Club soda and sparkling water are hard to tell apart - and it can leave some people scratching their heads as to the difference between them.
And it’s easy to see why. On the surface, club soda and sparkling water are both fizzy waters that are great on a scorching hot day - so why are they named in two entirely different ways? And is one healthier than the other?
Let’s take a look at club soda vs sparkling water in the battle of the bubbles, and find out which comes out on top.
Club Soda vs Sparkling Water
The history of both sparkling water and club soda dates back to 1767 when the English chemist Joseph Priestley discovered a method for carbonating water by adding carbon dioxide to it, making it fizzy.
He never truly seized upon the commercial potential of the product. However, another scientist (and watchmaker), Johann Jacob Schweppe, later took the process and started the commercial production of sparkling water - and his company, Schweppes, was born.
This process is used for many sparkling water variants, such as club soda, sparkling water, tonic water, and seltzer - but sparkling water and club soda have one clear difference.
Club soda is artificially carbonated water that has minerals infused into it - and these minerals give it a slightly salty taste, which can vary from brand to brand depending on the balance of minerals each manufacturer adds.
The original drink to be known as ‘club soda’ was originated by Cantrell and Cochrane, an Irish company based in Dublin, in 1877 - who still owns the trademark for the name ‘club soda’. The drink was originally marketed as a health product, by claiming that it could neutralize the lactic acid in the blood.
Among the minerals commonly added to club soda are sodium chloride, potassium sulfate, sodium bicarbonate, and disodium phosphate. These are all minerals that can occur naturally in sparkling water sourced from a spring or well.
Among the top brands for club soda are Club (owned by Cantrell and Cochrane), Schweppes, Canada Dry, and Seagram’s. Unflavoured club soda is calorie- and caffeine-free, with a small amount of sodium per serving which can vary from brand to brand, due to the added minerals.
Sparkling water, on the other hand - also known as sparkling mineral water - undergoes a natural carbonation process. This type of water is usually sourced from a spring or a well in which naturally occurring carbonation happens, giving it that fizzy taste.
Sparkling mineral water, in true form to its name, contains a range of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and sodium. This balance of minerals can vary depending on the brand, giving each one its taste. San Pellegrino, Perrier, LaCroix, and Voss are a few of the top brands of sparkling mineral water out there today and are prized for their quality.
Like club soda, unflavoured sparkling waters are calorie- and caffeine-free - although it also generally contains a small sodium content due to the minerals present. This varies from brand to brand as it does with club soda - but the amount is very small.
What’s The Difference Between The Two?
On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of difference - both are clear, sparkling waters with a fairly neutral taste. But while they can be used interchangeably in terms of taste, their production is the main point of difference - as well as their classification.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, club soda is technically classified as a ‘soft drink’, whereas sparkling water is classified as bottled water. This is due to carbonation being added to club soda artificially, whereas sparkling mineral water is sparkling due to natural carbonation.
Some sparkling water manufacturers add further carbon dioxide to their water to give it further fizz - begging the question: if they’re carbonating water artificially, doesn’t it turn into club soda?
Well, generally, sparkling water that’s further carbonated has mineral content already - whereas club soda has mineral content added, as well as being carbonated. As such, the result is very similar, but the process by which they’re made can differ.
Also, sparkling waters that add carbon dioxide - such as Perrier - are generally re-adding the naturally occurring CO2 that’s produced alongside the water after being caught independently - whereas club soda is carbonated artificially.
Which Is Healthier - Club Soda Or Sparkling Mineral Water?
There’s very little between the two in terms of health - and although sparkling mineral water can be perceived to be healthier than club soda, this may just be due to the naming of the products (water = good word, soda = bad word). Both are calorie-free and excellent for hydration.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that sparkling water and club soda could be a good choice if suffering from an upset stomach, or digestive problems; as this study showed, drinking sparkling water or club soda can significantly ease discomfort in the stomach, particularly after eating.
And, if worried about club soda or sparkling water eroding tooth enamel, don’t worry too much - this study indicated that drinking sparkling water was only slightly more damaging to teeth. The real worry is that sodas filled with sugar were over 100 times more damaging - so reaching for a club soda or sparkling water next time thirst strikes is much more preferable!
So, in terms of choosing, it comes down to not only preference in flavor (which depends, of course, on the brand chosen) but also preference in the process in which it’s produced. For an all-natural product, sparkling mineral water’s the way to go - but if minerals and carbonation added isn’t an issue, club soda will do the trick.
What About Seltzer Water And Tonic Water?
Seltzer water and tonic water share some key similarities to club soda and tonic water - the largest being that they’re all carbonated waters.
Seltzer water (which originated in Germany and was brought to the United States by European immigrants - hence the Germanic name) is closest in taste to both club soda and sparkling water. Seltzer water is artificially carbonated water, like club soda - and like club soda and sparkling water, it contains zero calories.
However, the one key difference with seltzer water is that minerals aren’t added after carbonation as they are with club soda - so seltzer water tends to have a more neutral taste.
Tonic water is the most distinct of the carbonated waters. Like club soda, it’s water that’s artificially carbonated with minerals added - but added to it as well is a small amount of quinine, a compound from the bark of cinchona trees and a traditional medicinal treatment for malaria.
As such, it has a distinct bitter taste and is often mixed with gin in a cocktail - and crucially, it has added sugar or corn syrup, which means that it tends to be quite calorific, contains roughly 130 calories and 33g of sugar per serving.
The Bottom Line
Both club soda and sparkling water are refreshing, delicious carbonated drinks that are great for hydration and an upset stomach - but the truth is, there’s very little between them. The main difference lies in their production and their names; and if opting for either, they’re both healthy carbonated waters that’ll be sure to quench the thirst.