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In this guide, we'll go over the following:
There's great satisfaction in enjoying a cocktail that has a nice strong fizz—one that you can hear and feel tingling around your palette.
But drinking, for example, a Tom Collins that is flat is a sad thing.
Carbonation is an important ingredient in a cocktail.
A good quality club soda, sparkling water, seltzer, etc., is as important as the rest of the ingredients in a cocktail. So knowing what types and brands to use is imperative.
So what's the best sparkling water for making cocktails?
First, let's get this out of the way...
The difference between Club Soda, Seltzer, and Sparkling Water
Soda water, seltzer, carbonated water, club soda, and sparkling water are all terms used to describe what is essentially the same thing: plain water with carbon dioxide. But with some subtle differences.
You can use any of these to make cocktails—though not all brands make the best fizzy cocktails.
Here's the gist of it:
Sparkling mineral water: spring water that is naturally carbonated and with naturally occurring minerals bottled close to the source. Think of San Pellegrino or Perrier. These minerals are what give the water a specific flavor.
Sparkling water or seltzer: plain water, artificially carbonated. No added minerals. It has a pretty neutral flavor. Examples of seltzers are Lacroix, Polar,
Club Soda: water that has been carbonated artificially by injecting carbon dioxide gas and added minerals for taste.
It has a slightly salty flavor because of the addition of potassium bicarbonate and potassium sulfate.
Think of plastic bottles labeled "Club Soda" at your grocery store.
It's all about the bubbles
The best sparkling water that you can use for cocktails is one with high, strong, and sharp carbonation.
When you add your base spirit, sweetener, citrus, etc.—you tend to thicken the consistency of your final drink, as well as dilute the carbonation.
Your goal is to use sparkling water with high carbonation so that after adding all your ingredients, you still have a respectable level of carbonation in your drink.
What are the best brands of sparkling water for cocktails?
Not all brands have strong carbonation; a lot of them have a weak fizz.
The brands with high carbonation that I've used previously and recommend for making fizzy cocktails are:
- 365 plain sparkling water cans from Whole Foods.
- HEB brand - Texan brethren take note.
- Kroger brand sparkling water
- Canada Dry sparkling seltzer water
- Topo Chico - I usually only for these on special occasions since it's pricier than those mentioned above. Also, it's a must for Ranch Waters.
Using a Soda Stream for Cocktails
Also, if you have access to a Soda Stream, this works too for use in fizzy cocktails. Just make sure you are using good-tasting filtered water and that you're adding extra pumps of CO2 into the carbonating bottle. Some cities have tap water with a very particular (undesirable) flavor—if this is the case, get a gallon of spring water and carbonate it.
Another Soda Stream pro-tip: make sure that before you carbonate, your still water is ice cold. Carbon dioxide dissolves easier in cold water, which means better carbonation.
At my old coffee bar, we abused our Soda Stream, but it never failed us. Again, make sure to inject extra carbonation.
I have a Soda Stream at home, which I should be using more. However, I prefer to have cold cans in stock so that they are ready to go. Also, they are ready whenever I need to go make drinks elsewhere.
For a more contemporary (aka premium) looking carbonating device, check out the Aarke Carbonator.
What about Perrier and Pellegrino?
Perrier and San Pellegrino have very gentle carbonation, Perrier having more than Pellegrino. They are not ideal for making cocktails and are best enjoyed plain on the side.
The same goes for the abundantly available LaCroix, not ideal for making cocktails. The carbonation gets lost after you add your ingredients.
Cocktails made with sparkling water
Ditch the hard seltzers and mix up some real drinks and explore the world of sparkling water cocktails.
Here are a few excellent cocktails that benefit from really good fizzy bubbles:
- Ramos Gin Fizz
- Ranch Water
- Tom Collins
- Aperol Spritz
- Mojito (obviously)
- Whiskey Highball
- Gin and Tonic (when using a tonic syrup)
- Cold Brew Tonic
Sidenote: If you want to dive deeper into the science of carbonation, check out the Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold. In the book, also he shows how to build a carbonating rig.