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What’s the Difference Between Club Soda, Seltzer, and Sparkling Water?

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They all sparkle. They all bubble. And they’re all water. But club soda, seltzer, and sparkling water are not interchangeable. Here’s what you need to know the next time you reach for one.

CLUB SODA

Club soda is just water with a few add-ins: carbon dioxide for carbonation and “mineral-like” ingredients such as sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, and potassium sulfate. It’s unflavored, other than the slightly mineral-y taste, which is why club soda is a great cocktail mixer.

Why is it called club soda? According to Culinary Lore, the beverage was once called Club Soda (note the proper noun). The water was—and still is—trademarked in Great Britain and Ireland by Dublin-based beverage company Cantrell & Cochrane. In 1896, C&C lost a lawsuit against a Jamaican company that had used the term “club soda,” which is probably why it remains a generic term everywhere else.

By the way, there's not much truth to the idea that club soda is a champ at getting stains out; plain water typically works just as well.

SELTZER

Like club soda, seltzer is also just plain water with carbon dioxide added for carbonation, but without the mineral additions. Unlike club soda, seltzer can be sweetened and flavored, often with citrus or other fruits. Interestingly, seltzer was also once a trademarked product, this one sold in Germany as far back as 1728. European immigrants brought it with them when they came to America, and the term eventually became used more generically.

SPARKLING WATER

Sparkling mineral water usually comes from a natural spring or well, which may provide natural carbonation. There’s also sparkling water that isn’t mineral based and doesn’t come from a spring; it's simply carbonated water, sometimes flavored.

BONUS: TONIC WATER

Tonic water is also—wait for it—carbonated water. The big difference is the addition of quinine, an ingredient found in the bark of the South American cinchona tree. Quinine was originally used as malaria medicine; according to legend, British soldiers started mixing the bitter stuff with soda water, sugar, and gin, to make it go down easier. It’s also fluorescent, so the next time you’re enjoying a gin and tonic, find yourself a black light and revel in its blue glow.

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The Brain Chemistry Behind Your Caffeine Boost
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Whether it’s consumed as coffee, candy, or toothpaste, caffeine is the world’s most popular drug. If you’ve ever wondered how a shot of espresso can make your groggy head feel alert and ready for the day, TED-Ed has the answer.

Caffeine works by hijacking receptors in the brain. The stimulant is nearly the same size and shape as adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows down neural activity. Adenosine builds up as the day goes on, making us feel more tired as the day progresses. When caffeine enters your system, it falls into the receptors meant to catch adenosine, thus keeping you from feeling as sleepy as you would otherwise. The blocked adenosine receptors also leave room for the mood-boosting compound dopamine to settle into its receptors. Those increased dopamine levels lead to the boost in energy and mood you feel after finishing your morning coffee.

For a closer look at how this process works, check out the video below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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LaCroix
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How Do You Pronounce 'LaCroix'?
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LaCroix

For decades, Perrier was the sparkling water of choice for beverage enthusiasts. More recently, an upstart named LaCroix has captured the attention of millennials who don’t much care for Perrier’s elitist stature. Sold in aluminum cans rather than glass bottles and featuring festive, Florida-tinged designs (the parent company, National Beverage, is based in Fort Lauderdale), LaCroix has managed to become a market leader in bubbly water. National Beverage claims it’s the number one brand.

While consumers may enjoy the taste, requesting a LaCroix can be slightly problematic if you don’t know how to pronounce the name. Like the acai berry and quinoa before it, the name can be troublesome to the tongue.

The company instructs that the proper pronunciation is “Lah-croy,” rhyming with “enjoy.”

The name comes from the fact that LaCroix was originally developed in Wisconsin back in 1981. The “La” is for the city of La Crosse, and “Croix” from the St. Croix River.

Uttering “La-crux” might get you some judgmental stares among the bubbly water elite. Affecting a French accent and coughing out “la-kwah” might get you pardoned from the table. Stick with “lah croy." If you need a mnemonic device, you can tell yourself it rhymes with “enjoy.” Or you could just order tap water.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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