Among the most popular carbonated drinks used in cocktails are club soda and tonic water. While they seem similar, they are actually different from each other in terms of composition and taste.
This is why when making cocktails, you can’t use one in place of the other because this alters the overall result. If you want to know more about tonic water vs club soda, you’re in luck because this article answers all your questions.
What is Tonic Water?
Most carbonated drinks like sparkling water, club soda, and seltzer water have a thin consistency and often taste plain but with a hint of saltiness. Tonic water is different compared to these beverages.
First of all, it is carbonated water that contains quinine, a compound found in the bark of cinchona trees. Quinine is said to treat malaria, especially in the early 20th century when the disease was threatening the lives of soldiers and workers during the construction of the Panama Canal.
Tonic water only has small traces of quinine to give it flavor, predominantly bitterness. It also contains sweeteners to make this flavor balanced.
What is Club Soda?
Club soda is one of the simplest carbonated water. It is essentially plain water that’s been injected with carbon dioxide to make it carbonated along with added minerals like sodium chloride, potassium sulfate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, and disodium phosphate.
These chemicals give the club soda its signature saltiness.
However, the type and amount of such minerals vary from brand to brand; that’s why some club soda brands may be saltier or less salty than others.
Tonic Water Vs Club Soda Comparison Chart
To recap, here are the differences and similarities between these two carbonated drinks.
Water + carbon dioxide + quinine + sugar
Water + carbon dioxide + added minerals
Considered as a soft drink
Clean, fresh taste similar to plain water
Has a bitter and sweet taste
Has hints of saltiness
Offers a variety of flavors
Available in simple flavors
Adds flavor to a cocktail
Adds bubbles to a cocktail
Tonic Water Vs Club Soda Face-Off
Now, let’s determine which carbonated beverage has the edge in each round of categories.
Taste - Winner: Tonic Water
From its components, one can tell that club soda tastes a bit salty thanks to the mineral salts dissolved in it. Aside from these minerals, the carbonation also makes it slightly acidic. Other than these characteristics, club soda doesn’t offer more taste unless it is flavored with fruits like citrus.
On the other hand, tonic water on its own is perhaps the most flavorful compared to other carbonated waters. It is best known for containing the alkaloid quinine, responsible for the bitterness that enhances the beverage’s overall flavor.
There is only a small amount of quinine in tonic water to impart bitterness, making it safe to consume. Drinking something that’s only bitter may not be pleasant. That's why tonic water also contains sugar, nectar, or high fructose corn syrup to balance out the bitterness.
Tonic water vs club soda are both available in flavored options. As previously mentioned, club soda is mainly available in citrus flavor, whereas tonic water offers more variety like elderflower, cucumber, and Mediterranean.
If you drink the two and judge them based on taste alone, chances are you’ll enjoy tonic water more. After all, it is more akin to soda rather than water. Given that it offers more depth of flavor, this round goes to tonic water.
Nutritional Content - Winner: Club Soda
Because of the artificially added mineral salts in club soda, it is expected to contain sodium. There may also be traces of calcium, zinc, magnesium, and copper, depending on the manufacturer. Besides this, club soda doesn’t contain any calories, sugar, protein, fat, or carbohydrates.
Tonic water contains more in its nutrition profile. It has added sugars, as well as calories and carbohydrates. It also contains sodium but no fat, fiber, or protein. But just because it has more doesn’t mean that it’s superior.
One also has to consider how each nutritional value affects one’s health. Since tonic water has carbs, sugar, and calories, some people may steer clear of it, especially those on a keto diet. However, anyone can easily consume club soda without worrying about it.
Carbonation - It’s a Tie!
Some drinks are naturally carbonated, like sparkling water. But both club soda and tonic water have the exact source of carbonation which is artificially infused carbon dioxide. They have about 2.5-3.5 volumes of CO2 per volume of liquid.
The two carbonated drinks also have additions in them; minerals for club soda and quinine and sugar for tonic water. These help tone down the carbonation a bit, so they don’t come off as aggressive. So, if you consume either of the two, you will experience a clean and crisp mouthfeel.
Cocktail Mixer - Winner: Tonic Water
Both club soda vs tonic water are popularly used as mixers for a wide array of cocktails. Club soda has a decent amount of carbonation, making it a staple for drinks such as the Paloma, Gin Rickey, and Tom Collins. Its salt content adds a bit of body to the cocktail, enhancing the sweetness and amplifies the flavor.
Tonic water is one half of the iconic beverage, the Gin and Tonic. But beyond this famous drink, tonic water also goes well with many liquors such as vodka, whiskey, scotch, bourbon, rum, port, tequila, and cognac. Its bittersweet flavor also compliments other ingredients like tamarind and juniper syrup.
Club soda mainly adds bubbles to a drink to make it more pleasant and refreshing. On the other hand, tonic water adds a depth of flavor that will make a single liquor or ingredient extraordinary. For this reason, tonic water has the edge of being an essential cocktail mixer.
Hydration - Winner: Club Soda
Club soda will hydrate you just as well as plain water. You can safely consume it because it is free from calories and sugar. It is also almost flavorless, if not for the small amount of mineral salts.
It is typical to think that sodium can cause dehydration, but this isn’t entirely true. If we don’t get enough salt in our diet, we only increase the risk of dehydration. Sodium is an essential electrolyte that helps in delivering water and locking it to the body cells to ensure hydration. It is only when consuming too much sodium that the health risks start to increase.
In contrast, some would say that tonic water is close to being soda rather than carbonated water. This is because it contains sugar, mostly from high fructose corn syrup, and calories.
At first, you may feel refreshed when consuming a soft drink. But do you notice that consuming sugary beverages just makes you more thirsty? Too much sugar consumption can lead to water loss in the body, leaving you dehydrated.
Having said this, tonic water may not be a good source of hydration. But ultimately, it all boils down to how safe you feel about consuming either club soda vs tonic water. That’s why this round goes to club soda.
Unique Features of Club Soda
Club soda vs tonic water seems to be in a stalemate when it comes to various categories. So to break the tie, here are additional reasons why club soda reigns supreme.
Club soda is almost like a blank slate, making it beneficial to use in many applications like cooking. Using this carbonated water will not alter the taste of a particular food but rather elevates it. For instance, adding club soda to a batter will make it airier or fluffier, like in tempura and pancakes.
It can also serve as a cleaning agent. Its fizz helps in removing stains and dirt from floors, windows, porcelain, cloth, and other things. You can also use it to polish chrome or stainless steel fixtures and deodorizing carpets or furniture.
If you have leftover club soda that has lost its fizz, don’t pour it in the drain. Instead, use it to water your plants. The minerals and nutrients in the club soda will help your plants grow faster and healthier.
Fewer Health Risks
Quinine is said to treat malaria. However, tonic water only contains a small amount of it as approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), making it less effective to treat such illness. Too much quinine can also be harmful.
There are claims that tonic water can help prevent or ease leg cramps, but there’s no solid study or research that can support this. Tonic water is also not suitable for everyone, especially those sensitive to quinine, because it can increase health problems like nausea, vision change, hearing loss, and nervousness.
Club soda does not result in many health complications. Perhaps the only unpleasant thing you’ll get from it due to overconsumption is bloating. It also doesn't cause much erosion to the tooth’s enamel because it doesn’t contain sugar. Overall, club soda is much safer to indulge in than tonic water.
Taking everything into account, club soda is generally better because you can drink it without worries and guilt. It also has an incredible number of practical applications.
But just because club soda is deemed better doesn’t mean that tonic water is rendered obsolete. After all, using either of the two depends on purpose and preference.
Use Club Soda if:
- You prefer a simple-tasting carbonated drink.
- You need a versatile beverage.
- You want an alternative hydration source.
Use Tonic Water if:
- You enjoy a bitter taste and sweet contrast.
- You want to try a new soft drink.
- You like experimenting with flavor combinations of tonic and liquors.