Difference Between Tonic Water and Seltzer Water

If it is interesting, it has your attention. This growing fascination for things to be interesting has inspired people to venture into the unknown. Even plain drinking water is steadily being replaced with something interesting- delightful effervescent drinks! With a boom in the popularity of carbonated drinks, we must familiarize ourselves with its various types. Tonic water and seltzer water are two types of carbonated drinks that are in high demand now.

Tonic Water vs Seltzer Water

The main difference between Tonic Water and Seltzer Water is that while tonic water contains carbon dioxide, quinine, and sweetener, seltzer water only contains carbon dioxide and tastes almost like simple sparkling water. Seltzer water can be consumed plain or in a range of citrus flavors. The ingredients used to prepare tonic and seltzer water is what gives the former a distinctive taste from the latter.

Tonic Water vs Seltzer Water

Tonic water is a carbonated drink that is prepared after adding carbon dioxide in plain water along with quinine (a compound extracted from the bark of a cinchona tree) and is sweetened with artificial sweetener, sugar, or high fructose corn syrup. It is the quinine that gives tonic water a bitter taste. The sweeteners are added to sweeten it and improve the taste.

Seltzer water is plain water that has been carbonated. It does not contain added minerals and, therefore, tastes a lot like water. Its flavorless taste makes it ideal to be used in drinks as well as certain food recipes. However, seltzer water is also available in citrus flavors.

Comparison Table Between Tonic Water and Seltzer Water

Parameters of ComparisonTonic WaterSeltzer Water
Land of OriginBritish India (however, the cinchona tree originated in the Peruvian Andes)Selters (a town in Germany)
Ingredients UsedPlain water, carbon dioxide, quinine, and sweetenersPlain water and carbon dioxide
TasteIt tastes bitter due to the quinine but it is sweetened with additive contentsTastes plain but feels fizzy due to the added carbon dioxide
CaloriesContains caloriesZero calories
Used asIt was initially used as a treatment for malaria, but now, is used for making cocktailsIs used for regular drinking purposes and to prepare cocktails

What is Tonic Water?

Tonic water is quite close to soda water as it, too, is carbonated water with added minerals. But what sets aside tonic water from other carbonated beverages is its distinctive bitter flavor that comes from quinine (a compound extracted from the bark of a cinchona tree).

Cinchona originally originated in the Peruvian Andes, South America, but tonic water originates from British India. It was used to treat malaria as quinine was known as a cure to malaria.

Tonic water used to be very bitter due to the quinine content, but now, manufacturers add high fructose corn syrup, sugar, or artificial sweeteners like saccharin, sucralose, or aspartame, to lessen the bitterness.

Since tonic water is sweetened, it is high in calorie content. 12 ounces or 355ml of tonic water contains 121 calories and 31.4 g of carbohydrate and sugar, each. It also contains a few nutrients in a very small amount- 3% of the Daily Value (DV) of Zinc and 2% of the DV of Sodium and Copper, each.

Its high sugar content makes it less ideal as a choice for regular hydration purposes.

Tonic water is ideally paired with gin and tonic and is used vastly as a mixer in cocktails.

What is Seltzer Water?

Seltzer water is the closest substitute for water among carbonated beverages. It is bubbly because of the addition of carbon dioxide.

Seltzer water gets its name from its town of origin, Selters in Germany. This town was famous for bottling and selling naturally occurring carbonated water. Its flavorless taste made it the most opted drink after water. The European immigrants brought seltzer water with them to America.

Since it has a neutral taste, it is used for purposes of regular consumption, to mix with cocktails, or to add to food recipes. It is also a key ingredient in chia-infused energy drinks, fluffy pancakes, softer pizza base, bubbly iced tea and coffee, homemade sodas and desserts, etc.

A cup of seltzer water contains zero calories. However, citrus-flavored seltzer water may contain additional minerals.

For those who are health conscious, seltzer water offers a refreshing yet healthy break from water. Studies have found that it is as hydrating as water and soothes stomach problems such as constipation, pain, or irregular bowel movement. Compared to other fizzy drinks, seltzer water barely does any damage to the teeth and gums.

The increasing popularity of seltzer water is one reason why restaurants, bars, and hotels are installing commercial seltzer machines.  

Main Differences Between Tonic Water and Seltzer Water

  1. While tonic water is a combination of plain water, carbon dioxide, and quinine with added sweeteners, seltzer water is plain water with carbon dioxide injected into it.
  2. Tonic water is closer to soda water as both contain added minerals and nutrients. In contrast, seltzer water tastes just like water but is fizzy due to the carbon dioxide.
  3. 355 ml of tonic water contains 121 calories and is high in sugar and carbohydrate content, whereas, 355 ml of seltzer water has zero calories.
  4. At present day, tonic water is used as a mixer in cocktails, whereas, due to seltzer water’s neutral taste its use is not only limited to as a mixer in cocktails but is also used in making mocktails, desserts, fluffy pancakes, bubbly iced tea and coffee, and soft pizza bases.
  5. While there are high chances that regular consumption of tonic water can lead to obesity or diabetes, seltzer water does not have calories and is not harmful to the body. Furthermore, seltzer water can prove to be very helpful if one is suffering from stomach pain, constipation, or indigestion.


Despite being carbonated beverages, tonic water and seltzer water are very different from one another as the former in addition to plain water and carbon dioxide contains quinine and either high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweetener. Their composition sets them apart in taste, uses, and health benefits.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0278691503001121
  2. https://www.proquest.com/openview/120b3408e43e9432b2dd1eaacb6dad1f/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=48850
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