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Is all club soda alike?

Who cares you might rightfully ask? Until yesterday not me.There was an article in the NY Times about home made Ginger Ale.I'm not technologically adept enough to provide a link to the article,but if you go to www.nytimes.com and then to the Dining & Wine section you will see it.The recipe calls for ginger juice,sugar,lime juice and club soda or seltzer.I don't know if there is any difference between the two.I Googled it but then started to doze off.But the article got me thinking about club soda,since this is by percentage the main component in the recipe.Are there any real differences between Canada Dry,the store brand,or Joe's Artisanal if there is such a thing? In the last couple of years there have been a bunch of boutique tonics to come on the market,and some bars(or cocktail purveyors if you prefer) take pride in making their own tonic.In the past 3 months I have read several articles about the importance of ice in drinks.In fact Eric Felten wrote about this last Saturday in his WSJ column "How's Your Drink?".That would be found at www.wsj.com and then the Life & Style section.Scroll down about midway to " A Chill to Scotch Purists Hearts".So all this made me wonder if there is any difference between bottle X and bottle Y of club soda or seltzer? I believe it's just water and carbon dioxide.So it seems like there would be nothing to distinguish one from another.I want to try this Ginger Ale recipe out this weekend and thought who better to satisfy my newfound curiousity about this topic than the very knowledgeable people on ChowHound.

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  1. To begin with, there are a number of distinct types of carbonated water, seltzer water and club soda being two of those. Seltzer water is, as you suggest, just plain old carbonated water. Club soda has mineral salts added. The difference is minor when one drinks them plain, but it can become noticeable when those mineral salts react with various types of alcohol. I drink my whiskey neat, but I used to drink it with carbonated water. Some kinds of Scotch, Islays in particular, taste metallic when mixed with club soda. A Speyside or an Irish whiskey can benefit from the mineral content. I find vodka to be vile, but some vodka drinkers claim that the minerals in club soda bring out flavor notes that seltzer water does not.
    Between different brands there are going to be subtle differences for three reasons. The most obvious reason is that they're using different amounts of different salts, for different flavor profiles. This obviously only applies to the club soda, not the seltzer. The least obvious reason, which does apply to the seltzer. is that they're not using water from the same places. None of them are using completely pure water, so the impurities of the water in the region they do their bottling will affect the flavor. Also complicating things is that the waters will be carbonated to different degrees. I always found Canada Dry to be very carbonated, with very large bubbles, but also that it went flat very quickly. I can't remember any other brands for club soda, but Adirondack was always my favorite seltzer.
    If you're going to go to the trouble of making your own soda, I'd suggest making your own carbonated water. I've been doing it for a few years now, with a huge savings over buying bottles of the stuff. You can also use higher quality water than the bottlers do, and still spend a tenth what it costs to buy a bottle. And making it yourself allows you to customize how carbonated the water is. I use the soda club seltzer maker, which was the most economical I found: http://www.sodaclub.com/

    9 Replies
    1. re: danieljdwyer

      Thanks very much for the detailed,informative reply and the link that you included.I hadn't really thought about making my own carbonated water,but I might now.

      1. re: danieljdwyer

        Ditto! I started to hit "reply" and was going to suggest making your own seltzer when I got to the end of your post and read that you suggest the very same thing. I've had sodaclub for years now and DH and I love it. And yes, it does depend on the water you use (we have NYC water which is just terrific).

        I was thinking about the importance of the water too when I read the ginger ale article since I'm going to try it as well. I just have to find ginger "juice" since I don't have a juicer. And here's the link to the original article that foodnwine mentions: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/20/din... . On a side note, I'm going to a cooking class where we'll be making various agua frescas and I'm looking forward to using my seltzer maker for that as well.

        1. re: LNG212

          Alton Brown recently made some ginger ale on Good Eats... it would be really easy to get the ginger 'juice' via the boiling method he talks about:
          http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...
          I found it to be a really entertaining, if kind of madcap, show.

          Is your cooking class in L.A. by any chance? I'd love to learn how to make agua frescas hands-on.

          My take on club soda is that a) if you are more of a 'soft drink' than 'water' person, club soda rules over seltzer. Canada Dry seems far better, with more of a kick, than Schweppes or any store brand I've tried. But I don't like the big containers because fizz escapes too much. However, over the past year or so the little Canada Dry bottles have been infernally difficult to open.

          1. re: Cinnamon

            Thanks for the link. If I can't find ginger "juice", I think I will try that boiling method.

            The class is in New York. It's actually a cooking class but the agua frescas are listed along with the dessert as part of the class.

            1. re: LNG212

              Thanks for the info. Even the really nice Canton ginger liqueur I love says it starts with boiling fresh ginger. I hadn't heard anything about ginger juice per se, though do understand that some people may want cold-press fresh juices for health or for the taste aspect.

              1. re: Cinnamon

                I never heard of ginger juice before reading the article the OP refers to. That recipe seems designed with that in mind. So if I can, I think I'll try that first. If it doesn't work out or if the juice is too expensive, I'll go with the boiling method.

                1. re: LNG212

                  If anyone is still interested in homemade ginger juice without a juicer, here's an easy way that I have been using forever, passed down from my mother:

                  Peel and grate ginger, squeeze out the juice with your clean hands. It beats having to clean the juicer, especially if you only need a small quantity at a time.

                  My only complaint about conventional ginger ale is it tends to be too sweet, so this recipe for a homemade version sounds like a great idea!

                  On the other hand, being a fan of club soda (my soft drink of choice, with a splash of juice), the Soda Club is now on my wish list!

              2. re: LNG212

                Ginger People makes ginger juice, which is not too expensive and fairly easy to find in stores. Made fresh probably tastes a bit more vibrant, but their ginger juice is very handy, especially for drinks.

        2. Even stepping away from the concept of making your own, there's certainly differences between brands. I drink rather a lot of seltzer, either straight from the can or as a mixer in various highballs, and of the two major brands available here in Boston, I definitely can tell a difference between Polar and Adirondack. Polar seems considerably fizzier, while Adironidack has less pronounced bubbles but a notably more mineral edge. Of the two, I tend to prefer Polar.

          1. Seltzer is, indeed, just water charged with CO2, but some seltzers are lightly bubbly while others pack a real wallop. Traditional home delivered seltzer in the fifties would reliably produce a significant belch upon drinking. Most bottled seltzer today is wimpy by comparison. If you make your own, Soda Club lets you determine the charge while iSi, the predominant DIY brand, is very flat indeed.

            Bottled club soda brands vary just like seltzer in their CO2 charge. Some products labeled "club soda" are actually seltzer, while others are all over the map with their mineral content. Some brands of club soda taste salty when you drink them plain.

            Brands differ more than you would expect. Our local supermarket chains all have private label club soda, and some have more than one type (e.g., sodium in one and potassium in another). Most of these come from a single bottler, but they differ greatly in gas charge and mineral content. If you care about these things (many people really don't notice), they all taste different. And that's just the house brands.

            9 Replies
            1. re: embee

              Can you use 2 ISI cartridges and double-carbonate, or is that dangerous? I have some huge glass seltzer-maker in a medieval coat of mail (actually mesh).

              1. re: Cinnamon

                No, you can't do it. A safety valve will vent off the excess gas.

                  1. re: Cinnamon

                    Thanks for all of the great information.I didn't realize there was that much to the topic.That's why ChowHound is such a terrific resource.So many knowledgeable people who generously and enthusiastically share that knowledge.In the Sept. 2006 issue of Food and Wine(no affiliation to me despite my lame moniker), www.foodandwine.com , there was an article by Jean Georges Vongerichten titled " The Secret's in the Syrup". It has a recipe for ginger-lime syrup .I have made it and used it in margaritas,and various gin and vodka concoctions.Very tasty.Going back to the start of this post it might also be good in home made Ginger Ale.

                    1. re: foodnwine

                      Thanks for that info as well. It does sound like it would be a good base for the ginger ale, or for lemonade too.

                      Here's the link to the article by JG : http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/t... .

                      1. re: LNG212

                        The syrup article also has a recipe for lemon-thyme syrup which is used in
                        a Vodka-Thyme Lemonade.I had forgotten about that but it was also very good and used seltzer.

                      2. re: foodnwine

                        uh-oh, I see a project coming on :)

                        1. re: Cinnamon

                          You are clairvoyant.Made both syrups yesterday.Tried the home made Ginger Ale today.Didn't find the ginger juice from Ginger People as Caitlin suggested and didn't feel like making my own ginger juice.So used the JG ginger/lime syrup(3 tablespoons) with 1 oz. of fresh lime juice and topped with about 6 oz.
                          of Schweppes Club Soda.Very tasty.Although I think it would probably be better with ginger juice,either fresh or store bought,than the syrup.

              2. The solubility of carbon dioxide is greater in cold water than in warm water so if you want more fizz you should chill your loaded selzer bottle.

                1. When I was a child (in New York City) my mother insisted on drinking "No-Cal" club soda with meals. She paid no attention to my insistence that all club soda was free of calories, and many brands were cheaper.