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What is Soda Water?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Soda water is a type of man-made carbonated water that is popular as a beverage. The most basic soda waters are little more than tap water infused with carbon dioxide gas and bicarbonate of soda, a stabilizing element that gives the drink its name. Some manufacturers add flavors or other minerals to improve the taste, but it is most often served plain or as a mixer.

Popularity as a Drink

This type of water is popular all over the world, and as such, it is readily available for purchase in most places. Supermarkets and grocery outlets often sell it alongside other water-based beverages in either cans or bottles, and it is also widely available in bars, restaurants, and other places where drinks are served. It is often a bit more expensive than regular, or “still,” water, but not always. The price may increase for fancier versions, particularly those with flavors or other additives, but basic soda water is usually quite inexpensive.

Differences from Other Sparkling Waters

There are many different types of sparkling water, which can be a little bit confusing for someone looking for soda specifically. Mineral water is often the most expensive type available, in part because it is naturally sourced. The carbonation in this type of water comes from effervescent springs in mountainous regions and is usually accompanied by a range of naturally-occurring minerals as well.

Seltzer water was one of the first man-made competitors to mineral water, and is often interchangeable with soda water when it comes to basic taste and properties. The primary difference has to do with composition. In addition to trace amounts of bicarbonate of soda, many soda waters are also supplemented with other minerals to make them more like all-natural mineral water. Some people say that these additions give sodas a more “authentic” taste, but much of this depends on personal preference.

How to Make It

Soda water is usually pretty easy to make: all that is required is carbon dioxide gas, usually held under pressure, and some means of getting that gas into ordinary water. Two men from the late 1700s are credited with making the first soda waters fit for commercial use, though it is unknown who was actually the first. Torbern Bergman, a Swede, and Joseph Priestley, an Englishman, apparently both discovered different ways of making the drink. Bergman injected gas into tanks of water while Priestly suspended water over brewing beer to more passively capture the carbon gas emitted during the fermentation process. Both added bicarbonate as a means of stabilizing the bubbles and improving the overall taste.

Most modern manufacturing follows Bergman’s method, for efficiency’s sake if nothing else. Bottles of plain water are pressurized, then a special “carbon gun” is used to inject the gas into each one individually. Once the bottle is sealed, the gas is trapped. This is why opening a bottle or can of carbonated water creates a sort of fizzing noise — and also why it will explode if shaken heavily. When carbon gas is pressurized, it tends to expand, and shaking only increases the pressure.

Uses in Bartending

Soda water is a popular mixer for a number of drinks, notably the scotch and soda and the whiskey and soda. Both are typically served “on the rocks,” which means over ice. Many bartenders keep soda water on tap either in kegs or in pressurized pumps so that it is readily accessible. People who do not want to consume alcohol can typically order soda directly from the bar, which often comes garnished with a lemon or lime wedge.

Uses Around the House

Many people recommend using the fizzy water as a home remedy for stain removal, though it is most effective on fresh blemishes. The carbonation is often able to get below the stain if it is fresh and prevent it from setting. Soap and scrubbing is almost always also required, but a speedy application of soda can sometimes eliminate the need for harsher chemicals.

Medicinal Recommendations

Some medical professionals recommend sipping small amounts of soda and other sparkling waters as a home remedy for an upset stomach. The carbonation is usually gentle enough to break up acid or other minor disturbances without discomfort, and the drink’s general lack of sugar makes it safe to drink in large quantities without worrying about calories or other health risks. Sipping a bit with a meal can also help aid in digestion.

Health Concerns

There is some concern in the medical community and elsewhere that extensive consumption of carbonated drinks, waters or otherwise, can lead to adverse health effects over the long term. Most experts agree that large amounts of carbon gas will draw calcium out of human bones over time, which can lead to degenerative conditions like osteoporosis as well as contributing to overall body weakening. Most of the experiments that have been conducted involve far greater quantities of water than most people could ever realistically drink, though. A glass or two a day, in other words, is usually considered perfectly safe. Just the same, people with bone or tooth disorders should talk to a medical expert before consuming vast quantities of bubbly water to avoid preventable harm.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon321341 — On Feb 22, 2013

@anon45880: Could you explain to me how that could be possible? H2CO3 is the chemical formula for carbonated water; Soda water also contains Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, so where is the Na is your formula?

By anon148323 — On Feb 01, 2011

Joseph Priestley (nb spelling) was definitely not a brewer. Check him out!

By anon120040 — On Oct 20, 2010

Will appreciate if you kindly inform me the difference between soda water and gas water.

By anon83022 — On May 08, 2010

how would you make soda water more acidic?

if you add more CO2, how could you do that?

By anon45880 — On Sep 21, 2009

the formula is H2co3.

By anon42425 — On Aug 21, 2009

what is the chemical formula and name of soda water?

By mentirosa — On Jan 26, 2009

Pressurized soda water is added to white wine to make a spritzer. To about two parts of wine, one part of soda water is added. Many people, especially those who are not big drinkers, prefer that to straight wine. The alcohol is diluted, and soda water adds a little fizz.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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