Gin and tonics, vodka tonics, and just plain tonic water have been fairly popular drinks to get at bars and clubs. Carbonated water is trending more now than ever. There are several types of carbonated water from seltzer to club soda, but tonic water has been one that's always stood out. But what exactly is tonic water and how is it different from other carbonated drinks?

What is Tonic Water?

Without added ingredients, tonic water has quite the unique taste. Tonic water is made from a combination of minerals as well as the compound quinine. Quinine is the source of tonic water's bitter taste. It is an alkaloid found in bark of a tree native to the Peruvian Andes. Even though quinine was originally developed as a medicine to fight malaria, it is safe to consume in small amounts such as those in tonic waters.

To offset the bitter taste of quinine, tonic water also includes carbonation and a sweetener from either sugar or nectar. This combination of ingredients makes tonic water a popular mix for cocktails. There are some really easy recipes to follow for making cocktails that include tonic water.

tonic water with lemon garnish

Club Soda vs. Tonic Water

Like tonic water, club soda is also a carbonated drink with a water base. However, quinine isn't a part of the equation of this fizzy drink. Club soda is carbonated water that is infused with minerals and salt to replicate the texture of soda without all the added sugars and preservatives. Also known as carbonated water, seltzer water or sparkling water, club soda is sugar-free, typically unflavored and has zero calories. It's become popular in the mixology world and is commonly used in many cocktails, typically in those containing gin or vodka.

Similarities: Tonic water and club soda share the same base of highly carbonated water, and each drink includes various minerals and compounds. Both are also common ingredients in popular cocktails, though their uses vary.

Differences: Though the two drinks have a similar base and carbonated element, the ingredients make these drinks different. The quinine makes tonic water drastically more bitter than club soda, which, while a bit salty, is relatively bland in comparison. Tonic water also contains sugars or other sweeteners, which can make it high in calories while club soda is always calorie-free. Because of its bitter taste, tonic water is typically never consumed on its own, while club sodas can be.

club soda cocktail from bartender

Seltzer vs. Tonic Water

Seltzer is also water that has been carbonated. It is similar to club soda and can even be used as a substitute in cocktail mixers. Seltzer is made by carbonating plain water with carbon dioxide. Seltzer, however, does not contain added minerals so it has more of a "true" water taste. With no added minerals, seltzers can be enhanced with flavors without altering the taste. It can be a refreshing drink after a long day in the heat. There are many delicious hard seltzers worth trying.

Similarities: Tonic water and seltzer also share a base of highly carbonated water and both are included in cocktail mixes.

Differences: The biggest difference between tonic water and seltzer is the lack of minerals included in seltzer. This allows for seltzer to have more flavor enhancing. Since seltzer can have its flavor enhanced, it makes the beverage more appealing to drink on its own without being mixed into a cocktail.

seltzer with lemon garnish

Is Tonic Healthier Than Soda?

Many people order vodka tonics or gin and tonics as an alternative to soda because they believe it is a healthier option. While it may be better than generic soda mixtures, tonic water still consists of added sugars. Diet tonic has also been used as a substitute, but it still doesn't cancel out other alternatives such as club soda and seltzer. For those cutting back on sugar intakes, saving tonic water for special occasions would be the best option.

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