Ginger Ale History
Ever wondered what’s behind the history of ginger ale? Or soda in general? Want to know where your favorite ginger ale brand originated? How about why there are two types of ginger ale? Well, the experts at GingerAleAuthority.com have below compiled a short history of the world’s greatest soda and drink, ginger ale. Feel free to contact us if there’s anything you would like to add or ask about, and, as always, enjoy.
The History of Ginger Ale
Ginger Ale has a long history, spanning over three centuries and two continents. While it is impossible to nail down the exact date of its creation, ginger ale history likely started out as a homemade concoction in England and Ireland around the 1840s. More like a ‘ginger-ade’ than a soda, these beverages resembled homemade tonics and could likely be described as sugar water with a kick of ginger root. Make no mistake, these were not your mainstream Coca-Cola-style sodas. Naturally, the beverage made its way across the Atlantic to the eastern coast of the United States and ginger sodas were popping up in New York City by 1850. By the 1860s, Ginger Ale was beinning to develop into what we now call the ‘Golden’ style. Golden ginger ale had a very sweet and bubbly texture, with a strong ginger punch. Vernors claims to be on of these first brands. The story goes that Pharmacist James Vernor left an experimental barrel in his barn in 1862, just before joining the Union Army in the Civil War. Upon his return in 1866 he tasted the barrell-aged flavor and, ta-da, “Golden” Ginger Ale was born.
Ginger Ale became so popular around this time that various low-quality brands began to emerge. Many ginger ales were nothing more than sugar water with added capsicum to add a fake ginger spiciness. In fact, in 1896 a judge at a beverage competition made a point to demand that ginger ale should be more than just a “hot lemonade.” By 1890, chemists and pharmacists had begun to brew ginger ale in a more sophisticated fashion, producing a drink more like today’s beverages.
Perhaps no event had a bigger effect on the development of ginger ale than Prohibition and the banning of alcohol. A dry, strong soft drink was needed to mask the power of bootlegged liquors. Dry ginger ale was less sweet with a powerful paleness. This type exploded in the 1920’s to go along with speakeasies and parties. The pale, dry texture mixed perfectly with alcohol, and this new type of ginger ale would become permanent in America’s grocery stores. John McLaughlin was a ‘dry’ ginger ale pioneer, who began brewing Canada Dry in 1907 with a more sophisticated carbonation and the “dry” taste.
By the 1930’s larger cola brand such as Coca-Cola began to dominate the soft drink markets, and, for the first time in over 70 years, ginger ale was not the leading soda in America. Eventually the golden variety began to fall out of fame all together, although it can still be found in many brands such as Vernors or Hansen’s.
Today, ginger ale is the most widely consumed ‘niche’ drink in the US. Gourmet ginger ale brands are beginning to make a comeback as well, as people are looking for healthier, less mass produced options. You can find ginger ale in almost every grocery store, bar or restaurant in America.