Difference between Tonic Water and Sparkling Water

Updated on January 14, 2017

If you’re into cocktails, you may have heard the terms “tonic water” and “sparkling water” a lot. Both kinds of water feature prominently in standard cocktail recipes around the world. While they might both seem like water to the ordinary drinker, tonic water and sparkling water are not quite interchangeable. Both kinds of water have certain characteristics that make them unique.


Tonic Water
Nordic Mist tonic water

Tonic water is a kind of soft drink that contains quinine.The presence of quinine in tonic water makes it glow blue under ultraviolet light. Quinine was a popular herbal remedy for malaria in the 19th century. Because of this, tonic water was heavily in demand among British explorers in India and other tropical regions. While the present form of tonic water has too little quinine to be of medicinal value, it is now known for its unique bitter taste. This taste, in return, adds an interesting twist to alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages such as gin and tonic and bitter lemon. Popular tonic water brands include Schweppes and Nordic Mist.

Sparkling water
Perrier sparkling water

Sparkling water, also known as club soda, carbonated water, and seltzer water, is water with dissolved carbon dioxide gas. While humans have consumed carbonated beverages and naturally bubbly water for centuries, carbonated water or soda water is a fairly recent invention. By itself, sparkling water has a slightly tart flavor; most natural sparkling water brands often contain traces of minerals coming from springs. Sparkling water is used to dilute many kinds of beverages and to provide a satisfying “fizzy” sensation to whiskey highballs and cola drinks. Popular sparkling water brands include Perrier and Pellegrino.

Tonic Water vs Sparkling Water

So what’s the difference between tonic water and sparkling water? Now that we’ve discussed the unique characteristics of tonic water and sparkling water, we’ll now discuss their differences. The two kinds of water differ mostly in appearance, taste, and usage.


Both tonic water and sparkling water appear the same under normal conditions. However, when exposed to ultraviolet light, tonic water emits a faint bluish glow. Sparkling water, however, does not glow; it just keeps on emitting carbon dioxide bubbles.


Tonic water has a certain amount of quinine added to it. The quinine contributes to tonic water’s distinctive bitter taste. In contrast, sparkling water has a slightly tart, acid taste due to the presence of carbon dioxide. Sparkling water may also have faint traces of minerals.


Tonic water is a popular ingredient for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, such as gin and tonic and bitter lemon. On the other hand, sparkling water is an ingredient in whiskey highballs and cola-based soft drinks.


Schweppes and Nordic Mist are two of the most popular tonic water brands. Famous sparkling water brands include Perrier and Pellegrino.

Comparison Chart

Tonic WaterSparkling Water
Bubbly; glows blue under UV lightBubbly; appears the same in any kind of light
Slightly bitterSlightly tart and acidic with traces of minerals
Used in gin and tonic and bitter lemonUsed in whiskey highballs and cola drinks
Brands include Schweppes and Nordic MistBrands include Perrier and Pellegrino