What's really in your Moscow mule?

By Melanie Fincher
October 09, 2020
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I've always loved the gingery bite that comes with ginger drinks, but for the longest time I couldn't tell you the difference between the two most popular ginger drinks: Ginger beer and ginger ale. 

We know one as an essential ingredient in Moscow mules, and the other as a tried and true cure for a stomach ache. But what else distinguishes the two? 

Learn the difference between ginger beer and ginger ale before you craft your next ginger cocktail

Ginger Beer vs. Ginger Ale

Let's start with how they're made. Today, the term ginger beer mostly refers to the soft drink that's made by fermenting and brewing ginger along with water, sugar, and sometimes other ingredients like lemon. 

Most ginger beer is labeled non-alcoholic, but even non-alcoholic ginger beer contains some alcohol content, due to the fermentation process which converts some of the sugar to alcohol. But since the alcohol content is below .5 percent, it does not have to be classified as alcoholic, according to the FDA. However you can find ginger beer with higher alcohol content that is classified as alcoholic.

Ginger ale on the other hand is not so much ale, but instead carbonated water that is flavored with ginger syrup. The result? Ginger ale is a lot more sweet and tame compared to its more potent and zingy counterpart, ginger beer. 

Can You Substitute One for the Other? 

So you're craving a Moscow mule, but you don't have any ginger beer? But you do have ginger ale...can you use that instead? That's really up to you.

In a pinch, ginger ale will work as a substitute for ginger beer in a Moscow mule, however the citrusy, zingy flavor that the ginger beer normally brings will be a lot more muted. Ginger ale will make your Moscow mule a lot more sweet and bubbly.

How to Use Ginger Beer 

By this point you're probably aware that you can use ginger beer to make Moscow mules. But the cocktail possibilities don't end there. Combine it with dark rum to create a classic Caribbean cocktail, the Dark 'n' Stormy. Or use it to make this sweet and spicy Smoky Irish Wolfhound

How to Use Ginger Ale 

Aside from curing upset stomachs, ginger ale can also be used for everything from festive punches (try Party Punch III, Cranberry Punch, or Mock Champagne) to sherbet, and even in a glaze for savory meats. Use it wherever you'd like to add a subtle, sweet ginger bite. 

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