Childhood sick days wouldn’t have been the same without The Price Is Right, Lipton Noodle Soup from the packet (with extra noods, naturally), and a green two liter bottle of ginger ale by your side. Then you grow up and ginger ale goes from being a comforting remedy for tummy troubles to being a good mixer with whiskey and, ultimately, ginger beer’s more subdued sibling. Ginger beer takes risks, while ginger ale is safe. Sometimes safe is good, just like wagering $1 on Contestants’ Row when you know everyone overbid on the dinette set.
But what is the difference between ginger beer and ginger ale? Apparently, ginger beer used to actually be brewed and fermented, but that largely isn’t the case anymore. Now the difference comes down to taste. They’re both ginger-flavored carbonated bevs, but beer brings major bite while ale takes ‘er easy on your taste buds. The Sporked team kept this in mind as we were tasting our way through beaucoup bottles and cans of ginger ale to find the best you can buy. Yes, ginger ale should have good ginger flavor, but it shouldn’t burn as much as a beer. For this taste test we brought in Mythical key set PA Mikayla Barnes and zeroed in on six sodas that struck a perfect balance and earned a spot in our fridge.
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- Canada Dry Bold Ginger Ale
If you’re accustomed to the flavor of regular ol’ Canada Dry, their Bold variation is a punch in the nostrils in the absolute best way possible. There is strong ginger flavor in this can, but it’s definitely still an ale rather than a beer. Because of its nice bite, Mikayla couldn’t take a sip without coughing a little, but she didn’t mind. Sporked editorial assistant Naajia Shukri liked this one for its utility. “I feel like if I’m drinking ginger ale, i’m probably on a plane, I’m probably nauseous, and this is what i want,” she said. “To be punched in the mouth with ginger flavor.” This is a big improvement on a tried-and-true original, but it still strikes a familiar note flavor-wise.
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- Sprecher Ginger Ale
It was a real fight to the finish for the top spot between Sprecher and Canada Dry Bold. Don’t let the #2 deter you—this is a totally elite ginger ale. It has a good ginger burn (the flames on the label forewarn you) without getting into ginger beer territory, but its best quality is its subdued sweetness and light fizz (the website describes it as being like a dry sparkling Chardonnay, and that’s pretty spot on). Sprecher is sweetened with honey and that flavor really marries well with the flavor of ginger. These bottles are big, but the sipping experience is so pleasant, we bet you can make it through the whole thing.
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- Vernors Ginger Soda
Vernors claims to be the “original” ginger soda and the oldest surviving American brand of ginger ale. Indeed, this Detroit-born soda feels like a hell of a blueprint for the rest of the ginger ale world. Upon sipping, everyone instantly noted that this soda runs a little sweeter than some of the dryer ales, but that makes it seems really well suited to a sippable dessert like a ginger ale float. TBH, I’ve never had a glass of ginger ale with a scoop of ice cream submerged in it, but there’s no way it’s not good, right?
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- Canada Dry Ginger Ale
We tried this classic alongside both Schweppes and a few store-brand ginger ales similarly packaged in green plastic bottles, and Canada Dry came out on top. No, it doesn’t have big ginger flavor like some other sodas on the list, but the flavor it does have is just so pleasant and familiar. And Mikayla liked that Canada Dry had better fizz than Schweppes too. Sometimes classics are classics for a reason.
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- Q Ginger Ale
Q makes sodas meant to be mixed with alcohol, and their dry, bitey ginger ale is perfectly suited to be sipped with something sweet like bourbon. “It’s got good carbonation and good bite,” said Sporked staff writer Danny Palumbo. “I’m looking for something that makes my throat tickle a little, and this is doing that.” We didn’t have any alcohol on hand, but I’m confident the honey sweetness or a rum or bourbon will really make this sing (and vice versa).
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- Reed’s Real Ginger Ale Zero
If you typically drink diet soda, the artificial sweeter sort of taste this soda brings probably won’t bother you. Honestly, it didn’t bother us all that much (obviously, since it’s on the list). Danny thought it needed more sweetness, but I really liked the crisp, clean flavor.
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Best of the Best
Best Smooth Flavor
Best for a Float
Best with Booze
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