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The term “Ginger Beer" can be a bit misleading. Despite the name, it is not actually beer. At the same time, don't get it confused with Ginger Ale either, though that too is not actually an ale. Ginger Beer is a fermented soft drink while Ginger Ale is a ginger flavored soda, similar to a cola.
History of Ginger Beer
Originating back in the 1700's, when the beverage pioneers looking for distinctive ways to create tonics in England developed this beverage, Ginger Beer did actually have quite an alcoholic kick to it. It was fermented with a nutrient from the ginger root itself which could spike the alcohol content to something nearing 11%, which by today's standards would be considered one of the stronger beers on the market . These days, however, a different sort of fermentation process is used, something a bit more akin to making kombucha, which results in a drink potent with flavor, but lacking any legitimate alcohol content (though sometimes can have a fraction of a percent). In comparison to ginger ale, which has a saccharin sweetness to it, the flavor, while dependent on producer, will typically be much more about the ginger root itself rather than the sugar that dominates most soft drinks.
What Does Ginger Beer Taste Like?
Using ginger root, sugars, and water, Ginger Beer can often appear bit cloudy or hazy, typically a light gold in color, similar to apple juice, and showcases a lively carbonation brought on naturally through the fermentation process, similar to a standard alcoholic beer. The aroma is immediately noticeable upon popping the cap and pouring into a tall glass. It is vibrant and warm, earthy and pungent. Ginger Beer is much more aggressive and exciting than a typical soda; it is intricate and unique. It is intense and piquant in flavor, often considered spicy or tangy. Some can have more of that sharp, freshly grated ginger appeal than others, but it is almost always a spice forward beverage, rich with zest and vigor from the famously potent root that is usually found in east Asian cuisine or Christmas spiced desserts.
Popular Cocktails Featuring Ginger Beer
Ginger Beer is wonderful on its own as a welcome change to the sweeter sodas that we see day to day. It is bountiful in flavor and many consider it a much more satisfying beverage, great for sipping or pairing with food like fatty hamburgers or decadent potstickers. However, it is perhaps more commonly used as a cocktail mixer as it stands up so well to the harshness of distilled alcohol. World famous drinks such as the Moscow Mule or the Dark & Stormy are made with ginger beer. The former by combining 4oz of your favorite Ginger Beer with 1.5oz of Vodka and a few squeezes of fresh lime, the latter by combining 3.5oz of Ginger Beer with 2oz of rum and a couple splashes of Angostura bitters.
However you enjoy it, Ginger Beer is a great addition to your home cocktail bar or your kitchen fridge. It's a refreshing beverage on a warm summer day or a spicy option on a chilly winter afternoon.