Traditional dark ginger ale would be a healthy drink if you gloss over the high sugar content. Like most ginger-based drinks, it could serve as a home remedy for indigestion, cough or sore throat. But dark ginger ale is not what you can buy in the grocery.
What is ginger ale?
Commercial ginger ale is a non-alcoholic ginger-flavored carbonated drink. I say “commercial” because ginger ale was originally a dark fermented drink first brewed in the 1800s in Ireland although, as with most things that became famous, there is more than one claimant as inventor.
What we find on grocery shelves today is pale ginger ale made mostly with carbonated water, ginger and other flavorings, and sugar. The Filipino salabat, or ginger brew, is NOT the same as ginger ale despite the irresponsible and ignorant claim of a local government website.
Is dark ginger ale the same as ginger beer?
Ginger beer is older than ginger ale by about a century. First made in England, it was the result of the introduction of spices and sugar to Europe during colonial times.
Dark ginger ale and ginger beer look somewhat similar. There are even some similarities in the way they are made. But while ginger ale is essentially non-alcoholic, ginger beer can be either alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Crabbie’s ginger beer, a product of England, is an example of alcoholic ginger beer.
How is ginger ale served?
I discovered ginger ale as a grade schooler and I was immediately smitten (never a fan of Coke and Pepsi products). There was a grocery near the school and, sometimes, the boys in my class would slip past the security guard and buy ginger ale during the lunch break.
The bottles of ginger ale were still ice-cold when the boys got back to school. Where they managed to find a bottle opener on each mischievous occasion, I can’t recall. But there was often a bottle for me and we’d gulp down the ginger ale straight from the bottles.
As an adult, I learned that ginger ale can also be used as a cocktail mixer. For example:
Mint Highball Cocktail
- ½ cup creme de menthe
- 1 cup ginger ale
- lemon juice to taste
- lemon peel to garnish
- Start with the traditional ratio of one part creme de menthe and two parts ginger ale.
- Make adjustments to suit your taste. Perhaps, you want a one to one ratio? Why not?
- When you’re happy with the ratio, try adding lemon juice a little at a time. No more than half a teaspoonful at a time, in fact, until you get that perfect contrast.
- Pour the mixed drink into glasses, add ice and garnish with lemon peel.
- Serve immediately.