Experimenting with Whisky & Ginger

Phew! It’s warm today. During the previous week-of-Summer that we experienced back in June, I frequently found myself drawn to a whisky & ginger ale, mixed in a lovely, tall glass filled with ice. Deliciously cooling and refreshing, often with a lively kick of ginger, they’re perfect for a particularly warm day. But which ginger ale to use?

Canada Dry, Fevertree and Fentiman's Ginger Ales

Slightly bewildered at the choice available in the fridge, I decided to, in the style of DTS, explore a few different variations of the Whisky & Ginger in a blind tasting. Given the dramatic extent to which whiskies can differ from one another, I thought it best to try three different whiskies alongside each of my three ginger ales.

Each drink was mixed in a 2:1 (Ginger:Whisky) ratio. My notes can be found in the table below, in which – due to limitations of space – ‘N’ stands for “Nose” and ‘T’ stands for “Taste”.

Vat 69
A blend of over 40 malt and grain whiskies. Smooth, but full of flavour (40% ABV).
Grant’s Ale Cask
Grant’s whisky finished in barrels that had previously held Edinburgh Ale for 30 days. Malty and creamy (40% ABV).
Islay Mist
A wonderfully peaty blend of Laphroaig and Speyside malts (40% ABV).
Fevertree N: Generally sweet, with warm ginger and a hint of sea air at the end.
T: Not overly fizzy. Slight hint of peat, followed by a light, syrupy sweetness that – fortunately – never gets too sugary. Slightly dry towards the end. Soft, but flavourful.
[][][][][][][][] 8
N: Sweet, ginger like gingerbread, with a treacle-like sweetness. Hints of the sweeter notes of the whisky, with vanilla and sweet spice.
T: A good balance, with an interesting battle between the some sweeter and dryer notes; the taste switch between the two. There’s a pleasant warmth on the finish, but it’s quite short.
[][][][][][][ 6.5
N: A dry nose with lots of ginger and lovely notes of peat. The two notes go together very well; it alternates between moderate ginger and moderate peat.
T: Vigorous ginger, especially on the finish. Like the nose, there are strong notes of both the whisky and the ginger that go together remarkably well. The finish is warm and felt in the stomach, and there are interesting hints of pistachio and toasted almonds. Delicious and vibrant – my favourite!
[][][][][][][][][] 9
Canada Dry N: Peat and sea air, with more raw ginger root or powder than sweet ginger.
T: Far more fizzy, with a much more dominant flavour of the ginger ale. The whisky, which was stronger on the nose, comes through less on the tongue, which is covered with a creaminess from the ginger ale and an unpleasant artificial sweetness.
[][][][][] 5
N: Straw, wood, vanilla and sweet ginger.
T: Very fizzy, followed by wood notes from the whisky and sweetness. Then the palate clears and there’s an ever so slightly sour, bitter edge to the finish, which isn’t very pleasant.
[][][][][] 5
N: Mainly Islay peat, with a hint of spicy ginger at the end. Whisky is notably more dominant than in the other drinks.
T: Mainly whisky notes, with lots of peat and an almost “seaside” flavour: a salty, savoury hint that is strong on the edge of the tongue. After a moment, this fades into a woody sweetness, before faint ginger appears on the finish.
[][][][][][][] 7
Fentimans N: Very little on the nose, almost like the two ingredients cancel one another out. Faint wisps of whisky.
T: Quite fierce bubbles, but less than with the Canada Dry. The ginger notes fade into a lovely finish on the tongue and there’s substantial warmth in the stomach. Less sweet and a good balance of spirit and ginger, but some of the whisky notes are lost.
[][][][][][] 6
N: Dryer, with more warm, spicy ginger on the nose. Not much whisky.
T: Very spicy, indeed, with reasonably aggressive bubbles. An immediate burst of spicy ginger on the tongue is nicely supported by the warmth of the whisky. Although any deeper whisky flavours don’t manage to fight their way through the ginger ale, this still makes for a spicy and enjoyable drink, with a “just right” level of sweetness.
[][][][][][][] 7
N: Dryer nose, with fainter peat and no strong ginger notes, but rather a lighter, more citrusy “ginger ale” note.
T: Fresher and more fruity, followed by quite vigorous, hot ginger*. The peat of the whisky battles a little with the ginger, but there’s less harmony between the two flavours than in the previous two drinks; the ginger is just too strong.
[][][][][] 5

In Conclusion

This was a wonderful experiment that I’d definitely recommend to others now that the sunshine is back! I’d like to try a few more ginger ales in further tastings, but conclude that my favourite ginger ale of those that I tried was the Fevertree: I liked how it seemed to get the balance just right between adding some fiery ginger and still letting the whisky shine through – I shall have to try it with some other whiskies over the coming weeks.

– Mrs. B

* Although I do appreciate that this was my nineth Whisky & Ginger by this point, so, despite breaks between rounds, the ginger notes from previous drinks may have built up on my palate.

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Orange Soda Tasting

HISTORY

Orange Soda, probably the third most popular category of soft drink after cola and those in the lemonade family,  is a well-established category and has some big names attached to it. Three big brands that started off making Orange Soda, Tango, Fanta and Orangina, have now gone on to create a plethora of new flavours and spin-offs. Orange Sodas are typically quite sweet, although Schweppes once made a bitter orange to accompany their bitter lemon.

TASTE

#1 Orange Tango  [ASP, SAC*]
This had a medium fizz with very small bottles. It tasted of orange, with some hints of vanilla and a slight mineral quality. It wasn’t especially clean and got a bit sweet and cloying after a while, but over ice it’s pretty refreshing. Mrs. B said it reminded her of a cross between orange squash and orange sherbet; she quite liked it.
6, 7

#2 Fanta [ASP, SOD SAC*]
A slightly more neon yellow in colour, this also had medium fizz, but the taste of orange was less distinct and less fresh. Rather sweet, it had an unpleasant habit of clinging to your teeth, which is never a good sign. It says “made with real fruit”, but I never would have guessed.
It reminded Mrs. B of orange Calpol and she found it quite cloying and slick.
4 , 4

#3 Fentiman’s Mandarin and Seville Orange Jigger
A rather appetising colour, being somewhat reminiscent of freshly squeezed juice. There was a slight maltiness on the nose, as well as in the initial taste. This moved onto a deep, slightly bitter orange flavour, which then moved onto a fresher, fruity finish. After the taste of orange came some fieriness that lasted quite a long time.
This is a different type of soft drink and one for folks who find the usual thoroughfare of fizzy pop too sweet.
8 , 1

#4 Belvoir Organic Orange and Manadrain Pressé
A dark yellow-orange and cloudy drink, this had minimal fizz, but was still quite refreshing. It was a smooth drink with a full, tangy orange flavour and some light, fruity notes and hints of vanilla. The sweetness seemed quite balanced, but, by the time I finished the glass, it had become a bit thick and sickly for my liking.
6 , 6

#5 Sunkist [ACE, SOD SAC*]
With a medium-to-high fizz, this was a tangy orange offering with a little hint of vanilla afterward. It was quite fresh and rather pleasant, but a touch cloying at the end; overall, still pretty good. In contrast, Mrs. B hated it, saying it was too fizzy – here we disagree.
7 , 3

#6 Orangina
Initially, there were fresh and juicy flavours of orange. A medium-to-low level of fizz gave it a light effervescence that dominates the drink, but also gave it a refreshing spritz. Not too sweet and with a really orange tang on the finish, we both thought this was excellent.
9 , 8

#7 Juicology
This was the first of our still mixers. The nose was fruity, with a touch of spice and a hint of violet/rose (or turkish delight) at the end. This was a very smooth product and was very well-balanced; we could tell that some effort has gone into making this. The main flavour was a tangy orange, followed by a light warmth from the ginger and nutty cardamon on the finish. Lovely and succulent.
8 , 6

#8 Capri-Sun
Cool, fruity and refreshing, but there was a slight chalky squeakiness in the texture towards the end. The orange flavour is very similar to that of orange sweets, in particular fruit pastilles.
Mrs. B  liked it found it very refreshing; she found it to have a soft sweetness and an aftertaste of marshmallows.
5 , 5

#9 Still Fanta
Very sweet and rather syrupy, the tangy orange was there, but more subdued than in most others. As an orange soda, this wasn’t great, but for nostalgia reasons I still really like it.
6 , 5

#10 San Peligrino
To start, there was a fresh flavour of orange juice and a medium-to-high level of fizz. Quite tangy and refreshing, this was somewhat reminiscent of orange juice and lemonade.
8, 7

#11 Abbondio 

Medium-high fizz, fresh orange fruit flavour and some creamy hints of vanilla. Rather nice, possibly a touch on the sweet side but it doesn’t really take away from the drink that much.
7, 5
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#12 Luscombe St. Clements
This use Sicilian Oranges and Raw Cane Sugar. Medium fizz with a slight orange sourness, not too sweet and quite fresh a hint of the bitterness you get from Bitter Lemon and int he UK this is the closest I have found to what I think Bitter Orange would taste like. As such it very refreshing a good thirst quencher.
8, 8
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RESULTS

#1 Orangina
#2 Luscombe St. Clements
#3 San Pelligrino

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MAKE-YOUR-OWN

I’m quite a fan of bitter lemon and as I could not, sadly, get hold of any Schweppes Bitter Orange, in the spirit of innovation, I decided to make my own.

On with the recipe:

Juice & zest of 3 large oranges

Pith of 1 orange

1/2 tsp of Chili Powder

1 tsp Cinchona Bark

4 tsp Citric Acid

300ml Granulated Sugar

100ml of Water

Quite pleasant, with fruity orange flavours and a dry, bitter finish. Cooling and very, very refreshing. I still prefer bitter lemon, but this is a close runner-up.

COCKTAILS

1st Step Cocktail
The bourbon and bitters gave it a feel of an Old Fashioned and the Orangina gave it the same aftertaste that the orange twist gives to an Old Fashioned. Complex and refreshing, I think only by using a good qaulity orange soda like Orangina could you pull this off. This is an Old Fashioned for beginners.

Harvey Wallbanger
I used one of the still drinks, Juiceology Manadarin, Cardamom and Ginger, for this drink. It was very clean, with some vanilla and herbal notes, fresh orange and a hint of spice and fire from the juice. There was quite a lot of flavour and I’d advise using quite a clean, crisp vodka to stop too much flavour interfering with the other flavours of the drink.

Bronx Fizz
Packed with flavour: the herbal complexity of the vermouth, the dryness of the gin and one of the vermouths, and the sweetness of the Orangina and the other vermouth, all tied together by the Angostura Bitters. It also had a tangy orange finish. Quite refreshing, I thought it would make a pleasant aperitif.

*ASP = Aspartame, SOD SAC = Sodium Saccharin, SAC = Saccharin, ACE =

Cocktails with… Darnley’s View

Darnley’s View is a Scottish Gin* made by the Wemyss Family (pronounced weems) who also own Scotch and Wine companies.

The name Darnley’s View originates from a stay of Mary Queen of Scots at Wemyss Castle (the family’s ancestral home) It was during this visit that she first saw (got a view) of her future husband Lord Darley through a courtyard window of the castle.

Darnley’s View is bottled at 40%ABV and contains the following six botanicals:

It’s worth noting that other Scottish Gins such as Hendrick’s and The Botanist also use Elder as a botanical and, along with heather, these botanicals seem to be quite popular with Caledonian gin-makers.

For this “Cocktail with” I had a special request from Darnley’s View Gin (I’m always open to consider requests) to try their Gin with a variety of tonic waters to find a good match.**
Here are the results:

#1) Schweppes Regular
Fruity with some freshness but the drink falls flat in terms of flavour.

#2) Fevertree Regular
A good combo with both the sweetness and the bitterness you expect from a Gin & Tonic. As the ice melts a little the drink certainly improves but, like the 1724, it would be much better with a fruit garnish to add a little extra zip.

#3) Waitrose Regular
Crisp and fizzy, a truly classic Gin & Tonic. It has a more simple flavour profile than some of the others but was very refreshing. It had a good flavour balance, the floral notes of gin are not overpowered and the drink is not too sweet, cloying or bitter. Excellent!

#4) 1724 Tonic
Quite smooth, light and fresh. Good for a really hot day. A little lacking in flavour but this could be rectified by adding a juicy wedge of lemon.

#5) Fentiman’s Tonic
A good fizz, and very flavourful;. The lemongrass in the tonic adds some extra citrus to the drink, which is quite welcome; no need to garnish with lemon here. Some folks may find the citrus and the sweetness overpowering but in general rather good.

In addition here are some extra tasting notes; for the gin (neat) and in a Martini, well how can you review a gin without trying it in a THE mixture of Gin & Vermouth?

Own
Initial flavours of Juniper and Citrus with the faintest hint of milkiness. Despite what is generally a classic nose, the taste of the gin is quite contemporary. It is quite sweet with juniper and a spicy note at end which is almost peppery. Very smooth with minimal alcohol burn/bite. Some floral elements too. Mixed with a dash of water the flowery flavours really present themselves.

Martini
Elegant, one of the best Martinis I have had for a long time. Classic but with a modern delicate and floral edge. The juniper and subtle flowery notes mix well with Dolin Vermouth.

In Conclusion
I enjoyed trying Darnley’s View gin with it’s overall characteristics being that it is a relatively simple flowery and slightly soft gin. Certainly has the potential to be more refreshing than some of the more botanical-heavy gins.
In terms of tonic, for me Waitrose was the winner, followed closely by Fevertree.

Darnley’s View Gin is available for around £24 for 70cl from Royal Mile Whiskies

For our coverage of our Tasting of 11 Scottish Gins, click here.

*Scottish as in made in Scotland, technically it is categorized as a London dry Gin – for details of how the categorizations work, click here.
** These tasting notes reflect my opinion when mixed with Darnley’s View they may not be the same as my overall view of the tonic waters.

Alcoholic Ginger Beer Tasting – June 2012 Edition


Update November 2012 – Ginger Grouse Added,

Update July 2012Since the market has expanded so much we undertook a second tasting incorporating the new products, the new results are below.

Following the success of our non-alcoholic ginger beer tasting, natural progression seemed to recommend a tasting of their alcoholic counterparts, although it should be noted that only Fentiman’s and Crabbie’s currently make both alcoholic and non-alcoholic ginger beer.

The ginger beers were tried blind, thanks to the help of our server, Mrs. B, and we tasted them both on their own and with ice. The tasting was conducted by myself and my grandfather, David Smith Snr (a long-time ginger beer fan).

During our tasting we noticed that the ginger beers fell broadly (there was some cross-over) into two categories:
1) Traditional: these follow a similar flavour profile to non-alcoholic ginger beers; and
2) Ale-led: these have a more “ale-like” flavour profile and are typically made by beer breweries.

Traditional-Style Ginger Beer

From left to right: Hollow’s, Stone’s, Crabbie’s

#1 Stone’s Ginger Joe (4.0%ABV)

Made by the company that makes Stone’s Ginger Wine and my favourite fruit cup (sadly discontinued), this isn’t out on the market yet and so we were very lucky to get a sneak preview.
The product uses their famous ginger wine as a base and is named after Joseph Stone, a grocer with a fine moustache and founder of the Stone’s Company.

Ginger Joe doesn’t taste too alcoholic (this was a favourite of my Grandma, who doesn’t usually drink alcohol) and was sweet, but had a nice amount of ginger behind it. There was slight syrupyness (reminiscent of ginger wine), but this didn’t spoil the drink. Stone’s did improve with ice, where the flavours became more pronounced. All in all, the drink was tasty and refreshing; I’ll look forward to its release.

Stone’s Ginger Joe is available from Ocado for £1.60 for 330ml and will be available in Tesco for £1.95 for 330ml,

#2 Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4.0%ABV)

Made by the same firm that has been producing Ginger Wine and Whisky Mac for decades, Crabbie’s was the first of a new wave of alcoholic ginger beers to be released on the market and have recently expanded their portfolio (see here for more details); their most recent release is a non-alcoholic ginger beer: John Crabbie’s.

The Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer has tangy ginger on the nose and an initial taste that is reminiscent of ginger nut biscuits or ginger snaps. It had quite a long finish, with a warming tingle afterwards. This was quite fizzy and was slightly more beery than the Stone’s.
It was quite nice on ice, but we both felt that it lost some of its character and, therefore, would prefer to drink it chilled without ice.

Crabbie’s is available in Tesco, Waitrose, Asda, Sainsbury’s for around £1.50 for 500ml

Crabbie’s is also available at J.D. Wetherspoons.

#3 Hollow’s Superior Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4.0%ABV)

This ginger beer is made by that bastion of the soft drinks world, Fentiman’s. Both their tonic water and non-alcoholic ginger beer have done very well in previous tastings on Summer Fruit Cup.

Hollows was launched in September 2010, is botanically brewed and contains pear juice. It is named after John Hollow’s the son-in-law of Thomas Fentiman. It appeared lighter and more cloudy than the others and there were interesting floral notes in the nose. The floral aspects continue in the flavour of the drink, with little hints of violets. This reminded me of ginger lemonade or a strong ginger ale (the soft variety), with the alcohol element being far from over-powering.
On ice, this was very refreshing, although we thought some of the complexity of the flavour was lost.

Hollow’s is available from The Drink Shop at £2.13 for 500ml.

#4 Church’s (Aldi) Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4.0%ABV)

This is available at a very reasonable £1.39 for 500ml, so it’s pretty cheap, but how does it taste?

This is quite fiery and gingery, but probably the least alcoholic-tasting that I have had. It was very similar in many respects, except colour, to Old Jamaican Ginger Beer and had that same heavy warmth of fieriness at the end. The upside of this is that it is not too sweet, which means you could probably drink more of it. There’s also a slight, bitter muskiness at end. The downside is that it is may be a touch too fizzy for my liking.

Still, it represents excellent value for money and is a pretty good product overall.

Church’s is available from Aldi for £1.39 for 500ml.

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#5 Sainsbury’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer* (3.8%ABV)

This beer was created by the Head Brewer of Freeminer Brewery, Don Burgess, a gentleman who lives “to brew beer, not make money”. Thanks to Chris to altering us to this variety

The beer is quite gingery, but, thankfully, not too sweet. It has a good level of fizz, without being overly effervescent. The flavour starts off slowly and then builds in a crescendo of spiciness. The finish is long, but, apart from the residual tingle from the ginger, is relatively hollow. This ginger beer is refreshing and quite easy to drink; we both enjoyed it and would buy it again.

I was intrigued that, despite being made in a brewery, this was not an ale-led ginger beer and in fact was more similar to soft-drink-style ginger beer.

Sainsbury’s Taste The difference Alcoholic Ginger Beer is available for £1.62 for 500ml from Sainsbury’s

#6 Crabbie’s Spiced Orange Ginger Beer (4.0%ABV)

Crabbies have taken their original formula and added natural orange extract and a hint of spice.

This had a medium fizz; it seems slightly less fizzy than normal Crabbies.
Initially, there are flavours of ginger and vanilla, which are followed by slightly spicy, bittersweet orange; in some ways, this reminds me of chocolate orange. This is then followed by the familiar Crabbies ginger fire.
I consider this to be a modest modification on the original, but the new flavours are certainly noticeable and quite welcome. It’s seasonality will keep it special.

Crabbie’s Orange is available from Morrisons for £1.99 for 500ml.

#7 Crabbie’s Black Reserve Ginger Beer (6.0%ABV)

This created by reserving some of the original alcoholic ginger beer during the steeping process and oak mature it with extra spice, citrus and steeped ginger.

nose: strong slightly syrupy with a hint of spice and fire at the end
taste: crisp and citrusy to start with then some sweetness and a good kick of ginger fire. Medium to low fizz touch of smokiness to.  This is refreshing, easy to drink and pleasantly quaffable.
with ice: the ice chills the ginger beer down nicely and on a scorch hot day this would be lovely, when it’s not so sweltering I’d go for having Crabbie’s Black chilled from the fridge to stop the drink becoming too watery.

Crabbie’s Black Reserve is available from Tesco for £1.99 for 330ml.

#8 tESCO sIMPLY ALCOHOLIC Ginger BEer (4.0%ABV)

Tesco were a little behind the curve on making a soft-style alcoholic ginger beer. However, following in the footsteps of Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s, they havehad an ale-led alcoholic ginger beer for a good while now. When I purchased my bottle, it was available at a promotional price of £1, but the regular price is still a reasonable £1.50.

I thought it had a medium-high fizz, good levels of fiery ginger and wasn’t too sweet. As such, it was refreshing and very easy to drink.
I would say that this is the alcoholic ginger beer that most closely tastes like a soft version. With added ice, this was even more cooling and refreshing; the ice brings out additional hints of citrus, making it highly quaffable. Overall, this had a great taste and was even better value for money.


Tesco Simply Alcoholic Ginger Beer is available from Tesco for around £1.39 for 500ml.

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#9 JEREMIAH WEED ROOT BREW (4.0%ABV)

Bottled at 4%ABV this had an intriguing nose of sweet ginger, sarsaparilla and malt. To taste, it had quite a rich texture and, like the Sour Mash brew, a medium-low level of fizz. The ginger was definitely there, along with some herbal and citrus notes. Not too sweet, it was quite refreshing on its own, even without ice. The finish had reasonable fire to it.

Once ice was added, I found that the fire became far more restrained and, as a result, the drink became more refreshing. It was nice served with a lemon wedge.

Overall, this was well-balanced and easy-to-drink.

Jeremiah Weed Root Brew is available from most supermarkets for around £1.80 for 500ml.

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#10 Morrison’s New Season Cider with Ginger Flavour (4.0%ABV)

This ginger beer is actually a ginger cider and is made by H Westons & Sons of Herefordshire, (they make a large range of cider and perry, including  my favourite, Old Rosey, a really great, scrumpy-style cider. That said I’d say that this I’d say it a pretty comparable product.

Nose: Jammy, citrus and ginger. A bit like ginger marmalade.

Taste: Rather pleasant; dry, juicy and, whilst the ginger is there, there’s no definitive burn or fire. Finally, there’s a little vanilla at the end. There’s some muskiness and hints of almond, too. It’s very refreshing, not too sweet and, although initially the ginger is faint, as you drink more, its effects builds up.

Morrison’s New Season Cider with Ginger Flavour is available form Morrison’s for £1.50 for 500ml.

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#11 Brother’s Special Edition Ginger Cider (4.0%ABV)

This ginger beer is actually a ginger cider and is made by Brother’s (they also make pear, tutti fruitti, strawberry and toffee apple cider to name but a few) but I’d say it a pretty comparable product.

Funnily enough, this tastes like ginger cider (who’d have thought it?); however, it also has similarities to the sweeter alcoholic ginger beers, such as Crabbies. Brother’s Ginger is not too fizzy and not too sweet and is really quite refreshing; however, one downside is that after one bottle, it is a bit sickly. I don’t think that I’d bother with ice for this drink; just serve it straight from the fridge. Whilst this is not technically a ginger beer, it is worth trying if you enjoy the likes of Crabbies, Stones and Frank’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer – if you like cider, too, so much the better!

Brother’s is available from Tesco for £1.99 for 500ml.

 

#12 GINGER GROUSE (4.0%ABV)

This first time a whisky company  has got into making  ginger beer, this drink is (partly) fortified with Famous Grouse Blended Scotch, this make sense as a Scotch and Ginger Ale is a classic and refreshing drink.

On its own (chilled)
Nose: Warm ginger, hints of sweet butter.
Taste: Whilst not overly or forcibly bubbly, lots of small bubbles do rush over your tongue initially. The flavour is then light and refreshing, with notes of citrus – both lemon and lime, and both buttery and creamy, reminding me of lemon tart and key lime pie. The whisky is subtle, but present from the outset, adding a very light woodiness that reminds me of a Whisky & Ginger; the main difference being the stronger, more fiery notes of ginger on the finish that gradually build up as you drink more. All in all, this is tasty, refreshing, and very easy to drink.

Ginger Grouse is available from Tesco for £2 for 500ml.

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Ale-led Ginger Beer

From left to right: Tesco, M&S, Frank’s Williams’

#12 Frank’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4.0%ABV)

From the folks that brought you Koppaberg Cider comes Frank’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Made in Sweden in the style of Genuine Swedish Ginger Beer, this is described as a traditional beer blended with ginger. Frank’s also make an Alcoholic Root Beer.

This was somewhat of a hybrid between the two categories and we both quite enjoyed it. The drink had a frothy head and smelt rather malty. The drink in itself was quite fizzy and, with hops and malt throughout, much more like beer than the previous varieties. I also got a subtle flavour of apples from the drink, too. In addition to all of this, it also had a strong ginger flavour that became more pronounced as you drank it. However, this didn’t improve with ice.

Frank’s Ginger Beer is available from Tesco’s for around £1.99 for 500ml. It is also available at J.D. Wetherspoons.

#13 William’s Ginger Beer (3.8%ABV)

Made by Williams Bros Brewing Company in Scotland, William’s Ginger is described as having a “beery” flavour even though it contains no hops. This was pretty beery with some light ginger flavours initially, followed by a very strong ginger aftertaste.

If you find most ginger beers too sweet and would find something like the M&S (see #6) too far-removed from ginger beer, this is definitely worth trying. It’s worth noting that this did not improve with ice, but then real ale doesn’t usually go well with ice.

#14 Marks and Spencer’s “Ginger Ale” (6.0%ABV)

This is a blend of Fredrick Robinson’s Dark Ale with Fentiman’s Traditional Ginger Beer, in an approximate 70/30 ratio, and is bottled exclusively for Marks and Spencer. Robinson’s also make a separate beer called Ginger Tom, which is also a dark ale blended with Fentiman’s.

The Ginger Ale was very dark; the same colour as coke. It tasted predominately of ale and, to befair, we easily guessed which one this was. There was some ginger on the finish, but its taste didn’t readily identify it as a ginger beer and, as far as real ale goes, I’d rather have a pint of something else. It was a bad idea to add ice to this.

Marks and Spencer “Ginger Ale” is available from M&S £1.99 for 330ml.

#15 Tesco’s Finest Alcoholic Ginger Beer (3.8%ABV)

Like #5, this is also made by Williams Bros Brewing Company of Scotland. It’s worth noting that this is effectively the same product as #5, but it was interesting that the Tesco variety was darker, despite the flavours being very similar. I would suggest that the best way to serve this was slightly chilled but not too cold.

Tesco’s Finest Ginger Beer is available from Tesco’s (suprise, suprise) for around £1.79 for 500ml.


#16 Piddle Brewery’s Leg Warmer Ginger Beer (4.3%ABV)

From the Piddle Brewery in Piddlehinton, Dorset.  Amongst other products, they also make the following beers: Jack’s Riddle, Silent Slasher and the seasonal Santa’s Potty.

Leg Warmer itself is a seasonal beer, for the summer, and it is made with Styrian Golding and Saaz hops and real ginger.

Certainly an ale-led Ginger Beer, it has the appearance of a cloudy pale ale, with no fizz; it is quite hoppy, with ginger at the end, but it is quite subdued. However, it is most pronounced on the aftertaste. It certainly isn’t one that you’d serve on ice and it has a suggested serving temperature of 12-13 oC. Unlike most of the other ale-led Ginger Beers, this is not too rich nor stout-like, which makes it rather more refreshing..

This is available from various Piddle Brewery Outlets.

#17 wYCHWOOD gINGERbEARD (4.2%ABV)

A dark, amber brown in colour.
nose: Initially, there was malt , followed by sweet ginger wine.
taste: Very smooth and quite sweet, with minimal fizz. It seemed like a real, middle ground between soda and ale.

with ice: much better, the flavour is tipped towards the soda side of that balance. Still, it’s a bit sweet and creamy, like ginger soda, but with malt undertones and a real, real fire on the aftertaste.

GingerBeard is available from most supermarkets for around £2 for 500ml.

#18 BADGER BLANdFORD FLYER (5.2%ABV)

This is made by the Hall & Woodhouse Badger Brewery of Blandford St. Mary in my neighbouring county of Dorset. They are well known for their ales, such as Badger’s First Gold , Tanglefoot and Fursty Ferret. This bottle has a fly fishing theme that appealed to an angler friend of mine.

This was certainly an ale-led ginger beer, being very smooth, not too fizzy and definitely not too sweet. It worked better chilled than over ice, providing a very refreshing tipple. Fans of heavy ginger notes may be disappointed, as the Flyerhas a more subtle fieriness, that only appears on the finish.

Blandford Flyer is available from Tesco and Waitrose for around £2 for 500ml.

#19 OLD TOM ALE WITH GINGER (6.0%ABV)

Made by Robinson’s of Stockport, this is a variation on their popular Old Tom Orignal Ale (which itself has a slight fieriness to it) with added ginger.

This was a deep, dark red-brown ale, with hops and hints of sarsaparilla and ginger on the nose.
Ale-like initially, this was followed by some sweetness, hints of vanilla, sarsaparilla, and wintergreen,with more ginger coming through towards the end. Intriguingly, rather than a ginger beer, this seemed to be more of a mix of ginger or root beer with dandelion & burdock and cream soda.
With ice, the drink became smoother and more refreshing and the ginger spice was more prominent. Overall, I would say this is one of
the better ale-led ginger beers.

Robinson’s Old Tom with Ginger is available from Sainsbury for around £2.50 for 330ml.


A very enjoyable evening.

In Conclusion

After the tasting, it was clear that we both preferred the Traditional Style Ginger Beers (although Mr. Hartley of the Institute of Alcoholic Experimentation preferred the Marks & Spencer’s version), which we found both more gingery and more refreshing. An 8th ginger beer (Crabbie’s Non-Alcoholic) was thrown in as a wild card, and the most noticeable difference was the colour. In terms of size we thought 330ml was the sweet point of size.
I also think that it’s worth noting that, although most of the brands suggested enjoying their drinks over ice, we both preferred them on their own and would simply drink them well-chilled from the fridge.

Here is our top 3, over which we reached a general consensus:

With Alcoholic Ginger Beers an Root Beers entering the market, a return to alcoholic lemonade? Personally I’m hoping for a hard Dandelion & Burdock.

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Ginger Beer Tasting – 27 (previously 20) Varieties put through their paces.

I’ve got a little gin research project going on that is due the end of February. The survey is simple and takes 90 seconds please help us out by completing the survey.

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This article has been updated for Ginger Beers 21 -27 please scroll to the bottom.

One of my first favourite cocktails was the Moscow Mule; its easy construction and readily available ingredients, as well as my previous fondness for ginger beer (and ale), made it very attractive to me.

A part-time stickler for tradition (see the Vesper post), my choice of vodka has never been in question: I have always used Smirnoff. Limes are also relatively standard (despite there always being some exceptions), but a more considerable question to ask is which ginger beer to use (due to the lack in the UK of the original Moscow Mule ginger beer, Cock ‘N’ Bull). Having recently been encouraged by an experienced individual in the spirit world to conduct a ginger ale tasting (17th Jan 2011, 19:00 @ Graphic) I thought I would take some time over the festive period to explore the options available with regards to ginger beer. (A dedicated Moscow Mule post will follow shortly.)

The ginger beer market seems to be split into four distinct types: mass-market (Britvic, Schweppes, Old Jamaica); boutique brands (smaller, but still readily available, e.g. Fentimans and Fevertree); small batch (Breckland Orchard & Luscombe); and supermarket own-brand.

The ginger beers that we selected to try on this occasion were tasted on their own without ice, but had been chilled beforehand. The panel was made up of four non-industry enthusiasts all ready to put their taste buds to the test and hoping for a non-repeat of Donoghue vs. Stevenson.

#1) Great Uncle Cornelius

Made by James White, this was the only still Ginger Beer we tried and had the look and taste of cloudy apple juice. It was considered by the panel to be very drinkable and very tasty. It lacked a strong ginger flavour and didn’t really taste like a typical ginger beer, although I think that is how it is meant to be.

Simply as a soft drink, this would make a perfect summer cooler and I would heartily recommend it for that. One of the panel summed it up nicely with, “I could drink this all day.”.

#2) Schweppes
A very sweet variety; nice and bubbly. What was unusual about this one was that it had a nose of Terry’s Chocolate Orange; it was reminiscent of orange soda. There was quite a lot of ginger, but overall it was felt that the ginger was too weak and the beer too sweet.

#3) Fentiman’s Regular
A very pleasant flavour, with a good strong ginger presence and a taste that lasts for a long time. This also improved noticeably with ice and the panel thought it would be a good drink to accompany a meal.

Available from Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury & Morrisons 4 x 275ml  for around £4.25 As well as large variety of Independent Retailers, if you have trouble finding some, Fentiman’s offer a personal postcode search service to help you find you nearest stockist; contact them via their website.

#4) Barr’s Original
From the creators of IrnBru, this ginger beer had a smell that the panel didn’t like very much. It rated average on terms of warmth and general flavour, but the initial taste was disliked and its bitter finish divided the group. We much preferred #17, which is also owned by Barr’s.

Available from Tesco £1.45 for 750ml

#5) Bundaburg Regular
This is a ginger beer from Australia. Before the tasting, I would say that this was my favourite, but, upon reflection, I realised that although it a lovely soft drink in its own right, it isn’t really a typical ginger beer and, as such, doesn’t mix like one either.
The rest of the panel felt that it was quite sweet, but lacked a lasting flavour and the gingery fieriness that they were looking for. Great on its own, but not for mixing.

Available in Waitrose £1.19 for 340ml

#6) Fentiman’s Cool (Organic)
A relatively recent addition to the Fentiman’s range, this organic variety was the first of two “cool” Ginger beers that we tried. The notion of a “cool” ginger beer is that it has a more subtle ginger flavour and is aimed at those the may find a typical ginger beer a touch too firey.

Fentiman’s Cool tasted strongly of vanilla and buttercream and reminded one of the panel of custard cream biscuits. Quite a long flavour with a mild fiery kick,it was a little watery on the finish. Quite nice, but the panel felt that it lacked something.

Available at various Independent Retailers, if you have trouble finding some, Fentimans offer a personal postcode search service to help you find you nearest stockist; contact them via their website.

#7) Hartridge’s Celebrated
Made by a family-owned company that has been making soft drinks since 1882, this variety is part of the Francis Hartridge Celebrated Range, named after the founder of the company.
It had one of the best fizzes of all of the ginger beers that we tried and certainly smelt like ginger beer. There was a medium level of ginger on the flavour and it had a strong and long warmth to it. There is also an excellent root beer and a good quality dandelion and burdock in the same range.

Update: I tried Hartridge’s Regular Ginger Beer today, in the interests of completion, here are some tasting notes but it has not been included in the already-determined rankings. This much more firey than the Celebrated, it has a lovely lip-tingling feeling and is rather quaffable, if I’d had this found this earlier (for the tasting) it would have definately been a contender.

Available in Morrisons and Waitrose

#8) Fevertree Regular
A familiar face when it comes to premium mixers, this was popular amongst our panel. It had a very strong ginger flavour and was rather fizzy. There were some citrus notes also and it was certainly enjoyed by the panel; just be careful not to get the bubbles up your nose!

Available from Waitrose £1.75 for 500ml

#9) Fevertree Naturally Light
We thought that this was a subdued version of Fevertree’s Original; unless you specifically want a low calorie version, I would stick to the regular. However, if you want a diet ginger beer, this is not a bad option.

Available from Waitrose £1.75 for 500ml

#10) Britvic
A firm favourite in many pubs and bars across the land, I first had this when I was given it accidentally instead of ginger ale; it was a nice surprise, though. It had a savoury nose and was rather sweet; some of the panel found the sweetness rather artificial (checking the bottle later, I found that it does contain aspartame). The flavour is relatively low on the ginger, but light and rather mixable.

#11) Belvoir
Rather perfumed, with some hints of elderflower, Belvoir tasted more herbal than most of the other ginger beers, although it also had some fiery ginger notes. It wasn’t very fizzy at all, which may appeal to some. The panel quite enjoyed this and thought that it had a nice aftertaste, but when considered against the others, it was only upper-middle-of-the-road.

Available from Asda £2.20 for 750ml

#12) Old Jamaica
Extremely bubbly, with a strong sweetness underneath and a fierce fieriness. Very popular with the whole panel; a favourite and generally considered to be what a ginger beer should be.

Available from Asda £2.99 for 6 x 330ml

#13) Luscombe Cool
This had a perfumed nose and a creamy texture. It had a medium amount of ginger and a taste somewhat reminiscent of butter cream. Certain resemblances with the Fentiman’s Cool.

Available Online from Luscombe’s website, Able & Cole, Riverford Organic and The Virtual Farmers Market.

In-store at Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and Harrods.

#14) Heron Valley
A very refreshing drink with a savoury nose and flavour (but not herbal). We thought that this was quite a simple drink, but you certainly get a lovely flash of fiery flavour. It was a pleasure to drink on its own and mixed well, too.

Available from Heron Valley’s website and selected delicatessens and bars in the Plymouth area (including the Refectory bar at Plymouth Gin distillery)

#15) Breckland Orchard Chilli Ginger Beer
With a citrus nose of orange and lemons, this reminded one of the panel of bonbons. As for the taste, the whole panel loved it; we thought that it had just the right balance of sweetness and fieriness. Both refreshing and warming, the chilli comes through at the end, in a similar way that it does in chilli chocolate, producing a unique twist on a product that, by all accounts, was already pretty good. If you haven’t tried this yet, do. Our highest recommendation.

For further details visit:Breckland Orchard’s Website

#16) Luscombe Hot
Starting with an enticing nose, this had a strong, fiery heart. Some vanilla and butter cream flavours in addition to the ginger. This was also one of the most warming. I know a bartender who forever sings the praises of this product and I can see why.

Available Online from Luscombe’s websiteAble & ColeRiverford Organic and The Virtual Farmers Market.

In-store at Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and Harrods.


#17) Abbott’s
Also owned by Barr’s (4), this was very popular with the panel. It was quite sweet and had a zing of ginger. From my own experience, this had a taste that was quite close to some of the supermarket own-brands that are available. It was lovely served over ice with a splash of lime cordial.

#18) Gosling’s
Created by Goslings Rum to be the perfect partner for their signature cocktail, the primary purpose of this ginger beer is to be a good mixer.
It was pleasantly fizzy, with small bubbles. There were subtle notes of herbs and savoury, with a good balance of sweetness and warmth and a pleasant aftertaste. There was a good amount of ginger in the flavour, but it wasn’t overpowering; this isn’t too surprising, given that it was designed as a mixer, but, even so, it was a firm favourite of the panel to drink on its own.

Although not yet available in the UK, Gosling’s Ginger beer will hopefully launch later in 2011.

#19) Old Jamaica Diet
Very close to the Original: very bubbly, with a fiery kick; it wasn’t too sweet and any flavour of artificial sweetness is minimal. Quite tasty.

Available from Asda £2.99 for 6 x 330ml

#20) Bundaburg Diet
This ginger beer was quite dark in comparison to many others: it was almost ochre in colour. It started off in a similar fashion to the Bundaburg Regular, with a little burst of ginger, but the finish was full of artificial sweetness, which spoilt the whole experience.

Available in Waitrose £1.19 for 340ml

In conclusion, there does seem to be different flavour camps of ginger beers and, from our experience, different people will be attracted to different camps. For a lighter, more buttery drink with hints of vanilla, the two “cool” (Luscombe and Fentiman’s) ginger beers and the Bundaburg would be worth a look.

We thought that the best diet variety was Fevertree, followed closely by Old Jamaica.*

* None of the “Diet” versions that we tried contained Aspartame; however, it’s worth noting that Britvic (Regular) does.

UPDATE

I have since come across a further 7 ginger beers. These were not part of the original tasting and so are not included in the rankings. Nonetheless here are some tasting notes.

THE NEW ONES (L:R) Hartridges, M&S Fiery, Crabbie’s Fiery, M&S Extremely Fiery, M&S Gastropub, Stoney (CocaCola from SA)

#21 Marks & Spencer Ltd. – Extremely Fiery Ginger Beer

This is certainly fiery and, frankly, blows everything else out of the water. The fieriness comes at the cost of most of the other flavours, although I can say that sweetness levels are just right. If you like ginger beer REALLY fiery, then give this a go.

Available from Marks & Spencer £1.49 for 750ml.

#22 Hartridges

With a hint of chocolate orange creams on the nose, Mrs. B found this ginger beer particularly tasty. There was a nice amount of fizz and a good amount of fire, with hints of orange in the flavour, too.

#23 Crabbie’s Fiery Ginger Beer

This ginger beer had a raw fieriness that is most definitely not for the faint-hearted. It was also quite fizzy and not too sweet, but, as the ginger leaves your lips tingling after a single sip, this is one for the hardened ginger beer drinker.

#24 Marks & Spencer Fiery Ginger Beer

This is pleasant enough: quite gingery and unusually dry for a ginger beer. The flavour profile is nicely balanced, if not a little underwhelming. This worked as a mixer, but if you want a soft drink on its own, I’d opt for one of the other two varieties from M&S.

Available from Marks & Spencer £0.99 for One Litre.

#25 Stoney (from Coca Cola)

This is made by the Coca Cola Corporation and was kindly sent to me all the way from South Africa. Initially, it had a slight floral taste and was a little reminiscent of violet lemonade. This is halfway between a cool and a hot ginger beer (it has a reasonable fiery kick) and, curiously, the mid-notes are somewhat akin to Mountain Dew.

#26 Marks & Spencer Gastropub Authentic Ginger Beer

Typical sweet ginger nose, quite lemony with a medium amount of ginger and warmth. There’s a little muskiness, but over ice or served ice cold this was quite refreshing.

Available from Marks & Spencer £0.80 for 500ml.

#27 John Crabbies Traditional Cloudy Ginger Beer
I quite like the new Crabbie’s it has a good amount of fieriness and is pleasantly effervescence, neither too fizzy nor to flat. The balance of sweetness is about right and it’s popular with a few folks I’ve shared a sample with.

Available from Waitrose £1.99 for 70cl.

Many thanks to: Love Drinks, Luscombe, Breckland Orchard, Fentiman’s, Heron Valley, Great Uncle Cornelius (James White drinks) for your kind support for this article.

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Cocktails with… Foxdenton

With so many excellent reviews of various Gins online, I found myself hesitant when I considered how best to test a Gin for one of my posts. I eventually concluded that, rather than just tasting the Gin and trying it with tonic and in a Martini – an excellent method in itself – I would instead try a greater array of Gin cocktails. I thought I would test this method with a rather new Gin: Foxdenton. I would just like to state that my list of eighteen Gin cocktails is by no means exhaustive and my method is a work-in-progress.

Foxdenton Gin is produced by the Foxdenton Estate Company in Winslow, Buckinghamshire*. The Estate itself dates back to 1367. They also produce sloe, raspberry and blackcurrant Gin.

Foxdenton includes the following botanicals:

  • Juniper
  • Angelica Root
  • Coriander
  • Lemon Peel
  • Orris Root
  • Lime Flower

#1 Foxdenton Gin – Neat

The strength of this Gin (48% ABV) produces a strong tingling sensation in the mouth and it’s certainly a Gin that packs a punch. It has pronounced flavours of citrus and juniper, particularly on the finish. This a Gin-lover’s Gin and moves away from a recent trend of gentle, more “sippable” Gins being created.

#2 Gin & Tonic

I started with Schweppes Tonic. Why? Because it is one of the best selling there is. I found that a hearty garnish of lemon really complemented the mix of Gin and Schewppes, although, out of personal preference, I would tend to use Fentimans; this is because Foxdenton benefits from the lemongrass flavours in Fentimans, making for a rather tasty drink.

#3 Martini

A lovely crisp and clear Martini; simple, as a Martini should be. Works well with a lemon twist as a garnish. The extra strength works well in this and it was well-liked by the Martini drinkers in the group.

#4 Gimlet

Here, I think, Foxdenton excels: Foxdenton and Rose’s Lime Cordial are a great combination. There was some disagreement as to whether the drink was better with a splash of soda, but it was unanimous that both were very good. The one downside is that the lime does hide some of the subtleties of the Gin, but it is still a tasty drink.

#5 John Collins

Another favourite, although I was perhaps a little lighter on the sugar and lemon than I would be generally. This is incredibly drinkable, with a nice juniper kick at the end. The extra strength of the Gin was noticeable, but certainly not overpowering. This was a great summer drink but one that I could enjoy year-round.

#6 Bramble

Pleasant; the strength of the Gin is still apparent, but its flavour, in particular its citrus notes, contrasts well with the sweetness of the Creme de Mure. A lovely little drink and a good use of the Gin. A variant of this using Foxdenton’s Blackjack would be interesting.

#7 Gin Fix

A grandfather of a cocktail; quite easy to drink and, although it gives the Gin some warmth, it truly doesn’t do this particular Gin justice.

#8 White Lady

The extra kick provided by the Gin’s 48% strength is nice a change for this drink, making it strong, yet smooth. Whilst this is a less delicate White Lady than most, it certainly makes more of an impression and is therefore strongly recommended.

#9 Gin Sour

This shows off the Gin almost as well as drinking it neat. The Foxdenton’s flavour really comes through: the juniper dominates, and there is a neat marriage between the lemon juice and the Gin’s citrus. A good way to savour the Gin’s characteristics.

#10 Pendennis

Not an outstanding mix, but the various ingredients do produce lots of flavour in a partnership where the Gin still pulls its own.

#11 Aviation

Clean and crisp; a little lemon, with a compliment of juniper at the end. I really liked this drink and think that it makes a very palatable alternative to a Martini. It would be great to try this with some of the newly released Creme Yvette: a floral liqueur that has not been previously available for a few decades.

#12 Milano

This is not a stereotypical Gin cocktail, but it was suggested by a friend. It is a mix of Gin, Galliano and Lemon Juice. This was surprisingly nice and the ingredients all mix well together, the herbs and spice of the Galliano being a pleasant complement to the Gin’s botanicals.

#13 Clover Club

Another delicious combination: the muskiness of the juniper contrasts with the syrup’s sweetness and both balance out the lemon juice. This cocktail gives the Gin its due, is very, very smooth and delightfully moreish.

#14 Alexander

Mrs. B thought this tasted like alcoholic ice-cream and, indeed, it is very tasty, but masks the flavour of the Gin; still, a nice drink.

#15 Dubonet Cocktail

This drink allows the flavours of the Gin to come through and the bitterness of the Dubonet compliments that of the juniper. This is rather different to the other drinks that we tried and showcases the Gin in a different way, but it did make me feel rather hungry and could make a fine aperitif. All in all, it  works well.

#16 Negroni

I have to disclose that I am not a big fan of Campari and so the Negroni is not my usual cocktail of choice, but being a classic Gin cocktail, I thought it should be included. Foxdenton does make one of the better Negronis that I have had, but, although you can taste the Gin, this drink is still dominated by the bitterness of the Campari.

#17 Bronx

Nice and cool, but not a drink that is really to my taste. There is a strong flavour of juniper, but the citrus in the Gin does not work as well with the orange notes in this cocktail as it has done with those of lemon and lime in previous drinks.

#18 Ramos Gin Fizz

Despite how unique and tasty this drink is, you almost wouldn’t know that it had any Gin in it at all. If you wanted to enjoy the various flavours of Foxdenton this is not the best way to do so.

In conclusion, Foxdenton works well in citrus drinks such as the Gin Sour, White Lady and Aviation. It is best enjoyed in a Martini with a twist of lemon and, when mixed with tonic, is well suited to a healthy wedge of lemon as a garnish, but my favourite Foxdenton drink was the Gimlet (although there were some close runners-up).

If you like a Gin with a good strength (both flavour and proof) and are a hearty fan of juniper or citrus cocktails, Foxdenton is something I would strongly recommend you try.

Foxdenton Gin (48%ABV) £23.40 for 70cl
www.foxdentonestate.co.uk

As requested the recipes can be found here.

For more of our Gin Reviews please click here

*Technically the gin is actually made at Thames Distillers in London