Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ginger ale

Ginger ale is a refreshing and enjoyable beverage. I find the so-called "dry" styles listed below generally best on their own, but they can also make a nice mixer if paired up with a lighter whiskey (think Maker's Mark bourbon or Jack Daniels). The ginger ales listed below are all fairly lightly-ginger-flavored as compared with their ginger brew/beer counterparts (separate post). I took the opportunity to taste test a flight of fairly common ginger ales and record notes below. While I don't typically drink ginger ale very often (or even ginger beer, which I prefer to ginger ale), it is nice to have a go-to product when the occasion is right.

The contenders:

1. Canadry Dry Ginger Ale
2. Schweppes Ginger Ale
3. Vernor's Ginger Ale
4. Fever Tree Ginger Ale
5. Whole Foods 365 Ginger Ale
6. Hansens Ginger Ale

Ginger ales were tasted blind in freshly cleaned tumblers.

1. Canada Dry Ginger Ale
Meduim color compared to the group. Smells like lemon-lime soda (7-up) No discernible ginger component. Tastes fairly sweet with more lemon-lime. Pleasant, but ginger ale?

2. Schweppes Ginger Ale
Medium color compared to the group. Not much on the nose. Tastes like ginger ale cut with club soda. Drier and crisper than the Canada Dry. Maybe(?) some hint of ginger, but not a lot of flavor.

3. Vernor's Ginger Ale
Darkest color of the group. Cream soda-ish sort of nose, flowery, almost a bubble gum quality. Fairly full flavored and sweet, more of the cream-soda elements. No ginger to speak of.

4. Fever Tree Ginger Ale
Second lightest color of the group. Getting a rooty/leafy/woodsy smell. Earthy flavors, slightly medicinal with a lot of ginger character. Compared to the other drinks, this one stood out, but the earthiness was a bit much.

5. Whole Foods 365 Ginger Ale
Lightest color of the group. Ginger and some complex spices. Sweet and crisp with delicate flavors of ginger. Comes off as drier than most of the others except maybe the Fever Tree.

6. Hansen's Ginger Ale
Second darkest color of the group. Lots of ginger on the nose. Dark aromas of spice and ginger. Fairly well rounded and full of flavor.

Observations and conclusions: As with any comparative tasting, this was an interesting experience. Vernor's, Canada Dry and Schweppes, while enjoyable enough as a beverage, just simply did not taste of ginger and were therefore effectively disqualified. Of the remaining, I offer the following:

***Best Overall***
Whole Foods 365
This one had a nice ginger character in a crisp, dry style.

This had a lot of ginger character, but I was a little put off by the earthy woodsiness. The driest of the group.

*Second Runner-Up*
A different style than the rest, with its dark color and spicy aromas, but this tastes of ginger and is an interesting soda.

Final note on sugar content - it turns out that the 365 actually has slightly more sugar than the Canada Dry and the Schweppes, but uses cane sugar vs. HFCS. Fever Tree was the only other product to use cane suger. In terms of sugar content (per 12 oz.), driest to sweetest: Fever-Tree (30g), Schweppes (33g), Canada Dry (35g), Hansen's (36g), Whole Foods 365 (37g), Vernor's (39g).

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