Glad you asked! For some it serves as the foundation of a great cocktail, others rely on it’s soothing medicinal benefits to calm nausea, while some just enjoy the bite of a good ginger soda on a hot day.
Ginger beer dates back to 18th century England when sugar, ginger, water, and sometimes lemon were fermented and brewed with a starter culture. This culture was called the ginger beer plant, and resulted in a brew of about 11 percent alcohol.
While most modern ginger beers still contain the central ingredients of sugar, ginger and water, more often than not, they’re non-alcoholic (a few exceptions exist). Additionally they are often manufactured instead of brewed.
A good ginger beer will produce a balance between sweet and spicy with a refreshing fizz. The amount of spice varies greatly between brands, often becoming the defining characteristic of the beverage.
While perfectly acceptable to enjoy straight, ginger beer owes much of its recent popularity to its use as a cocktail mixer. The Moscow Mule, a combination of vodka, ginger beer and lime juice classically served in a copper mug, has enjoyed a recent resurgence since it’s inception in 1941 with one of most successful cocktail marketing campaigns ever. Dating back even further, a Dark N’ Stormy, is one of the few cocktails to be trademarked, requiring the drink be made with Gosling’s Black Seal rum, ginger beer and lime.
Ginger beer vs ginger ale
Traditionally ginger beer is brewed and fermented, while ginger ale is essentially a carbonated beverage made from water and ginger. Nowadays many ginger beers are manufactured instead of brewed and fermented, blurring the lines between a ginger beer and ginger ale.
Modern ginger beers and ginger ales differentiate themselves primarily by taste. Due to its history as a brewed and fermented beverage, ginger beer often has a stronger ginger flavor, more spice, and less carbonation than ginger ale. Ginger ales tend to have a higher sugar content and thus are often sweeter.