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Soda refers most commonly to soda water, which is a drink made by dissolving carbon dioxide into water under pressure, making it sparkling. The name soda comes from sodium salts and other regulators to deliver a taste similar to mineral water (the process of adding carbon dioxide to water forms an acid, carbonic acid. To reduce the acidity, alkaline salts such as sodium bicarbonate are added, hence the name.
Soda water is consumed on its own as a refreshment or as a mixer for a variety of other drinks, including fruit juices and some alcoholic drinks. It is a common addition to dilute other drinks and make them ‘long’.
Soda water was invented in the 18th Century by Joseph Priestley who discovered that he could infuse water with carbon dioxide when he suspended a bowl of water above fermenting beer at a local brewery in Leeds, England. The process was commercialised by an amateur Swiss scientist by the name of J.J. Schweppe. The drink was quite fashionable for a while, with the home soda syphon, a device for dispensing pressurised soda water, a common sight in the early- to mid-20th century.
Nowadays, commercial soda water for siphons is made by chilling filtered plain water to 8 degrees Celsius, adding an alkaline compound to reduce acidity and then pressurising with carbon dioxide. This gas dissolves in the water, and then a further addition of carbon dioxide is added to pressurise the siphon to approximately 120 pounds per square inch, around 50% than is found in champagne.
Americans use the term ‘soda’ when referring to any carbonated soft drink; soda water – the unflavored variety – is known as ‘club soda’ or seltzer, after the German town of Selters an der Lahn, near Hesse.