Friday, March 12, 2010

It was a light and stormy night

This time, a mule by any other name is... a ginger beer rundown.

For years now, my favorite cocktail has been a "Manchester," a concoction of ginger beer, light rum (I'm a big fan of Appleton's Reserve), and a generous squeeze of lime — served on the rocks. This may sound familiar, as it's a variation on the classic Bermuda cocktail, the "Dark 'n Stormy," which is made with ginger beer, dark rum (traditionally Gosling's) and a lime squeeze. They're sort of your summer and winter clothes of rum and ginger beer cocktails.

The Manchester was my introduction to ginger beer (Barritt's Bermuda Stone to be precise), which it turns out is not alcoholic, it's more like ginger ale with personality. You drink ginger ale when you're not feeling well; you drink ginger beer when you're feeling just fine.

Turns out there are a few other ginger beer based cocktails, including something called the "Moscow Mule," which is made with vodka, lime juice and a lime wedge. Me, personally, I am no big fan of vodka, so this never really hit my radar screen.

Then my sister told me recently that she is now an avid drinker of something she called a "Jalisco Mule" — ginger beer and tequila (with a little lime). Now that's a mule I could get behind. Like everything that comes out of the kitchen or from behind the bar, a drink is only as good as its ingredients.

Would you rather belly up to the bar with Robin Williams or Tim Smothers? Bundaberg and Barritt's are the Jim Carrey and Stephen Colbert of ginger beer. They're not alone, mind you, you've also got Blenheim's, Grace, Stewart's, The Ginger People, Cock 'n Bull, and a host of others I haven't tried. To help you out — because that is, after all, my job — I found some ginger beer reviews. The Cocktail Nerd reviews a goodly number in his two part post (part one and part two). Scotte's Rum does a thorough ginger ale review, and tucks a few ginger beers in for good measure.

I'll tell you what I know for sure — Bundaberg has the coolest bottle by far. Not that I'm saying you should judge a beer by its bottle. It's not like anyone has trademarked some bottle that's shaped like an hour glass or anything.

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