I think you'd agree with us when we say that ginger beer is a very important ingredient in making an exceptional Moscow Mule. But what are the best ginger beers for your Moscow Mule? In this post, we offer up the eight best ginger beers for Moscow Mules, explain how to make your own ginger beer, discuss why ginger beer is so important to a great Moscow Mule and even rank ginger beers by different tastes and features!
The Importance of Ginger Beer to the Moscow Mule
What is it about the Moscow Mule that makes it one of the most beloved cocktails in the world?
A "Mule" only has three ingredients: vodka (or any other spirit depending on the mule variations), lime juice and ginger beer. Seeing as how Mules can be fashioned from just about every liquor known to man, and limes (despite being tropical) are a common bar staple, the answer to what makes it unique is clear- it must be the ginger beer!
The sweetly robust spice of ginger beer is refreshing and distinct. It is also the most essential element of any Mule (whether it be the Moscow Mule, Mexican Mule, Jamaican Mule, Irish Mule or Kentucky Mule). With its spicy kick balanced by notes of citrus, a good ginger beer should delight the senses, warm the throat and soothe the stomach.
But not all ginger beers are created equal. They vary in ingredients, spiciness, strength, sweetness, color, carbonation, flavor and finish. When deciding on the best ginger beer for Moscow Mules (or to simply enjoy them on their own), most consumers lack the knowledge needed to look beyond the label, and choose wisely.
Whether you plan to drink it straight up or use it as a cocktail mixer, this guide will help you understand the differences between popular ginger beers, find the best places to buy them (or how to brew your own batch), and help you to easily discover the right ginger beer for you.
This article will clearly and concisely cover topics like.....
- What is Ginger Beer?
- Why is Ginger Beer the Key to a Great Moscow Mule?
- Ginger Ale vs. Ginger Beer
- Where do you Buy Great Ginger Beer?
- How to Make your own Ginger Beer
- The 8 Best Ginger Beers for Moscow Mules
- The Ginger Beer Awards: The Gingy's
- Key Insights on the Best Ginger Beer for You
What is Ginger Beer?
Ginger beer is a delicious, usually non-alcoholic carbonated beverage. Unlike ginger ale (soda with ginger syrup), ginger beer is made from water, ginger, cane sugar and yeast. It's brewed, and the natural fermentation creates a cloudy color, surprising sweetness and a bold flavor. This process also creates byproducts, like probiotics, which have a multitude of health benefits.
Although popularized by recent cocktails like the Moscow Mule and the Dark 'n Stormy, ginger beer actually has a long and spicy history going back hundreds of years.
Ginger root is a spice that's been used in food and traditional medicine for thousands of years. It looks exactly like a plump brown tree root; its smell is pungent, and its distinct flavor is refreshing and unique.
Ginger's appeal goes beyond taste, because it boasts a number of incredible health benefits. It's great for indigestion, inflammation, nausea, morning sickness, muscle pain, and fighting the common cold and flu. If that's not enough for you, there are also hundreds of published medical studies that suggest ginger could lower blood pressure, and fight Alzheimers and cancer.
Ginger originated in Indonesia, and spread throughout Asia, Africa and Europe like wildfire. People have enjoyed sipping on ginger drinks from ancient Greece to Queen Victoria to Elizabeth Taylor. Currently, the top producers of ginger are India, Nigeria, China, Indonesia, Nepal and Thailand (and each variety is remarkably distinct, influenced by the climate, soil, and growing techniques of the region).
Ginger beer has been brewed in England since the 1800's, and was the official drink of the court of Queen Victoria. However, it didn't become popular in the US until the creation of the Moscow Mule in 1941 (and then again during the cocktail renaissance of the early 2000's). This drink brought ginger beer international acclaim as an excellent stand alone beverage, and an even better alcohol mixer.
It is important to remember there is a spectrum of ginger beers, varying in sweetness, spiciness, flavor, heat and additional ingredients. Some ginger can be overpowering, so the brewers may add lime juice or other citrus to help cut and balance the dominant tones of the spice. This is also why fresh lime juice is essential when making an authentic Moscow Mule.
Why is Ginger Beer the Key to a Great Moscow Mule?
When mixing cocktails, there are three important factors: ingredients, process and presentation. Most cocktails offer some flexibility on these factors, to a point.
When it comes to ingredients, quality is always key. Whether making tacos or mixing drinks, the quality of your ingredients will directly affect the texture, taste and overall experience of the finished product.
Although certain ingredients can be swapped due to preference or availability, there is usually a foundational element that cannot be substituted. For the Moscow Mule, that crucial cornerstone is ginger beer.
That means that substituting ginger ale for ginger beer is generally not a good idea. Despite both having "ginger" in the name, these are two fundamentally different beverages, and if you attempt to cut corners and use the easy-to-find ginger ale instead of ginger beer, your Mule will not be the same. That said, there are variations on the Moscow Mule which can be made using ginger ale as a substitute for ginger beer.
Ginger beer also offers a unique carbonated fizziness that can't be matched with regular sodas like ginger ale. The cool, fizzy spice of this bubbly concoction is part of its magical appeal. It creates a cocktail that is relatively healthy, with an unforgettable kick. And the sudsy fizz only occurs during natural fermentation when brewing ginger beer, and creates a soft texture that both captures powerful aromas and enhances the earthy flavor.
Truly great drinks are refreshing, balanced and beautiful. Ginger beer makes such an excellent mixer because nothing else is spicy, sweet and refreshing at the same time.
Ginger Ale vs. Ginger Beer
A lot of people grew up drinking ginger ale. Maybe it was a household staple, or maybe it was something your Mom gave you for your upset stomach. Most people had never even heard of ginger beer until the recent resurgence of the Moscow Mule and its iconic copper mug. However, ginger ale and ginger beer are two completely different beverages. Although they both are refreshing and make good mixers, only one is suitable for an authentic Moscow Mule.
Ginger ale is carbonated water, flavored with ginger syrup. It's similar to most sodas, and tends to be sweet with a strong bubbly carbonation and a light ginger flavor. The main difference is that ginger beer is brewed, and is usually made with real ginger, cane sugar, water and yeast. Ginger beer tends to be powerfully spicy, cloudy in color, and, like ginger tea, boasts numerous health benefits.
Although ginger beer naturally ferments, it is usually considered non-alcoholic (although nowadays you can also find alcoholic ginger beers with an ABV anywhere from 3-9%). The fermentation process creates a thick head (like a typical beer when poured) and is an essential element to a desirable Moscow Mule.
To sum up, ginger ale is basically flavored water, whereas ginger beer is a fermented drink made from actual ginger root and brewed to varying degrees of strength. Ginger ale is lighter in color and sweeter in flavor, whereas ginger beer is dark and cloudy with a potent spiciness. Diet ginger ale and diet ginger beer are both available, and contain about half as many calories as usual.
Both drinks are refreshing and mix well with alcohol, however... Ginger ale is not an acceptable substitute for ginger beer when it comes to making authentic Moscow Mules. Of course, there are ways to make a delicious variation of the Moscow Mule using ginger ale, but it won't be the real thing. Remember this, and you'll do just fine!
Where Do You Buy Ginger Beer?
When you're ordering a Moscow Mule or one of its cousins at a bar, chances are they have a legit ginger beer in the fridge. If you see your bartender going for the soda gun and attempting to use ginger ale, call them out! But if you want to mix up this easy-to-make cocktail at home, there are several options for acquiring ginger beer.
These days, you can find ginger beer just about anywhere. Most major supermarkets, liquor stores, or specialty stores keep a variety of ginger beer in stock. Trader Joe's features a nice selection of ginger beers, as well as Whole Foods and even Walmart. If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere that has a nostalgic, glass bottle pop shop, you are sure to find some great choices there.
If none of these are great options, or after having read this post you want to buy a specific brand easily without hunting for it locally, there are a number of great websites that can ship your ginger beer to your door on the double, like Amazon, Total Wine, World Market, Target and Beverages2U.
How to Make Your Own Ginger Beer
Since buying quality ginger beer can get a bit pricey, brewing your own ginger beer at home might be a great solution. It's also pretty easy, and can be done in one of three ways:
- You can make a ginger syrup and easily make your own infusion or ginger ale.
- You can use yeast and sugar to create a "ginger bug", and then ferment for 4-6 weeks.
- You can create a ginger tartar, and ferment with yeast for 3 days.
Depending on your needs, supplies and overall dedication, the method that is best for you may vary. Because most people need their ginger fix in a hurry, we will discuss how to make ginger beer at home using method #3.
- several large pieces of ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
- 9 cups of spring water
- 1 cup of granulated cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon of dry active yeast
- an empty 2 liter plastic soda bottle (cleaned)
- Peel and carefully grate the fresh ginger using a box grater. You want about 1/4 cup of grated ginger.
- Add the cream of tartar, lemon juice, and ginger to a large pot.
- Add 4 cups of water, and bring the mixture to a full boil.
- Reduce heat to medium, add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Add the rest of the (cold) water to the pot (5 cups) and allow it to cool to around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the yeast and stir well.
- Cover the pot with a kitchen towel and place in a warm, dark part of your house for 3 hours. It should smell gingery and yeasty!
- Using a fine strainer, strain the liquid into a large pitcher to remove all the bits of ginger sediment.
- Pour the brew into a clean 2-liter plastic bottle. Empty soda bottles work perfectly, and you can also use 2 one-liter bottles. Do not fill up the bottles all the way because the fermentation will create carbon dioxide.
- Place the bottles in a dark, warm room for 3 days. One to three times a day, carefully loosen the caps to relieve some of the pressure (without opening the bottles all the way). This can be tricky, but is essential in preventing minor explosions.
- Once the ginger beer has finished brewing, store it in the refrigerator to chill. This will also slow the fermentation process, and prevent it from becoming alcoholic.
- Pour in a glass and enjoy as is, or add additional flavors. Lemon and lime juice, herbs, and other fruit can make your batch unique. Ginger beer keeps for 10 days (or slightly longer with citric additions). Make sure to store in air-tight bottles in your refrigerator, and enjoy!
An Overview of the 8 Best Ginger Beers
The first step in choosing the best ginger beer is taking a moment to study the label. Ignore the name and branding, and take a look at the ingredients and sugar per serving. The best ginger beers are made with a variety of different gingers, and might include fruits and herbs to accentuate its sweet and spicy flavors.
In this section, we set out the 8 best ginger beers for the Moscow Mule. Along with a brief description of each ginger beer will be qualities, calories, and average price. This ranking is in alphabetical order. To view based on categories like Sweetest, Spiciest, and Most Refreshing, be sure to read the Ginger Beer Awards and conclusion at the end of this post to gleam further insights.
Brooklyn's Crafted Lemon-Lime Ginger Beer
It's no surprise that the cocktail fiends in BK concocted a powerfully spicy brew infused with invigorating citrus. Unfiltered pieces of ginger you can see floating in the bottle create a uniquely deep spice. Balance in a bottle, this could be considered the ultimate mixer, destined to uplift any spirit it meets.
Qualities: refreshing, fruity, spicy
Nutrition: 120 calories and 36 grams of sugar
Bundaberg Ginger Beer
This traditional Australian style ginger beer is a great choice for those who prefer something refreshing and light. The barrel aged brews have minimal heat, intense sweetness, and an unusual finish.
Qualities: light, sweet, refreshing, mild
Nutrition: 170 calories and 40 grams of sugar
Cock 'n Bull Ginger Beer
Named as an homage to the birthplace of the Moscow Mule, this ginger beer delivers a fiery blast of ginger, but finishes with a cola-like cleanse that erases any lingering ginger aftertaste. Despite its iconic name, the full experience is far from authentic, and this brew makes the list only because it's well suited to cocktail mixing (and is almost a hybrid beer/ale)
Qualities: heat, smooth, sweet, cola
Nutrition: 144 calories and 40 grams of sugar
Fever Tree Ginger Beer
Uniquely brewed with a trio of gingers from Nigeria, Kochi, and the Ivory Coast, this ginger beer is delicious without being overpowering. It is a common resident on ginger beer top ten lists, and also has a great diet ginger beer option with half the sugar.
Qualities: complex, spicy, full-bodied
Nutrition: 88 calories and 20 g of sugar
The Ginger People’s Bottoms Up Ginger Beer
Made with simple, organic ingredients, this brew boasts a kick that warms the throat without overshadowing the ginger flavor. It goes down smooth, and has a pleasantly crisp citrus finish.
Qualities: heat, smooth, citrus
Nutrition: 148 calories and 36 grams of sugar
Gosling's Ginger Beer
This bargain-priced Bermuda beverage is always a solid choice. It delivers a clean hit of mildly spicy ginger, with light citrus notes, and a sweet finish.
Qualities: mild, sweet, spicy
Nutrition: 195 calories and 48 grams of sugar
Hollows & Fentimans Ginger Beer
This expensive ginger beer from the UK is not ideal for cocktails, but it is great to sip by itself. Made with an unusual blend of botanicals and fermented in low-alcohol beer barrels, it has minimal heat and only a mild ginger taste.
Qualities: mild, aromatic
Nutrition: 330 calories and 30 grams of sugar
Q Ginger Beer
Ginger beer connoisseurs appreciate the complexity and balance of Q Ginger Beer. Made with agave nectar instead of cane sugar, and infused with chili peppers and other spices to compliment the ginger's zip, this delightful beverage is also extra carbonated, and is ideal for drinking by itself or mixed in a copper mule mug.
Qualities: spicy, balanced, sweet
Nutrition: 90 calories and 22 grams of sugar
The Ginger Beer Awards
In this section, we rank ginger beers by their key defining features. While some of these ginger beers did not make the "top 8" ranking noted above, we do think they have unique features that justify a mention. We call these awards the "Gingy's", and they provide an easy way to find the ginger beer perfect for your tastes and preferences.
- The Ultimate – Rachel’s Ginger Beer
- The Go-To – Fever Tree Ginger Beer
- Most Refreshing – Regatta Ginger Beer
- The Natural - Maine Root Ginger Brew
- The Sweetest – Bruce Cost Ginger Ale
- The Freshest – Spindrift Ginger Beer
- Most Versatile – Bundaberg Ginger Beer
- The Original – Barritts Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer
- The Spiciest – Goya Jamaican-Style Ginger Beer
- The Mildest – Parker’s Ginger Beer
- Most Unique – Fentimans Ginger Beer
As you can see, the ginger beer scene is a blossoming industry with an eclectic range of choices that vary from sweet to spicy. Ginger beer is brewed internationally, and each country has a different take on the traditional beverage. After reading this article, here are some key facts you want to take away, so you can make the most informed decision on what is the best ginger beer for you or your occasion.
- Ginger beer is not the same as ginger ale. Ginger ale is basically soda, and ginger beer is a fermented and usually non-alcoholic brew.
- Ginger is incredibly healthy. It helps relieve upset stomachs, indigestion, nausea and inflammation.
- Ginger beer is an excellent cocktail mixer. Whether its a Dark 'n Stormy or a Moscow Mule, ginger beer pairs beautifully with just about any spirit.
- You can buy ginger beer or diet ginger beer almost anywhere. If your local supermarket or liquor store doesn't carry it, then order some from your favorite online site.
- Find the ginger beer that best suits your taste and needs. The ideal ginger beer is mildly spicy, balanced with citrus notes, and not overly sweetened.
Now you know how to choose the best ginger beer, and even how to make your own. We hope this has been informative, and hope everyone will find a way to regularly incorporate ginger into their everyday life. Cheers!