What’s the Difference Between Tonic, Club Soda and Seltzer?

We've all splashed these drinks into cocktails and mocktails alike, but what's the difference between these three fizzy beverages?

Fresh home made Tom Collins cocktails with lemonShutterstock / 3523studio

Club soda, tonic, seltzer. We’ve all had a glass or splashed one of them into a drink at some point. But what are the differences between these delightfully bubbly beverages? If you’ve been wondering what distinguishes the members of this fizzy trio from one another, wonder no more— we’re here today to give you the rundown.

Seltzer, club soda, and tonic all get their fizz from carbonation, a process by which carbon dioxide is dissolved into a liquid. This is the same method used for getting the bubbles into your favorite cans of pop. But from here, the differences start to crop up.

Seltzer Water

Seltzer water is nothing more than water with a little injection of CO2. Basically, it’s what you get if you put water through a soda maker like SodaStream. Its name is derived from Selters, a German town known for its natural mineral waters. You can find flavored versions on the shelves of your local supermarket or convenience store (ahem, LaCroix, anyone?), and it makes a refreshing change to plain old tap water when you’re trying to stay hydrated.

Club Soda

Thanks to its mineral content, club soda has more of a distinct taste to it than seltzer water. Most notably, it has various salts in it, like sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) or potassium bicarbonate. Realistically, you won’t notice too much of a difference in flavor, so you can feel free to use seltzer and club soda interchangeably. Besides being a great topper for adding a little sparkle to a glass of juice, it’s amazing for removing stains.


A slightly bitter, slightly sweet beverage, tonic water isn’t so much water as it is a soft drink. It was originally enjoyed by British colonists in India as a way to combat malaria. That bitter flavor in tonic comes from quinine, which is derived from the bark of the cinchona tree and is famous for its antimalarial properties. Today, tonic waters now come in a variety of additional flavors, perfect if you want to up your G&T game, though we do love this non-alcoholic raspberry lemonade if gin isn’t your thing. Just be warned, because it’s technically a soft drink, it does have calories. If you’re looking for a no-cal (or low-cal) beverage, think twice before guzzling bottles of tonic water.

There are plenty of fun ways to incorporate each of these refreshing hydrators into your life. From cocktails to ultra-delicious mocktails, adding a splash of soda, seltzer or tonic makes everything taste that much better!

Try these fizzy mocktail recipes.
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Camille Berry
Part of the third generation in a family of restaurateurs, Camille was born with a passion for cooking and food. She embarked on a career in hospitality where she excelled as a sommelier and wine director. This hospitality experience has given her a wealth of first-hand knowledge about how to pair all manner of drinks with food—plus some serious kitchen skills. These days, she's hung up her wine key in favor of a pen and covers all aspects of food and drink.