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A great ginger beer will improve any mixed drink. This brewed "soda" is an essential mixer for favorites like the Moscow mule, dark and stormy, and many other drink recipes that require the snappy spice of ginger.
Not all ginger beers are created equal—the flavor is surprisingly diverse, ranging from very spicy to sweet and relatively tame. Thanks in large part to the increased popularity of ginger beer cocktails, the selection of ginger beers is getting better all the time. Whether your taste leans toward the spicy or sweet, there’s a ginger beer that’s sure to tickle your taste buds. While all of the best ginger beers make a fine mixed drink, they’re also so good, you can drink them as is—no liquor needed.
A number of soda companies have focused specifically on developing products for mixed drinks. One of the leaders in this realm is Fever-Tree. You may know the brand best for its full line of tonic water, but the ginger beer is equally outstanding.
Three types of ginger—from Cochin, India; Ivory Coast; and Nigeria—go into this brew, giving it a depth that's not found anywhere else. It's warm and spicy, not too sweet, and very refreshing, thanks to the carbonated spring water. Enjoy it in any ginger beer cocktail, and be sure to mix it into the gin-gin mule because it really shines with gin and mint.
Fever-Tree also produces "Refreshingly Light" ginger beer, which is made with fructose. It cuts the sugar, calories, and carbs in half, but the taste will not let you down.
The other pioneer in cocktail-worthy mixers is Q Mixers (formerly Q Drinks). They offer the full range of sodas you’ll need for creating spectacular mixed drinks, and the ginger beer will make one of the best Moscow mules you've ever had.
A number of things set Q Ginger Beer apart. It's sweetened with organic agave nectar and, if you love spice, you'll definitely enjoy the chili peppers, coriander, and cardamom that accent the real ginger. There's also a hint of lime and extra carbonation to ensure your cocktails sparkle. It results in a tantalizing, fun, and refreshing ginger beer.
Like many cocktail-focused brands, Q Ginger Beer is sold in small cans and bottles, averaging seven ounces each. It's the ideal volume for filling your glass, leaving nothing behind to go flat. For a low-calorie option, Q Light Ginger Beer is an excellent choice.
Barritt's has been the standard in ginger beer for years and is called for in the original dark and stormy recipe. If you want an authentic taste of that cocktail, pair Barritt's with Gosling's Black Seal Rum (though Gosling’s now makes its own ginger beer).
Both familiar and readily available—often appearing with other mixers near liquor, even in grocery stores—Barritt's is extremely reliable. It's made with high fructose corn syrup, so there's a sweetness reminiscent of mass-marketed sodas. And yet, it pairs with rum just as well as the super-syrupy Coca-Cola does in a rum and Coke. The ginger isn't overpowering, and it has a great fizz that only adds to its appeal.
Bundaberg should be considered a benchmark for great-tasting ginger beer. You can't help but miss the stout, dark bottle outfitted with a bold yellow label and pull tab. If you prefer, the diet version tastes good as well and significantly reduces the calories and sugars.
A family-owned Australian company, Bundaberg reveals exactly how it's made. It's just like beer—wort, fermentation, and maturing—so it's the real brew rather than an imitation that’s produced like a soda. The recipe uses cane sugar and real ginger, offering the perfect balance of sweetness and spice with a warm foamy fizz reminiscent of dark beers.
Perfectly enjoyable on its own, Bundaberg can stand up to any cocktail. For a real treat, heat it up to give the ginger flavor a new life and mix it with seasonal flavors in the Christmas mule.
With organic sugar cane juice that’s certified fair trade and none of the additives that are so common in today’s soda market, Maine Root Handcrafted Beverages is a company that’s out to make everyone feel good. It offers a full line of well-crafted sodas and enjoys surprisingly wide distribution. Plus, the brand creates a top-notch ginger beer.
This is the ginger beer for true connoisseurs. It has a wonderful spicy ginger kick that will never go unnoticed. Maine Root describes it as “wicked,” and that is not an overstatement. Behind that is a slight natural sweetness, and the two contrasting flavors are married perfectly with lively bubbles. Even with all that going on, it’s an easy drinker, and it makes some very fine cocktails. For a true taste adventure, pour it into the tequila-based el diablo.
The spice is what sets ginger beer apart from ginger ale. While it may not be to everyone’s liking, a big, bold, spicy ginger beer is a thing of wonder. In this flavor profile, it’s hard to beat Reed’s Stronger Ginger Brew.
Reed’s is a well-known name in ginger beer, and ginger is the company’s primary focus. Made with all-natural ingredients, including raw cane sugar, organic Peruvian ginger, and honey, this ginger beer features pineapple, lemon, and lime juices too. They’re made in the Jamaican style, so they always have a lively ginger snap that will grab your attention.
If you’ve enjoyed Reed’s Extra, then a bottle of Stronger is going to please your spice-loving palate. It has three times the amount of ginger found in Reed’s Original. It's mixable, great with any liquor—including whiskey—and drinkable on its own. This one can quickly become a favorite.
On the other side of the spectrum, some ginger beers are sweet. Royalty Ginger Beer is an excellent choice for drinkers who like a mellow flavor but still want the snappiness not found in ginger ale. Made in the U.K., it’s also available in a sugar-free diet version as well.
The interesting thing about this one is that many people describe it as lemonade with the taste of ginger beer. It's syrupy, and that’s why it’s best when mixed into drinks rather than enjoyed on its own (counteract the sweetness with fresh lime juice). Steer clear of cocktails that include a sweetener and let this ginger beer take over that aspect instead. A perfect example is the apple cinnamon mule, which includes vodka, apple cider, and lime juice.
For a little adventure, pick up a bottle of ginger beer from Brooklyn Crafted. Made with pure cane sugar, fresh ginger, and organic extract, it's definitely for true ginger beer lovers. Since it's unfiltered, you can even find pieces of ginger floating in every bottle.
Spicy does not even begin to describe these ginger beers, which means it will not get lost in even the most complex cocktails (even the brand's ginger ale packs a punch). The company likes to play with flavors, and the mango ginger beer is a fascinating taste experience. It adds a tropical twist to the spicy beer and offers a lot of opportunities to create fascinating new drinks. When experimenting, try it in brightly flavored cocktails like the pot of gold. The mango will pair nicely with cucumber, elderflower, and mint.
The majority of sugar-free ginger beers leave a lot to be desired because alternative sweeteners tend to fight the ginger. Zevia Mixer Ginger Beer is one of the best options and a good choice for a healthier Moscow mule. It was designed to be a cocktail mixer, comes in small cans, and is often in the mixer section of liquor and grocery stores.
This one is sweetened with Stevia leaf extract. That does add some bitterness, which takes some getting used to, but the ginger is still present, and the flavor is nicely balanced. Even drinkers who enjoy real sugar cane find it surprisingly drinkable. It does very well against a myriad of flavors and can stand up to nearly any cocktail. One to try is the cranberry ginger shandy, in which Zevia plays well against cranberry juice and your favorite hefeweizen.
Take control of your ginger beer experience with a syrup and add soda water to suit your taste. They’re rare because it’s only an imitation of brewed ginger beer, of course, but soda concentrates are an excellent option. The best on the market is definitely Top Hat Ginger Beer Craft Concentrate.
Top Hat specializes in soda syrups that are well-known for replicating the taste of packaged sodas. The ginger beer concentrate follows suit with the top-quality portfolio and has a wonderful ginger flavor that any ginger beer fan will appreciate. Use it in your soda maker or simply top it with club soda or seltzer, it’s an economical and delicious option. As a bonus, you can tailor the taste for any drink you’re mixing up. For a diet-friendly alternative, there’s a sugar-free concentrate, too.
In addition to Barritt's Original Ginger Beer, the brand also offers a non-alcoholic diet version, which is calorie-free and made with no sugar. That said, it's just as bold, spicy, and crisp as its non-diet counterpart. The taste is surprisingly pleasant and even better than most big-name diet sodas.
A four-pack of these fun, retro-looking 12-ounce cans can be found in the mixer section of your local liquor store and in markets across the country. Keep them on hand for casual sipping during your next pizza or Netflix movie night. If you're feeling extra fancy—and take a liking to cucumber with elderflower—try your hand at the pot of gold.
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Colleen Graham is a food and beverage writer with over a decade of experience writing about cocktails, beer, and wine. She is the author of two books—“Rosé Made Me Do It” and “Tequila: Cocktails With a Kick”—and ginger beer is one of her go-to drinks.