Sparkling water and soda water: What’s the difference?

Luke Pearson of Pear and Sons has a sought after palate. A recipe developer and chocolate maker, Luke is wildly curious about the natural world and champions seasonal, British ingredients.

The creative genius behind a new selection of cocktails coming to you later this year, Luke was the person to help us dig a little deeper into the difference between soda and sparkling water and how each one can affect the flavour of Mother Root.

What’s the difference between soda and sparkling water? and how does it change the flavour of Mother Root?

Soda water is filtered/tap water that has minerals added to and is always forced carbonated.

Sparkling mineral water comes from a natural source and can be naturally sparkling but often is forced carbonated. The intensity of bubbles is more widely varied in sparkling water compared to, quite sterile sounding, soda water.

How does it change the flavour of Mother Root?

If you mix Mother Root with sparkling water, you’re creating a drink with a much softer and more delicate flavour than the deliciously lip-smacking effect ginger and vinegar has on the palate when sipped neat.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Bubble size has an effect, even if we’re not consciously aware of it. Large bubbles feel like a fizzy pop, whereas finer, more delicate bubbles feel more like Champagne. Try different types of mineral water from naturally, lightly carbonated types to those that have been intensely forced with carbonation to find your preference.

Either way, adding bubbles to your Ginger Switchel brings an added flavour experience. The bubbles rise to the surface to pop right under your nose, releasing bursts of gingery aroma. I love glasses that can maintain this bubbly goodness for a long time, like a good quality highball (tall glass) with a narrower opening. The very popular balloon shaped gin and tonic glasses notoriously go flat rather fast.

When you create recipes, how do you decide if a drink needs fizz or not?

Traditionally, a mixer is used to bring high strength alcohol to a more palatable level. If I am creating a boozy recipe, I’ll focus on final strength, and then work out whether I will get this dilution from techniques like stirring or shaking with ice, or adding non-alcoholic ingredients like a mixer.

For non-alcoholic drinks my focus is purpose and flavour. Fizz can carry flavour and introduce a sharpness that flat water can’t. Bubbles also have an ability to exaggerate flavour, both good and bad. Carbonating unfiltered tap water on a kitchen gadget at home will bring out a strong chlorinated flavour. Whereas a high-quality sparkling water with a wedge of orange will help highlight the bright citrus notes of the orange.

I find creating a recipe always brings a new set of challenges, it’s like finding the right outfit for the occasion. In the summer sun, I prefer long, more refreshing drinks. In winter, I want shorter, more intense drinks to warm me up.

It’s rare I create a recipe that celebrates the mixer or lengthener, unless it’s something like a beautiful heirloom apple juice which is, by nature, great to lengthen recipes. Really, the excitement in drinks development is the base ingredients, which in small quantities can pack some serious punch. Based on the flavour profile of this foundation of ingredients, I’ll pick a mixer that can complement and enhance it.

Have you heard any new or intriguing fizz discoveries lately?

Scientists are doing lots of work on carbonic acid. When you add carbon dioxide to water it increases the water’s acidity, making the water taste slightly tart. Which is why sparkling water that’s gone flat has a sourness to it. It’s this effect from CO2 in the atmosphere that is making our oceans more acidic. Only recently have we had the technology to understand this chemical interaction as it normally happens within 300 nanoseconds.

Love this? You can find out more about fizz and its effect on flavour here.