A Bit About the Bubbly

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pouring water from glass soda bottle

“A bit of the bubbly” seems to be especially associated with New Year’s Eve. It’s common knowledge that bubbly wine needs to be labeled “sparkling wine” unless it’s made in the Champagne region of France. The only beverage that’s legally allowed to be called “Champagne” is what’s made in that specific area of France.

But, what about all those sparkling waters? Do you know the difference between Seltzer, Club Soda, Tonic Water and Sparkling Mineral Water?

Before we look at the differences between these “waters”, it’s important to comment on the health issues related to carbonation. You may have heard that carbonated sodas can cause kidney stones and decreased bone density. Livestrong.com has an excellent summary of studies looking at whether carbonated beverages created these problems. The results of several scientific studies indicates that drinking carbonated water doesn’t create kidney stones or calcium loss, but the chemicals in sodas can cause the problems.  http://www.livestrong.com/article/514804-is-soda-water-bad-for-you/

Let’s take a closer look at the bubbly waters:

  • Seltzer – This is just tap water which has been treated with carbon dioxide to crea bubbles. It’s pretty clean-tasting and mixes very well with juices and alcohol. In the speakeasys of the Prohibition era, seltzer was the sparkling beverage that was used. The name “Seltzer” comes from the German town of Selters, which was known for its natural springs.
  • Club Soda – Like Seltzer, this is tap water which has been treated with carbon dioxide to create the bubbles. The big difference between this and the Seltzer water is that mineral salts like sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate and potassium sorbate are added. Seltzer and Club Soda are often used interchangeably.
  • Tonic Water – This isn’t really a water. It’s really a soda – a blend of water, sugar and carbon dioxide. Quinine, a bitter compound that was once used to cure malaria, is added. The quinine makes it taste bitter, so it’s not very pleasant to drink on it’s own. This is why it’s usually mixed with alcohol (notably, gin for “gin and tonic”). It’s not really drinkable on it’s own and contains calories due to the sugar. (Legend says that British Army officers in colonial India looked for ways to make the quinine anti-malaria medicine easier to take. They mixed it with seltzer, sugar and gin, drinking it as a cocktail, which was extremely more fun. And, that was the start of the Gin and Tonic.)
  • Sparkling Mineral Water – This water comes from underground springs that naturally contain high amounts of mineral salts. The water can be naturally carbonated or the bottling company can add carbon dioxide to produce the bubbles. Sometimes, fruit flavoring is added. Sparkling mineral water is best served on it’s own over ice. The mineral taste can conflict with the delicate taste of mixed alcoholic beverages.

Enjoy the bubbly and have a wonderful New Year’s!

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