My Drink of Choice – Vodka and Ginger Beer
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 just order 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. I like to taste my drink and guess which one 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,
- It should be slightly sweet.
- I like it a little cloudy.
- I like it fresh. Ginger beer should taste like freshly juiced ginger.
- My favorites contain a little more than fresh ginger, spring water, and natural cane sugar. I like them to have a dash of citrus juice for zest.
Here are my favorites –
(My favorite Ginger Beer is the homemade one that my son Carlo DeSando made for me this Christmas. However you can’t buy that vintage in a store)
Top of the List
Fever Tree – 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. Quart-sized bottles at Cost Plus Markets, among other places. Fever Tree is made from three gingers from Nigeria, India and the Ivory Coast. It has 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 – Gosling’s is great 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. It is a better-than-average mixer. It is reasonably priced, also.
Q Ginger Beer – The most refreshing ginger beer on the list is Q. It is slightly cloudy, but It tastes very fresh with terrific spice. It has hints of coriander, cardamom and lime. The lime juice gives this spicy ginger beer gets a nice lift. I was served Q in Boston and had never heard of it. But love the taste. It is a little more expensive than Gosling’s. I think it is worth it for the extra ginger jolt.
Bundaberg– This sweeter-style Australian beer, has a very fresh flavor. It loses points for a wimpy, cola like finish and lack of heat. It is more sweet than spicy. It is smooth and works well as a mixer.
Barritts – Pleasantly sweet with just a hint of spice, this ginger beer was designed to be mixed with rum. It is a bit more laid back than other, spicier varieties. This is the cheapest mainstream ginger beer in most supermarkets. 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 one is all wrong. It tastes like sugar water laced with citric acid. I would avoid this one.
Pickett’s – If you’re looking for a ginger-flavored concentrated syrup rather than a traditional ginger beer, go for Pickett’s. It is mildly spiced and mostly sweet. An ounce of Pickett’s will give any rum cocktail an instant flavor boost. I would use this more flavorful syrup for traditional simple syrup in cocktails. Top Note – This is the only Carmel colored brew on my list. It packs a nice ginger kick, but is a little too syrupy and sweet compared to Fever Tree and Q. It will do fine in a pinch, but it would not be my everyday ginger beer choice.
I’ve discovered over the years, not all of these are created equal. If you’ve never had a true ginger beer before, you might find it shockingly spicy. Ginger is inherently spicy, with its own unique kind of burning heat. It is less carbonated than typical soda. Sip it slowly. 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. I hope you enjoy as much as I do.
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If you like this article on Ginger Beer, you should try our recipe for the Quarantini