Ginger ale is a carbonated soft drink flavoured with ginger.
It is consumed on its own or used as a mixer, often with spirit-based drinks.
There are two main types of ginger ale:
• the golden style is sweet, spicy and has a strong ginger taste.
• the dry style also called the pale style, is a paler drink with a much milder ginger flavour.
The golden style is credited to Thomas Joseph Cantrell, an Irish apothecary and surgeon. He claimed to have invented it in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the 1850s, and marketed it with local beverage manufacturer Grattan and Company. Grattan embossed the slogan “The Original Makers of Ginger Ale” on its bottles. This was the older style golden ginger ale, dark coloured, generally sweet to taste, with a strong ginger spice flavour. Ginger ale is clear – ginger beer is often cloudy due to the residues of brewing, and has a stronger ginger taste.
The dry style is recognized as a Canadian creation by John J. McLaughlin, a chemist and pharmacist.
Having established a soda water bottling plant in 1890, McLaughlin began developing flavour extracts to add to the water in 1904. That year, he introduced “Pale Dry Ginger Ale”, the bubbly drink that would be patented in 1907 as “Canada Dry Ginger Ale”. An instant success, Canada Dry products were accepted by appointment to the Vice-Regal Household of the Governor General of Canada.
“The Champagne of Ginger Ales” is another famous Canada Dry trademark. This “pale” style of ginger ale made a fine, flavorful substitute for club soda, especially during the Prohibition era in the US, when the spice of the ginger ale covered up the less-than-refined illegal alcoholic spirits available.
Canada Dry was the first major soft drink comapny to put soft drinks in cans (1953) and introduce sugar-free drinks (1964).
In 1986, Cadbury Schweppes, the world’s first soft drink maker, purchased Canada Dry and Sunkist.
Today, golden ginger ale is an uncommon, more regional drink exemplified by Vernors. By contrast, dry ginger ale is produced on a large scale internationally, and is a staple in supermarkets and bars, and on airlines.
Vernors, Blenheim, A-Treat, Bull’s Head, Chelmsford, Buffalo Rock, Sussex and Red Rock are brands of golden ginger ale. Canada Dry, Schweppes, and Seagram’s are major brands of dry ginger ale.
Commercial ginger ale commonly contains carbonated water, sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial or natural ginger-flavour. Ginger content is often listed on labels in a general “natural aroma” or “natural flavoring” statement, to preserve secrecy of the complex proprietary mix of spices, fruits and other flavours used – lemon, lime, and cane sugar are the most common ingredients. Pineapple and honey are also occasionally used.
Traditional ginger ale is made from a microbial starter culture (yeast or ginger bug), sugar, fresh ginger root, other flavourings and water. Ginger bug can be derived from ginger beer plant containing Saccharomyces florentinus and Lactobacillus hilgardii or fresh ginger root containing Lactobacillus bacteria and wild yeast. The carbonation comes from the yeast fermentation as opposed to carbonating the finished product. Ethanol, as a byproduct of fermentation, will be present in the ginger ale but can be controlled by modifying fermentation time.
Ginger ale and ginger beer are similar beverages, however, there are clear differences during the process. Ginger beer originated in England in the 1800s while ginger ale was founded in Ireland approximately 50 years later before it was modernized in 1907 by John McLaughlin.
Original ginger beer contains 11% alcohol, but modern ginger beer contains less than 0.5% alcohol while modern ginger ale has absolutely no alcohol content. Ginger beer is brewed with natural ginger, lemon juice, sugar and it is fermented with a ginger beer plant culture. The fermentation of the lactobacillus produces a cloudy appearance, stronger-tasting and spicier flavour compared to ginger ale. Other differences between ginger ale and ginger beer are in terms of taste and aroma. While Ginger ale is mellow and smells sweet, ginger beer has a spicy whiff and gingery taste.
Ginger ale is a fantastic drink, and it’s surprisingly easy to make at home. Ginger ale is, quite simply, carbonated water sweetened and flavored with ginger-infused syrup.
While ginger ale itself isn’t a health food, it may offer a few benefits if it contains real ginger root. Ginger root is the underground stem of the ginger plant. It has a long history of medicinal and health uses, especially related to the digestive system. Studies have shown that ginger may offer the following health benefits — but these effects apply to ginger itself, not to ginger ale specifically.