Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Ginger Beers - Goose Island, Diet, and More

One of the most frequently searched topics on this blog is "ginger beer." A couple of years ago, I wrote a review of our comprehensive tasting of ginger beers. You can find those posts here:
  • Taste Test Ginger Beers Part I, listing and describing the contenders, which included the following ginger beers: Cock 'N Bull, Bundaberg, Barritt's , Ginger People, D&G, Fentiman's, Reed's, Sioux City, and one ginger ale: Fever Tree
  • Ginger Saga Part III, where we added Blenheim's into the mix, and liked them, but they didn't edge out the Bundaberg.
Since then, I've continued using ginger beers in a variety of cocktails, and have tried a few more varieties. Here are some additions to the list, with comments:
  • Goose Island Spicy Ginger Soda - this brand is owned by a Chicago company that makes some great beers, so we tried it out. And we liked it. It's made with cane sugar, but with "natural flavorings," so not necessarily any real ginger in there. Nonetheless, it has a nice balance of sweet to spice, and makes a good Moscow Mule and appeals to a wide range of palates. We also like it a lot in the drink below, which we served at a recent cocktail pairing dinner. Plus, it runs about $4 a four-pack and is fairly widely available in the Chicago area.
  • Fever Tree Ginger Beer - much better for cocktails than their Ginger Ale, which I wrote about previously. Made with ginger root, as well as "natural flavor," and cane sugar. Nice, bright and versatile. Harder to find though, and more expensive.
  • Maine Root Ginger Brew - found at Whole Foods, this ginger beer is very spicy and rich. While we really like it, it is a bit too much for some folks because of it's intensity. I don't have any on hand right now, so I can't tell you the exact ingredients, but they use cane sugar and at least some real ginger.
  • Gosling's Diet Ginger Beer - various reports have indicated that Gosling's ginger beer is a repackaging of Barritt's. It is very similar to Barritt's in taste and ingredients, so that might very well be the case. I found the diet version to be about as good as diet tonic. Which, suffice to say, is not so great. If you are worried about calories, and are OK with a rough approximation, then go for it. Otherwise, just take it easy with some of the ones that have sugar in 'em - it'll taste better.
  • Housemade Ginger Beer at Heartland in St. Paul, MN - Peder Schweigert, the head bar man at this fantastic restaurant, brews his own ginger beer from scratch. While it can be extremely carbonated (read: opening a bottle resulted in a wide spray all over my hubby), it is absolutely delicious and one of our favorites of all time. Rich ginger, spice, a balance of sweet, with lots of bubbles. Wonderful, and totally worth asking about if you're in the area.
If you see the Goose Island Spicy Ginger Soda, we'd recommend giving it a try. Same for the Fever Tree Ginger Beer and Maine Root. Apparently Bundaberg makes a diet version also, but I've never seen it. Have you?

Here's a fun cocktail we served at a recent event, adapted from this cocktail over at Cocktail Virgin Slut:

Parisian Mule

1 oz Sirène Absinthe Verte
1 oz Housemade Orgeat (also good with Trader Tiki orgeat)
1/2 oz Rosehip Liqueur (also good with Orange Curacao)
1/2 a lime, cut into wedges
Ginger Beer

Muddle lime wedges in glass. Add absinthe, orgeat and liqueur. Fill with crushed ice, then top with ginger beer. Garnish with lime wedge.

Our friend Cleetus Friedman at City Provisions paired this cocktail with a chocolate almond waffle with honey whipped cream and candied ginger. Yum!

Picture of drink is by Christina Noel Photography.

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