How to Choose a Ginger Beer
Don’t forget your handmade copper mug set!
The Moscow Mule is a simple drink: ginger beer, vodka, and lime served in a copper mug. Since the majority of the drink is the ginger beer itself, you really need to pick the right one! It should mix well with the lime and vodka, and offer the right amount of bite and freshness to your beverage. Some people will prefer a smooth sweet brew, and others will want a spicy beverage with strong ginger and seasoning.
A quick note: ginger beer and ginger ale are very different beverages. A ginger ale is sweet, fizzy, but has a gentle flavor–it’s a light soda. Ginger beer, however, is bursting with ginger and is commonly used as a mixer. The difference is very evident, just from the smell alone. Making a Moscow mule with a ginger ale will result in something very mild and sweet, which focuses on the vodka and lime over anything else.
But back to the beer. To give you some direction, here’s a rundown of some great options, in no specific order, since everyone will prefer something different. Depending on your locale, you may have different beers available, but most of these should be pretty easy to find across North America. When choosing the beer, decide how much burn you want, how much ginger flavor, and whether you’d like something pure, or with a bit of a twist. You could even make your own, like Julia from the Roasted Root.
Nine beverages are listed here, with brief descriptions to help you decide which one might work for you. They’re astoundingly different from each other
You’ve probably heard of this one before, and for good reason. Fever-Tree is marketed as an ideal mixer, and it really is. It’s made with fresh ginger root (not flavoring or extract) and has minimal ingredients. It’s bottled beautifully (if you plan to have a Moscow mule bar at your wedding, this is important to note) and the flavor is fresh, clean, and with a fair bit of bite. It isn’t overly sweet. It was perfect mixed but was a bit plain when enjoyed alone.
An Australian made brew, this one was found in the back corner of a local grocery store, in a brilliant orange can. It’s the only canned drink on this list, and it was… unique. Very mellow, with almost no burn, this almost seemed buttery. With every sip, that buttery note increased. The ginger was really mild, and while this is not the classic flavor, it is a great option for someone who prefers a smooth beverage.
On the other side of the spectrum, this brew is spicy–really, really spicy. The burn is actually strong enough that your stomach and throat tingle as you drink it, and it does not go away very quickly. Despite that, the flavor is too mild. It was a good mixer, and widely available for those that like it spicy.
This one was neat–a botanically brewed ginger beer with unique flavors, including juniper, yarrow, speedwell, and even capsicum! Capsicum is a chemical found in peppers that produce the burning mouth sensation. The botanical notes of juniper really enhance the flavor, but the ginger taste (and burn) are very mild compared to some others on this list. If you’re looking for a complex flavor that isn’t too harsh, this may be your brew. If you’re a gin lover, the juniper notes may even tempt you to try a London Mule made with this.
One of only two alcoholic brews on this list (and one of the biggest bottles) Crabbies has a 4% alcohol content, so that should be taken into consideration when you ask for your fourth Moscow Mule in a row. A fantastic standalone beverage, with balanced flavors, this drink does fairly well mixed but tends to hide the vodka almost entirely. You get to decide if that’s a good thing.
Made by a Canadian craft soda company, the name alone was convincing enough for a taste test. With fresh flavors, this beverage comes complete with lime extract, so if you’re making a Moscow Mule as a guilty pleasure on a Monday night, you don’t need to worry about wasting most of a lime–you just need the bottle and the… other bottle. That said, it wasn’t as flavourful as other options.
The other alcoholic option, this drink had a strong cinnamon taste and a mild ginger flavor. Cinnamon does do surprisingly well with ginger, and notes of lemon also really came out in the second sip. It would be great to change things up, or if you really like cinnamon.
Despite being non-alcoholic, this has a slightly hoppy flavor. The ginger flavor isn’t overpowering, and it is quite sweet, but still has that strong burn. It doesn’t have the best combination of flavors, but it is the most economical of the beers, so if you’re buying in volume, this is an affordable option.
Now this one was just weird. After eight fairly traditional spiced ginger beers, strong notes of pineapple and honey are not expected. This is very nearly a juice! Reed’s also makes a Jamaican style ginger beer, which is probably a bit more classic–this was a neat beverage though and provides the most dramatic twist yet on the classic Ginger Beer. Mixed with vodka and lime it was a bit bizarre, but not bad.
In all, there are dozens of great ginger beers. The fun of cocktail crafting is experimenting with flavors and perfecting recipes. Pick a few ginger beers that sound tempting to you, and try them out–decide which is your favorite, and let us know!