As you should know by now from my previous posts, my dad was Austrian (that’s where our family crumb cake comes from), my mom was Italian. As we all know, you are ALWAYS raised like your mom’s family. Accordingly, we were all raised as Italians. Growing up in an Italian household, we always had two drinks on our table, homemade wine and sparkling water.
Unlike most families, in Italian households, wine was like soda, everyone (including kids) drank it. We didn’t drink it to get a buzz, it was truly like soda. You drank it when thirsty and stopped when your thirst was quenched. Along with our wine was always sparkling water. Sparkling water was for those few of us who didn’t like wine (God forbid), and in most cases it was usually Pellegrino.
I was was one of the few outcasts that did not like wine. No matter how often my Uncle Pete (who was our star homemade wine-maker) tried to get me to enjoy his always changing monthly flavors of wine, it wasn’t until years after I had grown into adulthood that I began to appreciate wine (I’m sure Uncle Pete smiles upon me from his heavenly home every time I enjoy a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo red, my favorite wine, with my meal).
Although, as I mentioned, we usually drank Pellegrino, my dad would always have a ready supply of club soda or tonic water for his mixed drinks. If we ever ran out of Pellegrino, he would suggest I drink one of these, stating that “it’s the same stuff”. Before I go any further, I need to explain my dad’s unusual drinking habits. My dad had an unusual set of taste buds. He would get half way through whatever he was drinking and ask for a refill of whatever we had on the table. It didn’t matter if it was the same drink, as long as it was wet. Unbelievably, we could fill his half full wine glass with orange soda and that would be fine with him. As kids, we would come up with really unusual mix ideas, say milk and cola, and that would always be just fine with him. Understanding this, you can now understand why he felt club soda and tonic water all tasted the same as Pellegrino, they were all WET!
Need I say that I clearly could taste the difference. To me club soda was too salty and the bubbles were too big, tonic water was just vile! At that time in my young life, to me they were just completely different drinks, kind of like what wine would be to milk. As I grew older and my tastes grew more refined, I found that I preferred Perrier to all other “sparkling waters” (My Italian family still remains in shock that I prefer French Perrier over Italian Pellegrino).
Years later, when I started to craft dishes, I found that each of these “sparkling waters” had different effects on the dishes that I made and it got me wondering just what the difference was. (Yes, I do use sparkling waters in some recipes. Try adding a natural lime flavored sparkling water to your pancakes like I do. It will add a light fresh flavor and assist in rising your pancakes to new heights).
Once I dug into “sparkling waters”, I realized there were some major and some subtle differences in just what we think “water with bubbles” is. These affect not only taste but also mouth feel. So, lets start with the simplest of our “water with bubbles”, seltzer water
Seltzer Water –
Seltzer water is made by carbonating plain old water with carbon dioxide (CO2). Nowadays, you’ll find many flavored seltzer waters such as La Croix. The Sodastream system is an excellent example of “infusing CO2 in plain water. Seltzer waters are usually flavored with natural fruit essences and oils.
Club Soda –
Club soda is seltzer water, with minerals. Usually this includes; sodium bicarbonate, disodium phosphate and sodium citrate. On occasion sodium chloride will also be added to the mix. As I mentioned above, club soda is usually used for mixed drinks, although you could use seltzer water as a substitute for these drinks as well.
Tonic Water –
Tonic water’s predecessor is quinine (you know the brutally bitter stuff taken to prevent malaria) It was so unpalatable to British officers based in India during the British occupation, that they began mixing it with soda and sugar to soften the taste. However, army personal are not known for drinking water when thirsty and before long they started mixing their “tonic” with their favorite drink which, at that time was gin. And that is where your famous gin & tonic comes from.
Sparkling Mineral Water –
Although sparkling mineral water has many of the same dissolved solids including, potassium, sodium, and magnesium, that club soda has, unlike club soda, these minerals occur naturally and are picked up as the water filters through the many layers of underground rock and sediment. Although the water’s bubbles are usually naturally occurring, some sparkling water bubbles are artificially added.
Each brand of sparkling mineral water contains the distinct flavor-giving minerals from their place of origin. Accordingly, that is why Perrier tastes different than Pellegrino. Although the different tastes make them inconsistent in mixed drinks, they do work quite well in wine.
So, is sparkling water better for you than plain water? A 2002 study published in the “European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology,” states that “sparkling water has been found to aid in digestion”. Have indigestion after that big meal? Try drinking a glass of sparkling water to ease your discomfort.
Sparkling water not only works on input but also on output. The same study also attributed the sparkling water to an improvement in constipation since it helps with the uptake of the fiber needed in the formation of stools. In addition, since they help food stay in the first part of the stomach for longer, which triggers the feeling of fullness, any of the carbonated waters mentioned above will also help you feel full longer.
If we’re talking hydration, all carbonated waters have been found to hydrate you just as well as plain water, and because they are often more flavorful than plain water, you’ll be more likely to drink them, thus assuring you get the intake you need.
Since each has distinct bubble size and activity as well as natural and added natural flavors, choose the one that you like best and drink away.