which the water is sourced. Those waters will also contain small quantities of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and sodium. These minerals can all add to the flavour of the water. However, some mineral waters can also have their effervescence added artificially.

WHAT IS SODA WATER?

Soda water at its core is artificially carbonated water that has salts added to it, e.g. sodium citrate and potassium bicarbonate. The process of carbonation comes from dissolving carbon dioxide in water, often through the use of force. Have a Soda Stream? That's basically what it does. (Though to be fair, Soda Stream advertises themselves as a sparkling water maker, not a soda water maker. That's because Soda Stream doesn't add salts to the water it carbonates). In America, the term "club soda" can also refer to this category however, soda water is mainly the term we use in Australia. 

Where does seltzer fit in? Seltzer is also largely an American term. This often refers to carbonated water without any of the added salts. The "hard seltzers" now hitting the market will have some alcohol in it.

WHAT IS TONIC WATER?

Tonic water is basically carbonated water, sugar and quinine. In addition, most if not all tonic water will also have citric acidain it. This provides the citrussy element in many tonics. The key difference between tonic water, soda and sparkling water though? Tonic contains quinine, which introduces the bitter element in the drink and sugar. To this, you can add different flavourings to create some of the many different flavours of tonic water out there, such as the Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic, or the Fentimans Pink Grapefruit Tonic.

SO, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TONIC, SODA AND SPARKLING WATER?

In a nutshell, all three have carbonation. However, the key difference lie in the minerals (sparkling water), salts (for soda water) and quinine (for tonic). So there you go. Next time you head to the mixer aisle, you'll be sure to be able to pick the right mixer for you.

 

 

*main image - "Water Droplets on Clear Glass" by Cottonbro via Pexels*

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