While I singularly failed to make it to Graphic‘s Juniper Society for almost all of last year I’ve decided (not made a resolution, that way lies madness and becoming teetotal for January, a most unnatural state to start the year in) to try and make it to as many as possible this year. First up of the new season was a tasting of ginger ale, as led by Summer Fruit Cup‘s David Smith.
Ginger ale is the baby brother of ginger beer, stacked with less ginger as well as less sugar, not as needed due to the reduction in fieriness. As such the effect is quite different to ginger beer, with the more citrus notes of the root coming through and not masking the flavours of drinks it’s mixed with, as it’s sibling surely would. It’s not really one to generally drink on its own, but is perfect for adding a slice of fizzy citrusy warmth to a glass of spirit.
The plan for the evening was simple – we would blind taste 11 different ales, mark them out of ten and then work out which ones the group considered best. We were asked to consider not only the taste of the ginger ale, as that would be altered by any additions, but also the effervescence and general mouthfeel. Ginger ale isn’t the most complex of beverages and my tasting notes were short, so in the interest of brevity (something that I am well known for…) here are my notes and what the drinks were revealed to be:
- Fevertree – Noticeable ginger smell. Limes on the taste but only a short burst of flavour. Good fizziness. 6/10
- Tesco ‘Full Fat’ – A nose of cheap lemonade mixed with lemon floor cleaner artificialness. Flat and fake lemony to taste with a thick slab of sugar syrup. 3/10
- Canada Dry Diet – Fizzy white lemonade with a hint of spice on the nose and Diet R Whites lemonade to taste. 1/10
- Sainsbury’s – Gingery, dry and spicy nose. Not to sweet to taste and lightly effervescent. 7/10
- Tesco Diet – Chalk yellow Refreshers on the nose with a little bit of powdered ginger spice and gaining sweetness as it sat. Foul to taste – heavy with sweetener, sickly and undrinkable. I poured my tiny measure in the bucket rather than finish it. 0/10
- Britvic – Similar to Almdudler, an Austrian spice lemonade that I drank a lot of as a kid – lightly spicy lemonade without too much sweetness. To taste there was a lingering ginger flavour but not much else apart from an initial sticky artificial sweetness. 5/10
- Carters Royal – Very lemony smell with a hint of washing up liquid. To taste there was a burst of citrus at the front and a throat warming bit of ginger at the end, but nothing in the middle at all. 6/10
- Waitrose – Thin fake lime smell with artificial sweetness behind it, really quite nasty. Not a lot to the taste but a touch of syrup. It’s inoffensive, but that’s about it. 5/10
- Canada Dry – Big gingery burst on the nose, earthy and dry. Spicy and earthy to taste with a sweet syrupy end. 8/10
- Ginseng & Ginger Ale – Nose: Calpol, foam strawberry sweets, castor sugar and a hint of spice. Taste: Sticky with a ginger heat at the back of the throat. Maybe a ringer? [It was ginger ale, but with added ginseng]. 8/10
- David Smith’s homemade ginger ale cordial – Soapy and lemony on the nose with sweaty coriander [that’s a good thing. I think]. Sweet and sour to taste with a good chunk of spice and Rowntree’s Fruit Gums. 9/10
My top three (from top to bottom) came out as David’s homemade one, Waitrose’s and the Ginseng one. I wasn’t surprised to hear that David’s came top in the scores from around the room or that Sainsbury’s, which I scored fourth, came second, but it shocked me that Waitrose’s (that I described as inoffensive at best) came 3rd.
To save this post from being completely booze free there was an ulterior motive to tasting all these ginger ales – the fashioning of a good Gin Buck. This is a simple drink of gin and ginger ale which seems to have very much fallen into the shadow of the various other simple mixed drinks that hover in orbit around gin. I singularly failed to try one at Graphic on the night but happened across a bottle of Sainsbury’s Ginger Ale and some Bombay Sapphire while visiting my family and decided to have a try. I garnished it with a slice of lemon and did about 1 part gin to 3 parts of ginger ale. The result was a drink that was all gin up front, with ginger and sweetness sneaking in behind. A good drink to show off a gin, rather than the more combinatorial effect of mixing with tonic.
The Juniper Club meet every couple of weeks at Graphic and details pop up on their Facebook page. I’ve just missed the most recent one (an evening with Citadelle Gin) but I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next…