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What’s the Difference Between a Soft Drink and a Soda?

A woman sips a soda from a glass cup.

There are a lot of words for soda out there, and arguably, pop or soda pop are two of the most common. But you’ve also probably heard people refer to them as soft drinks, but are soft drinks and sodas the same thing?

While the terms are used interchangeably, sodas and soft drinks do have different meanings. However, in the United States, it’s totally fine to use either.

You’ve probably heard drinks referred to as “hard.” Think of hard seltzers or hard cider. Essentially, “hard” drinks just mean they’re alcoholic. Soft drinks, on the other hand, are any beverages that contain no alcohol. Yes, that Coca-Cola you love or the Dr Pepper you drink are soft drinks because they don’t contain alcohol.

But they’re also soda. The drinks get their names because they’re made with carbonated water and the moniker comes from the sodium salts within the water. That’s where the phrase soda water comes from. Sodas, on the other hand, are more than just water. Typically, they’re made up of carbonated water, sweeteners, and natural or artificial flavors.

So, are all soft drinks sodas? Technically, no. A soft drink is just a drink without alcohol, and it doesn’t have to be carbonated. However, in the current vernacular, if you ask for a list of soft drinks, you’ll likely get a list of sodas. And all sodas aren’t soft drinks, either. You can purchase hard sodas from brands like Henry’s.

If you’ve ever wondered if soda and soft drinks are different, technically, they are. But let’s be honest, if you ask for one or the other, you’ll get the same thing. The real question about soda is why McDonald’s sodas seem so much better, and we’ve got the answer.

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