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What is Seltzer Water?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 16, 2024
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Seltzer water is any sort of man-made carbonated water that is sold as a beverage or mixer. It is very similar to naturally occurring mineral water, except its carbonation has been introduced artificially, and most of the time it does not contain any added minerals, either. It is popular throughout the world as a drink, often as an alternative to more sugary sodas or juices. Seltzer is sometimes also prescribed to settle an upset stomach, and has many innovative uses around the house, as well, particularly when it comes to stain removal.

How It Is Made

The science behind seltzer water production is generally quite simple, as the only required elements are water and carbon gas. Once the water is in its bottle or final packaging, carbon gas is added with a pressurized hose, and the container is immediately sealed. When a customer breaks that seal, the gas at last has a chance for release — which causes the fizzing sound characteristic of any carbonated beverage.

Most commercially-produced seltzers are made in beverage factories. The drink can also be made at home, however, as countertop gas pumps and pressure systems are available for consumer purchase. Users have to periodically replace the carbon chambers, but ordinary tap water is typically the only other requirement.

Stand-Alone Popularity

Many people enjoy drinking seltzer on its own, often over ice with a twist of lemon or lime. The carbon bubbles make the drink more interesting than plain water but don't add any calories. A lot of people choose seltzer water as something of a “fun” alternative to sodas, which are often full of artificial flavors and colors.

Some manufacturers also sell flavored seltzer waters. Many of these are made from natural extracts so that the water can maintain its zero-calorie status. Flavored seltzers are rarely ever sweet, though they often carry a hint of fruit or other flavors.

Use as a Mixer

Seltzer is commonly used as a mixer for cocktails, or to add a bit of fizz to fruit juices and other drinks. Its light, bubbly consistency can be a good way to lighten drinks and also adds an element of interest.

Use in Bars and Soda Fountains

Most restaurants maintain a steady supply of seltzer in their soda fountains and drink dispensers. In order to save space and cost, many soda manufacturers sell their drinks to restaurants and bars as super-concentrated syrups. These syrups are far too sweet to serve on their own, and they also lack any carbonation — but they can be used as a base to recreate the finished drink on-site. Most modern soda fountains combine equal parts syrup and seltzer water, effectively creating fresh sodas on-demand.

As a Medicinal Remedy

A number of doctors and natural health practitioners recommend seltzer water as a non-invasive way to settle the stomach and aid in digestion. Small doses can help break up ingested food, making it easier for the body to process it. When the stomach is upset, seltzer water can also be used to re-balance the naturally occurring acids. Many people with stomach viruses or flu-like symptoms report that it is easier to keep bubbly water down than water that is flat or still.

Use Around the House

Seltzer is often a staple in home remedy kits, particularly when it comes to stain removal. When treated quickly, a great many fabric spills or stains can be removed with a bit of carbonated water. The effervescent bubbles are often able to penetrate the stain, helping to lift it away from the fabric. Salt or some form of mild soap may also be required, but seltzer tends to speed the stain-lifting process enormously.

Differentiating Club Soda, Tonic Water, and Seltzer

It can be easy to confuse seltzer water with club soda and tonic water, two related products. Club soda can usually be interchanged with seltzer, and many people say that they taste the same. Most club sodas have been augmented with some minerals and salts to boost their flavor, however.

Tonic water is bubbly like seltzer, but includes quinine and often a fair bit of sugar. Quinine boosts the water’s flavor, and also has the potential to ward off malaria — an essential attribute to the British soldiers stationed in India who made the beverage popular back in the 1800s. Unlike either club soda or seltzer water, tonic water tends to have quite a few calories, and should normally be viewed as only slightly better health-wise than a full-sugar soda.

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Discussion Comments
By anon992050 — On Aug 09, 2015

@afterall: You're entitled to your opinion. Some people don't like blue. Let's make a deal -- you don't buy seltzer and I don't buy blue shoes.

By anon992049 — On Aug 09, 2015

@everetra -- How is it ironic that selzer water would be used to make soda drinks? What do you think seltzer is?

By anon986973 — On Jan 29, 2015

@everetra - It's supposedly cheaper and better for the environment (in that it reduces the number of plastic bottles). Also, I don't know they're all like that, but most of the ones I've seen are sweetened with Splenda.

By everetra — On May 09, 2011

@afterall - The ironic thing about seltzer water is that some people use it to make their own soda drinks. I flipped through an in-flight magazine and saw that they were selling machines to make your own soda (or pop, if you prefer).

The machines allow you to make your own seltzer water. The product comes with packages of syrup and the ad brags about much soda you can make. I think the product sold for $200 or something like that, and of course you can buy all the syrup you wanted.

I thought the whole point of seltzer water was to get away from carbonated beverages, not use it as a recipe for them.

By afterall — On Feb 02, 2011

I really do not like the taste of seltzer water. I know some people can drink it plain even, but I dislike it in almost everything. I just don't like the concept of water that bubbles.

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