One of my favorite cocktails is a premium gin with Topo Chico and a squeeze of lime.
Many bars either do not have Topo Chico or charge extra for it. So often I end up with gin and club soda. But what is the difference? In fact, what is the difference between club soda, seltzer, and sparkling mineral water?
I came across an article by Tim McKirdy with VinePair.com that tackled that very question. Before I relay what McKirdy wrote, let’s take a brief look at the history of these carbonated beverages.
All of the above are carbonated water in some form or another. Many individuals throughout history, usually by accident, have aerated water with carbon dioxide (which creates the bubbles).
But the person credited as the inventor of fizzy water is Joseph Priestley who did so in 1767 in Leeds, England. It was also an accident, but he continued to make it, drink it, and wrote a paper on his “discovery”.
It was fellow Brit, Thomas Henry, who started to mass produce carbonated water. Priestley’s discovery (and Henry’s industriousness) eventually led to the rise of the soft drink industry.
So the differences? In its most basic form, seltzer is simply carbonating plain water. No other ingredients. But many (like La Croix, etc) now add flavored fruit essences.
Club soda, used most often as a mixer for spirits, is essentially the same as seltzer, but minerals such as sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, and disodium phosphate are added for taste. Soda gets its name from the addition of the sodium minerals.
Sparkling mineral water (such as Topo Chico) are similar to sodas, but the minerals are naturally occurring, picked up through filtration of rocks and sediments where the mineral water is mined.
Due to different composition of rocks and sediments where the water is sourced, gives different brands a different taste. For instance, Topo Chico has been sourced from the same Cerro del Villa springs in Mexico for the last 120 years. And in my opinion, the best sparkling mineral water and best mixer available.
Interestingly, McKirdy states that sparkling mineral water doesn’t mix well in cocktails, making me believe he is curiously unfamiliar with Topo Chico.
PS – Tonic water is soda water with added quinine powder and sugar.