Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer: How Do They Compare?

Ginger beer and ginger ale bottles beside ginger root

Most people are well aware that both ginger ale and ginger beer exist. They're both part of the culture and have been for centuries (at least in the case of ginger beer). But if you asked 100 people what is the difference between the two you would probably be greeted with dead silence from most people, and the rest would probably respond with something like: "Aren't they the same thing?" At Rocky Mountain Soda Company, we make both all-natural ginger ale and ginger beer that are gluten-free and vegan, so we feel obliged to help our customers and potential customers understand how the two beverages differ.

What Is Ginger Beer?

Ginger beer is a carbonated beverage made from ginger, water, sugar, cream of tartar, and yeast. It is fermented and when poured into a glass bears more than a little resemblance to actual beer. (It's even capable of producing a foamy head, although it does not typically last very long.)

Ginger beer has been around for a few hundred years originating by all accounts in 18th century England. At that time it had an alcohol content of some 11%, which qualified it for actual beer status.

Over time the alcohol content of ginger beer was gradually reduced to the point that today it's typically less than 0.5%. As such it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to become intoxicated drinking ginger beer.

Besides the minimal alcohol content ginger beer differs from ginger ale in that it gets its carbonation via the fermentation process. Whereas the fizziness in ginger ale is the result of forced carbonation.

While ginger beer has largely dropped off the radar of the general public it remains an important ingredient in cocktails such as the hugely popular Moscow Mule and its multiple variations.

What Is Ginger Ale?

Ginger Ale is a type of soda pop that is typically made from ginger root, molasses, and water with a natural or artificial sweetener added to make it more appealing to the average person.

Unlike ginger beer there is no alcohol, not even trace amounts, in ginger ale, and its bubbliness is achieved through forced carbonation, not fermentation.

Ginger ale is incredibly popular when compared to ginger beer, with the US market for ginger ale alone valued at more than $3.2 billion annually.

The Different Uses of Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale

Ginger ale is a hugely popular soft drink that most people consume as-is to quench their thirst. Beyond that, however, it is also one of the most popular cocktail mixers around, added to cocktails to produce effervescence and sweetness. Ginger ale is also a popular ingredient in so-called "mocktails": beverages typically served in bars and restaurants that contain no alcohol.

Ginger beer is added to cocktails to provide a spicy edge. The more robust flavor of the ginger beer will hold its own against vodka and other liquors in a way ginger ale cannot. The Moscow Mule is a perfect example of that. If you ever tried to substitute ginger ale for ginger beer in a Mule cocktail you'd find out quickly that it just doesn't work.

Some Popular Cocktails That Use Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer

Wondering what kind of cocktails use ginger ale and ginger beer? Here are a few:

Ginger Beer Cocktails

  • The Moscow Mule – Without a doubt, the single most popular cocktail to use ginger beer, the Mule and its multitude of variants are largely responsible for the survival and even resurgence of ginger beer in the marketplace.
  • The Dark & Stormy – The Dark & Stormy has been around for a while with ginger beer contributing to both the “dark” and the “stormy” aspects of this cocktail.
  • The Foghorn – Use Old Tom or London dry gin paired with ginger beer and lime juice to make this New York favorite.

Ginger Ale Cocktails

  • Pimm's Cup – Mix Pimm's No. one with lemon and ginger ale to create this classic.
  • Whiskey Highball – Mix your favorite whiskey with ginger ale for this simple cocktail pleasure.
  • Transfusion – Combine vodka, grape juice, lime, and ginger ale to create this tasty treat.

Order Golden Ginger Beer from Rocky Mountain Soda Co.

If you're looking for a ginger beer that also happens to be vegan, kosher, gluten-free, and contain no GMOs, you'll find it in our Golden Ginger Beer. As is the case with all of our natural soda brands, (including our delicious ginger ale), our Golden Ginger Beer is a thirst-quenching, lip-smacking treat you'll enjoy alone or mixed into your favorite cocktail.