My drink of choice has become Vodka with Ginger Beer and a lime. I know it sounds a lot like a Moscow Mule. But because Mules have become a trendy drink, bartenders and restaurants are always trying to “improve” on the recipe. I’ve had the following put in my drink when ordering a Moscow Mule – bitters, jalapenos, cranberries, lemons, mint, pineapple, rosemary among many. Those extra ingredients take away from the simplicity of a Moscow Mule. So, I have taken to ordering only Vodka & Ginger Beer, with a wedge of lime. The Copper Cup is always a nice touch.
Because I’m tasting a lot of Ginger Beers in various locations, I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur of Ginger Beers. I like to taste my drink and guess what Ginger Beer is being served before I ask the bartender or server what brand is being used. I’m right more than I am wrong.
This is what I look for in a good ginger beer:
- I like it spicy. You should be able to taste the ginger.
- It should burn a little going down, and leave a tingly sensation on your lips.
- It should be slightly sweet. While the level of sweetness will vary in most ginger beers, in general they are much less sweet than ginger ale or ginger brews.
- I like it a little cloudy. My favorite ginger beers are generally pale, yellow and somewhat cloudy. Crystal clear, caramel colored beverages usually are usually more like ginger ale, and not really useful in a Moscow Mule.
- I like it fresh. The best ginger beer should taste like freshly juiced ginger.
- The best ginger beers contain little more than fresh ginger, spring water, and natural cane sugar, with maybe a dash of citrus juice or citric acid for zest.
Here are my favorites –
(My favorite Ginger Beer is the homemade one that my son Carlo DeSando made for me this Christmas, but you can’t buy that vintage in a store)
Fever Tree Ginger Beer – If I had to pick my favorite ginger beer, this would be it. I wish the bottles were a little larger than the 6.8 oz bottles, however. You can find it in Quart-sized bottles at Cost Plus Markets, among other places. Fever Tree is made from three gingers — from Nigeria, India and the Ivory Coast — for a big punch of ginger and a nice hit of heat. It’s one of the spicier and more flavorful options on the market.
Gosling’s Ginger Beer – You can’t go wrong with Gosling’s, probably better as an everyday Ginger Beer. It’s on the sweeter side with a nice hint of spice. It delivers a clean hit of mildly spicy ginger, making it a better-than-average mixer. Reasonably priced, also.
Q Ginger Beer – This carefully crafted, slightly cloudy ginger beer is the most refreshing option on this list. It tastes very fresh with terrific spice, thanks to hints of coriander, cardamom and lime. Fermented with those spices, this spicy ginger beer gets a nice lift thanks to lime juice. Was served Q in Boston and had never heard of it. But love the taste. A little more expensive than Gosling’s but worth it for the extra ginger jolt.Bundaberg Ginger Beer– Despite the fresh flavor of this sweeter-style Australian beer, it loses points for a wimpy, colalike finish and lack of heat. This ginger beer which is more sweet than spicy, is smooth and works well as a mixer.
Barritts Ginger Beer – Pleasantly sweet with just a hint of spice, this ginger beer was designed to be mixed with rum and thus is a bit more laid back than other, spicier varieties. This is the cheapest mainstream ginger beer in most supermarkets and unfortunately it tastes like it.
Reed’s Extra Ginger Beer – Fans of gin and tonics may appreciate the sweet-tart note to this brew, but the “extra” ginger promised on the label is somehow lost in the mix.
Stoli Ginger Beer – This expensive Ginger Beer is all wrong. It tastes like sugar water laced with citric acid. Avoid.
Pickett’s – If you’re looking for a ginger-flavored concentrated syrup rather than a traditional ginger beer, go for Pickett’s. Mildly spiced and mostly very sweet, an ounce of Pickett’s will give any rum cocktail an instant flavor boost. You can use this more flavorful syrup for traditional simple syrup in cocktails. Top Note Ginger Beer – This is the only Carmel colored ginger beer on my list. It packs a nice ginger kick, but is a little too syrupy and sweet compared to Fever Tree and Q. Will do fine in a pinch, but would not be my everyday ginger beer choice.
Not all ginger beers are created equal, as I’ve discovered over the years. If you’ve never had a true ginger beer before, you might find it shockingly spicy (yes, ginger is inherently spicy, with its own unique kind of burning heat) and less carbonated than typical soda. Sip it slowly, and enjoy the warm sensation that fills your mouth and stomach.
Just because it is called ginger beer doesn’t mean it’s good. I’ve had some substandard ginger beers in my quest to try them all. Cock ‘n Bull, Reed’s, Saranac, GuS, Trader Joe’s, Stoli. Not my favorites.
Expand your horizons a little and try one of these on my list that you have never tried before. I hope you enjoy as much as I do.