The issue of bubbly water is a topic that comes up at Sweet HQ more times than you might think. Everyone seems to have a preferred style of fizz, as well a preferred name for it. Soda, sparkling water, club soda, and seltzer are all thrown around interchangeably. Water, as it turns out, isn't so simple.
Here, we get to the bottom of what we actually mean when we talk about bubbly water.
Seltzer is maybe the easiest to understand. Take spring water, add carbon dioxide, and you have seltzer. It's all the bubbles found in a traditional soda without any additives. But there's also a growing segment of flavored and carbonated water that's, ahem, flooding the market as an alternative to sugary soda. (Early signs of an artisanal seltzer movement, anyone?) Calling these drinks either sparkling water or carbonated water is acceptable for this overarching seltzer category—as long as the drinks are flavored naturally, don't have dyes, or include additives.
You can't talk about seltzer without talking about the cult of La Croix. The flavored sparkling water has a rabid following. Everyone from The New York Times to The Atlantic to Racked have discussed the drink's popularity. In reality, no one quite knows why La Croix went from Midwestern staple to the hottest thing on Instagram since avocado toast, but it continues to be one of the fastest-growing drinks in America.
Flavors include: lime, apricot, and coconut.
Original New York Seltzer was a 1980s brand of sparkling water that had a solid decade of being a go-to before folding. In a weird turn of events, after a 20-year hiatus, the company resurfaced last year with the same—now officially retro—packaging.
Flavors include: raspberry, concord grape, and vanilla cream
Izze carries a range of products, including what they call "sparkling juice." They also have a variety of seltzer with "natural flavors" similar to La Croix, but Izze includes a touch of organic cane sugar. The added sweetness is subtle, which makes it a good option to swap in when making a quick drink in lieu of a cloyingly sweet mixer.
Flavors include: blackberry-pear, mandarin-lime, and raspberry-watermelon
Spindrift was founded in 2009 by Bill Creelman, who was looking to kick a Diet Coke habit with an all-natural sparkling water. Finding something truly natural proved difficult, so he made his own. Now, Spindrift is the only flavored seltzer made with actual fruit. Not fruit flavoring like the other brands, but real, whole fruit that's freshly squeezed before canning.
Flavors Include: lemon, blackberry, and cucumber
Club soda tends to get lumped in with other types of bubbly water because of the similarities, but there is one important difference: potassium bicarbonate and potassium sulfate, which give club soda a slightly saltier taste. (The enhanced flavor also make club soda the preferred type of bubbles for most bartenders.)
Boylan, the New York-based craft soda company, got into the world of high-quality club soda when they launched their ready-to-drink cocktail mixers under "Boylan Heritage." The club soda includes hand-harvested New England sea salt for a cleaner taste.
Similarly, Q Drinks's club soda is superior to most other brands on the shelves because they source their salt from the Himalayas.
Tonic should be considered entirely different from the other carbonated waters. It's always sweetened, and includes quinine to provide that signature bitter flavor. The added ingredients in tonic also make it easy to play around with it in cocktails. Many companies actually concentrate tonic by creating syrups imbued with a variety of other ingredients for added flavor and aroma.
Fever Tree produces three types of tonic. Their "Indian Tonic Water" includes quinine from the fever trees of the Eastern Congo; the "Mediterranean Tonic Water" uses essential oils from flowers, fruits, and herbs in addition to quinine to create a more floral product; and the "Naturally Light Tonic Water" relies on fruit sugars to sweeten the otherwise crisp drink.
Liber & Co's tonic syrup features exotic blends of South Asian herbs like lemongrass to add depth to cocktails—or even just punch up your normal gin and tonic.