Difference between: seltzer and tonic water

For today’s Difference Between, I thought we’d check out the varieties of carbonated water available – specifically seltzer water and tonic water, but we’ll delve into club soda as well.

a cocktail in a glass with mint and a lime


  • Seltzer: tap water that has been commercially filtered, carbonated, and bottled with no addition of minerals or mineral salts.
  • Tonic: quinine water; soda pop.

Seltzer water:

  • Also known as sparkling water.
  • Is plain water that has been artificially carbonated.
  • Gets its name from the German town Selters, known for its natural springs.
  • Is a less expensive alternative to sparkling mineral water.
  • Has no calories.
  • Can be infused with different flavors, such as citrus.

Tonic water:

  • Has a distinct, bitter flavor; cannot be swapped out for other carbonated waters.
  • Is infused with quinine, an ingredient from cinchona trees – gives it that distinctive taste.
  • Is also carbonated.
  • Goes well with gin (as in gin and tonic).
  • Contains calories.
  • Is more of a soda than a water.

So, seltzer water is more like regular water and may contain additional flavorings, but if not, it’s pretty plain; tonic water is more like soda, and has an unmistakable taste. Both are carbonated.

Club soda and mineral water can be easily exchanged for seltzer water, whereas tonic cannot (again, because of that particular flavor from the quinine.)

Club soda is plain water with ingredients such as sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, potassium sulfate, and disodium phosphate, as well as carbon dioxide. It may have a bit more of an actual taste to it than seltzer, but just a tad.

5 thoughts on “Difference between: seltzer and tonic water

  1. You’d think that when dealing with something as simple and straightforward as water, there couldn’t be any confusion. Water is water, right? Confusingly enough, this isn’t so. Living in a time when information is accessible through small portable devices that we keep in our pockets, it’s only natural that things just cease being simple — they become tampered, enhanced and they require explanation. And water is not exempt from that.

    1. This comment speaks volumes. The death of simplicity – strange direction we’re heading in.

      That aside, I do love seltzer. When it’s cold (on the brink of freezing, ideally), I feel like it’s so much more refreshing on a hot day than uncarbonated water. I get the Vintage brand in cans and cycle them from fridge to freezer for a few minutes as I drink them. So good.

      Great article, though. Informative and to the point.

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