For a soft drink that is more grown-up than cola and less sweet than lemonade, ginger beer could be your top pick. With a touch of heat and spice to balance out the sugary fizz and sweetness, it's a versatile mixer.
A non-alcoholic soft drink that evokes strong memories of British summertime, ginger beer is characterised by its robust root ginger flavour, sweetness and carbonation. Ginger beer gets it name from the fermentation process that would historically mean it contained alcohol, but nowadays it is usually a soft drink (although some types still do contain booze). Different brands of ginger beer, as you will discover below, have either a clear or cloudy appearance depending on how it is brewed and how filtered it is. These processes also affect how spicy the ginger beer tastes.
Also important to note is the difference between ginger beer and ginger ale, which are sometimes confused. The key difference is that ginger beer has a stronger ginger root flavour and is typically more carbonated. Ginger beer stands up better as a soft drink in its own right, as well as being a key mixer in drinks like moscow mule and a sunny side cocktail. For more cocktail inspiration, discover our easy cocktail recipes. We also have our best quick and easy canapés recipes if you're looking for something to accompany your drinks. For even more snack inspiration, discover our easy party food recipes.
Best ginger beers at a glance
- Best natural ginger beer: Belvoir, £4.80
- Best traditional ginger beer: Fentimans, £32.08 (for 4)
- Best ginger flavour: Fever-Tree, £3.80 (for 4)
- Best with dark spirits: Bundaberg, £5.40
- Best summer's day drink: Cawston Press, £3.50
- Best nostalgic ginger beer: Old Jamaica, £0.50
- Available from Ocado (£4.80)
Best natural ginger beer
Tasters loved how light this ginger beer is. The flavour varies throughout drinking and is less unified than some ginger beers we tried. This is most likely due to the lack of xanthan gum that often acts as a thickener and binder in ginger beers, meaning that this Belvoir drink has some sips with more of a citrus flavour and others with a stronger ginger essence (from pieces of ginger root floating in it). Overall, it has a good spiciness and is not overly sugary with a homemade taste. The bottle is also a good sharing size for a picnic or barbecue.
- Available from Amazon (£32.08 for 4)
Best traditional ginger beer
Fentimans ginger beer has a complex, almost grown-up taste. Whilst it contains no alcohol, you would not be surprised if it did as it is very hearty and spicy. You could tell this has been fermented and it has lots of herbs like juniper to add to the flavour profile, as well as pear juice to cut through the spiciness and give it a bit of sweetness.
Amazon (pack of 4 for £32.08)
- Available from Ocado (£3.80 for 4)
Best ginger flavour
Super-bubbly, sweet and with a strong ginger root taste, this one has an enjoyably complex flavour. The root made it punchy but a ginger powder taste leaves a lingering taste alongside the fizz.
Ocado (£3.80 for 4)
- Available from Tesco (£5.40)
Best with dark spirits
This ginger beer has a well-rounded flavour. At first it has a strong sweet taste with a medicinal edge, similar to root beer. It is the most warming ginger beer of our selection. The liquid itself is very cloudy, showing its fermentation, and there are small pieces of real ginger that are not very noticeable texture-wise but give an extra-gingery hit. Tasters thought this could work very well in an ice cream float or mixed with some rum for a cocktail.
- Available from Waitrose & Partners (£3.50)
Best summer's day drink
Light and bubbly, this ginger beer is not aggressively sugary so you aren't left with an uncomfortable dry mouth. Instead, it has a crisp taste coming from the apple juice, with a dash of ginger. Tasters thought this would be a good introduction to ginger beer as it is not particularly strong. It would make a good drink for a hot day as it is refreshing.
More like this
- Available from Sainsbury's ( £0.50)
Best nostalgic ginger beer
This has a prominent taste of sweeteners but a good hit of ginger, too. It's not overly fizzy either. Our testers thought this would make a good general mixer as well as being a good thirst-quencher.
How we tested
All ginger beers were tasted at room temperature in order to taste all the flavour profiles. They were decanted into small glasses in order to see how they would look outside of their containers and to note whether there were any ginger pieces within the drink. Taste testers looked out for the type of ginger flavour (ginger root or flavouring), overall sweetness and the levels of carbonation to determine their preference and what would be the best ginger beer for certain occasions.
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