A Hard Makeover for America’s First Soft Drink

Is ginger ale the world’s most evolved beverage? It has been enjoyed as a mixer for many liquors, a tonic for the queasy and a stand-alone refreshment. Over time, its variations have been many, but there’s no doubt this libation has serious staying power.

Today, deep into the 21st century, what is commonly considered America’s first soft drink is evolving again by receiving a hard makeover. “Spiked,” or hard ginger ales infused with alcohol, are making their way onto store shelves. Craft beer companies, such as Brooklyn, New York-based Coney Island Brewing Co., are noticing the demand to return to one’s roots and are playing on these nostalgic beverages with quality ingredients as this trend in the craft beer scene grows.

Dating back to nearly three centuries ago in Ireland, ginger ale’s first incarnation can best be described as a homemade tonic consisting of sugar water and a healthy heaping of ginger root. By the mid-1800s, it was barrel-aged into a golden beverage with a sweet, bubbly texture and a ginger punch. By the time ginger ale crossed the Atlantic into the United States, it evolved still, receiving new life during Prohibition. During this period, ginger ale, in all of its golden, dry effervescence, served as an ideal mixer to mask powerful, bootlegged liquors. Beyond the Prohibition era, ginger ale’s hold over consumers stood firm, and thanks to dry ginger ale pioneer and Canada Dry brewer John McLaughlin, this version of the drink — which consumers know and love today — became a fixture in grocery stores.

“We launched our Hard Root Beer this summer and the response was unprecedented,” said Chris Adams, brewery operations manager for Coney Island Brewing Company. “We knew we would appeal to the tastes of craft beer drinkers if, like with Hard Root Beer, we created hard craft sodas that are both delicious and nostalgic, and we are excited to be doing that once more with our recent Hard Ginger Ale and Hard Orange Cream Ale.”

For more information, visit www.coneyislandbeer.com.

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