A bottle of ginger beer on a table surrounded by ginger and lemons.

What Is Ginger Beer And How Is It Different To Ginger Ale?

If you’ve ever made a Moscow Mule or a Dark n’ Stormy, then chances are you’ve encountered ginger beer. Despite what its name might suggest, ginger beer does not contain any alcohol, although that’s not always been the case (more on that below).

Whether enjoyed on its own or used to add a spicy depth to cocktails, ginger beer is a versatile beverage. In what follows, we’ll explore what ginger beer is, what it’s used for, and how it differs from ginger ale.

What Is Ginger Beer?

Ginger Beer is a carbonated soft drink flavored primarily with ginger and sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners. While historically it was fermented to produce alcohol, most commercial ginger beers made today are non-alcoholic. Ginger beer is called “beer” primarily because it was traditionally produced by fermenting ginger with sugar and water, a process similar to the brewing of alcoholic beers.

Ginger Beer In A Glass on a table surrounded by pieces of ginger.

What’s The Difference Between Ginger Beer And Ginger Ale?

Ginger beer and ginger ale are both carbonated drinks flavored with ginger, but the main difference lies in their preparation and taste. Ginger beer is brewed and fermented with ginger spice, yeast, and sugar, which generally gives it a stronger, spicier flavor profile; it’s less sweet and more cloudy due to the brewing process.

Ginger ale, on the other hand, is a milder ginger-flavored carbonated soft drink, usually clearer and sweeter, made by adding ginger flavors to carbonated water. This distinction makes ginger beer a more robust and complex choice for cocktails like the Moscow Mule, while ginger ale is often preferred for its smoother, cleaner finish as a mixer or soft drink.

What Is Ginger Beer Used For?

Ginger beer is a versatile beverage that is primarily used as a mixer in various cocktails, such as the Moscow Mule and the Dark ‘n’ Stormy. The robust ginger flavor and carbonated mouthfeel of ginger beer make it a perfect mixer when you want to add a spicy, zesty edge to a cocktail.

Ginger beer also stands alone as a refreshing non-alcoholic drink, often appreciated for its spicy kick and its ability to pair well with meals. Ginger beer can also be used in culinary applications, such as marinades and dressings, where it adds a spicy, tangy element to dishes.

What Is Ginger Ale Used For?

Ginger ale is commonly enjoyed as a soothing soft drink on its own, favored for its sweet, mild ginger flavor and carbonated crispness. It’s also well-known for its stomach-settling properties, often sipped to ease nausea or digestion issues.

Ginger ale also serves as a gentle mixer that blends seamlessly with spirits for those who prefer a lighter ginger taste without the intensity of ginger beer, making it a staple in cocktails like the Whiskey Ginger or a simple highball.

In addition to drinks, ginger ale is also used in culinary creations as well, lending its sweetness and subtle spice to recipes ranging from glazed meats to festive holiday punches.

Best Cocktail With Ginger Beer

A close up of a Moscow Mule Cocktail
A Moscow Mule: Vodka, Ginger Beer, and Lime Juice.

The Moscow Mule is a classic cocktail that uses ginger beer. Made with just three ingredients, this cocktail is really easy to make and tastes awesome! To make a Moscow Mule, fill a copper mug or glass with ice, squeeze half a lime directly over the ice, pour in 2 ounces of vodka, and then top off with 4-6 ounces of ginger beer. For pro tips on making this cocktail and for some great variations, check out our Moscow Mule Cocktail Recipe Page.