What’s the Difference Between Tonic Water and Club Soda?

There are plenty of reasons to add some bubbles to a cocktail; maybe you’re lightening up a bitter aperitivo, including a splash of soda to a spirit to slow down at a celebration, or maybe you’re even simply consuming it solo over ice with a huge squeeze of lime. When it comes to carbonation, two mixers rule supreme: tonic water and club soda.
What is Club Soda?
If you pass through the soda aisle at any well-stocked grocery store, the bubbly water category quickly becomes far more complicated. For beginners, there are multiple names for more or less a similar tasting item: club soda, seltzer, sparkling water, sparkling mineral water. While grabbing one can or bottle over the other may not make or break its use in a mixed drink, comprehending the distinction in between the bubbles can be helpful.
Unlike Champagne, or other champagnes or ciders which get their bubbles from recorded co2 produced during fermentation, a lot of carbonated water is artificially carbonated with auxiliary carbon dioxide gas. The very first carbonated waters were produced by researchers in the 1700s who captured gas from natural sources and instilled it into still water– think of how a SodaStream pumps gas from a container into a bottle of formerly still faucet water to make sparkling water in seconds.

The taste, though, is what really sets these classifications apart. “The motion towards higher quality ingredients, craft and provenance swept the beverages market yet seemed to pass over the mixer category,” says Amanda Stein, vice president of marketing for Fever-Tree USA. Flavor-free in its most untainted state, the ingredients, or absence thereof, to bubbly water provide it its identity and can affect taste and quality.
Club Soda v. Tonic Water
Seltzer is merely plain, carbonated water, whereas gleaming mineral water has naturally happening minerals like salts or sulfur which are present in the springs where the water is harvested. Club soda, on the other hand, is made from carbonated water and included minerals to affect taste. According to Stein, the mineral mix in Fever-Tree club soda is purposely mixed for blending with spirits: “Our club soda is maybe our simplest product yet its essential silky smooth texture is created by utilizing the finest spring water with a low mineral count, bicarbonate of soda, and a high level of carbonation that work to bring out the essential tastes of premium spirits it’s mixed with.”
What is Tonic Water?
” Unlike club soda, which just adds refreshing bubbles to top off a beverage, tonic water is defined by somewhat bitter and citrusy notes,” says Giuseppe “Beppe” Musso, master mixer at Martini & Rossi. Despite its relatively simple dish of carbonated water, quinine, and a bit of sugar, tonic water has a complex history.

In their podcast episode, “Move Over Gin, We’ve Got Tonic Fever,” Gastropod hosts Nicola Twilly and Cynthia Graber describe the complex history of quinine and its role in manifest destiny. Quinine, the crucial ingredient in tonic water, is gathered from the bark of the cinchona tree, a plant in the coffee family that is belonging to the Andes with fragrant white flowers. The bark of the plant contains naturally happening, bitter alkaloids that poison any small animal which attempts to chew through the bark.

” But in an odd and useful twist, while a lot of quinine may be poisonous, a little quinine is in fact a good thing,” discusses Graber. “Empire and quinine are extremely totally related,” states Mark Nesbitt, guest on Gastropod.

How did we go from a bitter extract from a tropical tree bark to a bubbly cocktail mixer hooked up to soda weapons around the world? Europeans created cinchona plantations in their nests to gather quinine, and mixed it with water and sugar to make it palatable. With the increase in appeal of carbonated water in the 18th and 19th centuries, it soon became a bubbly beverage utilized both medicinally and recreationally when blended with alcohol, and of course, gin.

Regardless of a complex origin story, tonic water’s bittersweet flavor profile makes it a flexible mixer for botanical spirits like gin, natural aperitivo, and sweeter amaros. High quality tonic water has actually thoroughly sourced quinine which gets carefully blended for the ideal taste: “Fever-Tree’s creator Tim Warrillow recognized that the last staying plantation of the greatest quality quinine was practically the most remote and lawless location in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo,” says Stein. “To this day, we still source our quinine from Central Africa and include a touch of Mexican bitter orange to create a rejuvenating, subtle citrus taste & scent across our Tonic variety.”
When to Use Tonic Water Versus Club Soda
These deceptively easy bubbly mixers play unique functions and understanding how and when to utilize them will considerably enhance your mixology skills. Given that both offer tingly effervescence, it all boils down to taste. When crafting Martini & Rosso’s Fiero, a citrus-forward aperitivo made from a mix of vermouth, orange, and white wines, Musso had tonic water in mind.

Adding tonic to a mixed drink enables you to layer bitter notes for more intricacy, or it can assist offset sweet taste and the extreme bite of high-proof spirits. The most traditional combination of gin and tonic is the ideal example of this: tonic’s sweet taste boosts gin’s herbaceous taste and its bitterness relaxes its alcoholic kick.

Anything blended with tonic can easily be combined with soda water, and vice versa, but club soda offers a subtle flavor preferred in lots of scenarios. Stein enjoys mixing club soda with tequila or bourbon to enhance the complexity of the spirits, “I’ll likewise use it to include carbonation to a beverage that already has a variety of flavorful active ingredients,” she says.

Whether you’re constructing a Mojito, including some citrus-y fizz to a Paloma, or completing a Tom Collins, tonic water and soda water bring life to a cocktail, and make them last a little longer, too.

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