Is soda water less calories than tonic?

Soda water, also known as carbonated water, sparkling water, or seltzer water, is a type of water that contains carbon dioxide gas dissolved under pressure. The process of dissolving carbon dioxide in water is called carbonation. Soda water has small bubbles and a slightly acidic taste.

Tonic water is a type of carbonated water that contains quinine, sugar, and sometimes citric acid or lemon juice. Originally used as a prophylactic against malaria, tonic water usually has a significantly lower quinine content today and is consumed for its distinctive bitter flavor. Both soda water and tonic water contain carbon dioxide, but tonic water also contains calories from added sweeteners.

Calorie and Sugar Content

Plain soda water contains zero calories and sugar. The only ingredients are carbonated water and sometimes natural flavors. Tonic water contains calories and sugar due to added sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup or sucrose.

A 12 ounce serving of tonic water contains approximately:

  • 124 calories
  • 32 grams of carbohydrates
  • 32 grams of sugar

The amount of calories and sugar can vary between brands, but tonic water always contains significantly more calories and sugar compared to soda water.

Other Nutritional Differences

In addition to calories and sugar, soda water and tonic water differ in other nutrients:

Nutrient Soda Water Tonic Water
Calories 0 124
Total Carbohydrates 0 g 32 g
Sugars 0 g 32 g
Sodium 9 mg 17 mg
Protein 0 g 0 g

As shown, soda water contains zero calories, carbohydrates, and sugar. Tonic water is higher in calories and carbohydrates due to added sweeteners.

Quinine Content

Tonic water contains quinine, which gives it a bitter taste. Quinine was originally added to tonic water as a malaria treatment and preventative. Today, much lower concentrations are used for taste.

Soda water does not contain any quinine. The addition of quinine is what distinguishes tonic water from plain carbonated water.


Due to the differences in taste and calories, soda water and tonic water are used differently:

  • Soda water is often consumed on its own as a zero calorie carbonated beverage.
  • Tonic water is usually used as a mixer with liquor like gin or vodka.
  • Soda water can be added to cocktails in place of tonic water to reduce the calorie content.

In cocktails, soda water and tonic water are not exactly interchangeable due to the quinine content. However, soda water can be used in place of tonic to create lower calorie versions of cocktails like gin and tonics.

Water With Gas vs. Tonic Water

“Soda water” and “water with gas” are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference:

  • Soda water is water that has been carbonated with carbon dioxide gas under pressure.
  • “Water with gas” can refer to soda water or water injected with nitrogen gas.

Both soda water and water with nitrogen gas contain bubbles and are carbonated. However, nitrogen gas gives water a softer, creamier mouthfeel compared to the crisper, sharper bubbles from carbon dioxide in soda water.

Neither soda water nor water with gas contain any added sugars or calories. So from a caloric standpoint, they are equal to tonic water which has sugar added.

Sparkling Water

Sparkling water is another term for carbonated water like soda water. The terms “sparkling water” and “soda water” are often used interchangeably. The only difference is that sparkling water can also refer to seltzer water.

Seltzer water is plain water that has been carbonated, so it’s nearly identical to soda water. However, seltzer typically has larger bubbles that form a frothier foam. Both seltzer and soda water contain no calories or sweeteners.

Mineral Water

Mineral water is water that naturally contains minerals like salts and sulfur compounds. Mineral water springs up from underground reservoirs and comes out of the ground naturally carbonated.

Mineral water contains minerals but no added ingredients like quinine or sugar. As a result, mineral waters typically have zero calories and sugar, similar to soda water.

Tonic Water Alternatives

There are several alternatives to tonic water that provide the bubbly, crisp taste without the calories and sugar:

  • Zero-calorie tonic water – Some brands offer diet tonic water with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar.
  • Soda water – Plain carbonated water adds bubbles without calories or quinine.
  • Sparkling mineral water – Carbonated mineral water has the crispness of soda water.
  • Diluted tonic water – Mixing tonic water with soda water cuts the calories.

Combining soda water with a splash of tonic water or quinine syrup is a popular lower calorie substitution for cocktails. The soda water provides carbonation, while the tonic or quinine provides a touch of bitter flavor.

Making Your Own

It’s easy to make your own soda water at home with a soda maker device like Sodastream. These machines allow you to carbonate regular tap or bottled water by injecting CO2 gas.

To make tonic water, you would need to add quinine or quinine extract along with some simple syrup to homemade soda water. However, most soda makers just carbonate water – they don’t add flavor.

Which Has Less Calories?

In summary, soda water contains zero calories while tonic water contains an average of 124 calories per serving. The addition of sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup or sugar adds a significant number of calories and carbohydrates to tonic water.

Soda water gets its bubbly, effervescent taste solely from carbonated water, while tonic water gets its bubbles from carbonation plus its unique bitter taste from quinine and added sugars.

The Verdict

So between soda water and tonic water, soda water definitely has less calories. In fact, soda water has zero calories, making it the clear winner if you are comparing calorie content.

If you’re watching your sugar and calorie intake, soda water is the better choice over tonic water. However, if you’re simply after the unique bitter flavor of tonic, you’ll have to accept the extra calories that come with it.


Soda water contains no calories, sugar, or other added ingredients – it is simply carbonated water. The carbonation process adds tiny bubbles but no carbs, sugar, or calories.

Tonic water gets its distinctive bitter taste from added quinine, along with calories and carbohydrates from added sweeteners like sugar or high fructose corn syrup. On average, tonic water contains 124 calories and 32 grams of sugar per 12 ounce serving.

So if you are counting calories or limiting sugar, soda water is clearly the lower calorie option compared to tonic water. Soda water gives you the carbonation without any of the calories, making it a diet-friendly way to enjoy bubbly water.

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