So What's the Difference Between Seltzer, Club Soda, and Sparkling Water, Anyway?

So What's the Difference Between Seltzer, Club Soda, and Sparkling Water, Anyway?

Are they all the same thing? Or not?

By Maggie Shi

Seltzer is EVERYWHERE these days. It's in all kinds of crazy flavors, from cranberry lime to cherry pomegranate to "Unicorn Kisses" (which apparently taste like candy). One restaurant in Boston, helmed by former Top Chef cheftestant Tiffani Faison, is even serving up a $40 mystical seltzer flight. What's not to love…it's fizzy, refreshing, and has zero calories.

But wait. Sparkling water is also fizzy, refreshing, and has zero calories. So is club soda. And while many people think of La Croix as a flavored seltzer, if you look at the label, it's actually classified as a "sparkling water." So are they all the same thing, or are they actually different?

Here's the breakdown:

Drinks like seltzer and club soda are considered "sodas" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and are regulated the way all other sodas are. Sparkling water is not—it's considered "water." The main difference? The source of the carbonation. Any fizzy water that's artificially carbonated, like seltzer and club soda, are considered sodas. Any fizzy water that's naturally carbonated—meaning the bubbles are naturally occurring at the source—is sparkling water.

So what's the difference between seltzer, club soda, and soda water? Seltzer is plain water that's been artificially carbonated; nothing else is added, except in cases where you're getting flavored seltzer water.

Club soda is water with some type of sodium added (which sometimes includes sodium bicarbonate, aka baking soda), which gives it finer bubbles, neutralizes acidity, and adds a slightly mineral taste.

Soda water is a vague term that doesn't have a strict definition; sometimes people use it interchangeably with club soda or seltzer.

And in case you're wondering, tonic water isn't considered a water at all; it's a soda that contains carbonated water, some kind of sweetener, and quinine.

So the next time you're at the grocery store facing a whole aisle of options to pair with your vodka—or enjoy on its own—choose wisely.

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