Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mixin’ it up – Bourbon and Ginger Ale

As long as I've been a fan of bourbon, I've been a fan of ginger ale and mixing the two together go together like white on rice, bacon and eggs or Laurel and Hardy. There's something about a good ginger ale and bourbon that's very refreshing and delicious. Picking the right ginger ale is certainly a matter of preference and depending on the market you live in, what's available in the soda aisle will certainly limit your choices unless you order through the internet.

I'll admit that I'm somewhat of a purist when it comes to drinking bourbon which means I drink it neat 90% of the time. I don't add ice and I only add water if the proof is sky high and needs some taming (like George T. Stagg). Early in my drinking days, I routinely mixed bourbon and soda, whether it was cola, lemon lime or ginger ale. As I advanced, I moved on to drinking bourbon neat and only occasionally mixed with soda.

The story goes that ginger ale can trace its roots back to Belfast Ireland around 1850. A gentleman by the name of Dr. Cantrell is reported to have invented ginger ale and boldly stated so by embossing each bottle with the phrase "The original makers of ginger ale". An Oct. 5, 1878 article in The Lancet reporting on food and beverage products served at the Paris Universal Exhibition of that year stated "The Ginger-ale is a comparatively new beverage, which is apparently coming much into use, especially in winter and on board ship, in consequence, mainly, of its containing a much larger quantity of ginger than "ginger-beer", and hence acting more strongly as a cordial. Messrs. Cantrell and Cochrane, of Belfast, are also well known manufacturers of aerated and mineral waters…..the aromatic ginger-ale is evidently a specialty of the firm. They state that it is not analogous to ginger-beer, which is a fermented drink, and contains, therefore, a small quantity of alcohol, but that the ginger-ale is unfermented, and consequently non-alcoholic. They describe it as "sparkling and clear as the choicest champagne, as having a most agreeable odour, perfectly free from any intoxicating quality, and yet eminently warming and invigorating, pleasant to the taste and pleasant to look at.""

Ginger ale comes in two varieties, golden and dry. An example of a golden ginger ale would be Vernors, Blenheim, A-Treat, Red Rock and Bulls Head. A dry ginger ale would be Schweppes, Canada Dry and Seagram. I'll also mention Ale-8-One which doesn't market itself as a ginger ale but is a soft drink made with ginger and fruit juice.

The ability to try a broad range of ginger ale's is a limitation of market factors. Many good ginger ales are marketed at the local level. For instance, Ale-8-One is a Kentucky only soda and Blenheims is found in very limited markets. Large producers like Canada Dry and Seagrams are the dominate ginger ale products found in large grocery chains.

For me, my favorite ginger ale has to be Blenheims. It comes in three varieties, Diet, Not As Hot and Hot. Just so you aren't fooled, stacking up the Not As Hot against Canada dry would be like comparing Ketchup to a kickin' hot sauce. The Hot, which comes with a red cap as a warning, is mega spicy and I warn first time drinkers "don't inhale while drinking, it'll hurt ya".

My preference for mixing would be to use a high rye bourbon or rye whiskey when mixing with something mild like Ale-8-One; a rye bourbon with a dry ginger ale; and then a low rye or wheated bourbon with Blenheims. Of course, if you like self-mutilation, go ahead and mix Blenheims Hot and Thomas H. Handy, but if you do, have 911 standing by.

37 comments:

  1. I think Verners is quite good and enjoy it with Rebel Yell or Jim Beam. I tend to use the lower end Bourbons for a mixed drink of Bourbon and Ginger ale. Some might say that Bourbon and Ginger ale is the original " Highball" and I believe that may be correct. I have never had Blenheims Hot...but will seek it out. Great post.

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  2. I have a lot of love for ginger-ale & Jameson, but I've never actually mixed it with a bourbon. I just got a bottle of Weller Antique, so maybe I'll try that with some Segrams. Thanks for the tip!

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  3. Ed - Weller Antique is a wheated bourbon and therefore will be sweeter on the palette than say Old Grand Dad or Wild Turkey. Since ginger ale is sweetened, going with a rye bourbon may provide better balance between sweet/spice. Of course, drink to your preference as that's what it's all about.

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  4. Vernors is my favorite soda. I buy it by the pallet from the local beer distributor. For something cheap to mix with my bourbon, I use Canada Dry.

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  5. i've seen those pics before.
    Straightbourbon or BE.

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  6. Hey Ethan, Vernor's is hard to find these days. I remember when every label read "aged in wood." Now that was ginger ale! Today's version is no slouch either. I'll have to visit your distributor...

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  7. I think that, if youre going to mix, ginger ale is the best way to go. As a wee bourbon lad I would mix Maker's and ginger ale and I enjoyed the combo but man did it go down easy. Now I drink bourbon neat, or with 1-3 rocks depending on their size and the bourbon I'm drinking (Stagg for me is sipped neat if I'm at home, with a few rocks if I'm at a bar and need to drive!). I just ordered some ice ball molds from MoMA which should be arriving soon. Had a bourbon at Vessel Bar in Seattle with a giant ice ball and the liquor stayed cold w/o getting watered down. Pretty excited to give this a try on my own.

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  8. I found a new product today at our local grocery chain, Goslings Ginger Beer. While not ginger ale, it's got a bit of ginger zing to it. It's not clear and looks more like a light lemonade. Goslings has a lot of ginger up front and finishes with a slight bite. I'm going to try it with some rye and see how it mixes.

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    1. any luck? I have some Goslings here, which I find to be chalky on its own, and I tried it with some Redemption Rye which I had on hand... but I think something sweeter would cut through that chalkiness better...

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    2. Yah, I thought it was better than a dry ginger ale. It had a little more kick to it but the rye really dominated the overall flavor profile. It was good but I still go back to Blenheims. Funny you mention "Chalky" as I read somewhere else that someone thought it was "dusty".

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    3. Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar near Mainstrasse in Covington, KY introduced me to a Horse's Neck cocktail made from Gosling's ginger beer, lemon juice, and bourbon. Very refreshing! It might replace gin/vodka tonic as my favorite hot weather cocktail.

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    4. Another poster below indicated the name Horses Neck might have British origins. In any case, it sounds like a nice cocktail so I'll give it a shot when (if) the weather warms up (it's a balmy 21 degrees this morning)

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  9. @SteveBM: Please post a link if poss. to those ice ball molds and let us know what you think.

    Many thanks.

    The Specmonkey.

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  10. We mix this up every Christmas. Only we add a little grenadine for color too, and a little cherry flavor. My wife likes to use Beam. I use WT for a little more spice kick. It is a fun drink, and a great way to introduce people to Bourbon.

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  11. Spec Monkey - I will be posting about the ice ball molds this week and will provide all the details and a link once I bang that out. Should be today or tomorrow. Hint - they rock!

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  12. Spec Monkey et al - the ice ball molds are great.

    http://blindtastes.blogspot.com/2010/03/tastes-of-internet.html

    Sorry for the self promotion, Bourbon Dork, but its for a bourbonly good cause :)

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  13. is there a name for a ginger ale and bourbon?

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  14. I've always simply known it as Bourbon and Ginger.

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  15. bundaberg ginger beer (an Australian brand) and buffalo trace bourbon is my current favourite mix! You still taste the bourbon, but it has a real nice fiery ginger edge to it. Superb!

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  16. I will stake my reputation on Vernors and Jim Beam. I really really love that. I like to use a pint glass and put one can of Vernors and then top it off with Beam. Gives me the flexibility to make the drink strong as I like it, or a bit weaker if it's my 5th.

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  17. Being from South Carolina, the home of Blenheim ginger ale, I cannot think of a better summer time drink than Maker's and Blenheim hot.

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  18. Im from South Carolina also, and I have to agree that Blenheim is the great ginger ale I've had. I've never mixed it with bourbon though, as I've always used the cheaper ginger ale's to do so. Perhaps I'll have to try it soon.

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  19. Being in Arizona, our local market assortment of ginger ales is nonexistent. But for me, a short glass of Canada Dry and Maker's Mark is perfectly adequate.

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  20. John - nothing wrong with that. I drank CD and bourbon for years. I tend to drink neat nowadays but everyone once in a while ginger and bourbon or coke and bourbon really hit the spot.

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  21. My sisters very nice boyfriend, who is from North Carolina, brought back two cases of Blenheims for me over the holidays' One case of gold cap and one case of red.

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  22. Well I don't think you'll see this as this is an older thread, but as to the name, my British friend said they call it a Horse's neck. I've also read a book by a British author and he calls it the same.
    @John, Vernor's is a good choice as many have mentioned, Fry's food carries it.

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    1. Do you know the origin to the name? Why they call it Horses Neck?

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  23. just reading the posts as I sip Bulleit Rye neat. am surprised no one has mentioned Stewart's Ginger. Might be too spicy??

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    1. I can't imagine Stewarts being more spicy than Blenheims red cap. I have not had it but will look for it and give it a try.

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  24. Also noticed at the store soapstone cubes, to be frozen and added to your drink without watering it down. any comments on these?

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    1. I have never used them. I'm not sure the purpose of these stones unless you want your whiskey cold. Typically, folks add ice cubes to their whiskey to "lighten" it up a little.

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  25. I hadn't thought of bourbon and ginger ale ... think I'll try that now. I just bought some ginger ale (regular Canada Dry ... is what it is) this morning, in fact.

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  26. I really like a Ginger and bourbon on a warm summer day.....very refreshing. I really don't indulge in the winter time.

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  27. I'm glad I found this post, I started mixing my Jameson with ginger ale a while ago and quite enjoy it. I'm out of Jameson but have a bottle of Woodford reserve. (costco special!) I usually drink it neat, but it's summer, and wanted to flavor it up ...
    and just happen to have some Canada Dry g.a. cheers!

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  28. I am surprised no one has mentioned Buffalo Rock Ginger ale. I have had Vernors by bottle, can, and fountain, which I prefer. However, Buffalo Rock has got to be in the top 5 Ginger ales
    s. Very regional soda from Birmingham AL.
    They will ship it to your door

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  29. Just had a lovely Wild Turkey and Schweppes ginger ale. Nice ginger hit and kept the bourbon bottom notes intact.

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    1. I cut my teeth in the early days on Turkey and Ginger.

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