Ginger Beer Kicks Up Cocktail Menus

It’s the fizzy little mixer that could: Ginger beer is lending its spicy bite to a range of contemporary cocktails at bars and restaurants across the country, and its menu appearances are soaring.

The more-assertive cousin to ginger ale comes in alcohol and non-alcohol varieties; the non-alcohol brands that are prevalent on-premise can do double duty by serving as a backbone for flavorful mocktails (or serving on their own as a refreshing alternative to cola). Ginger beer is an essential component of the Moscow mule cocktail, that easy-drinking combination of vodka, ginger beer and lime juice that’s enjoying resurgent popularity. It’s also integral to the Dark and Stormy, in which dark rum takes the place of a Moscow mule’s vodka. But operators also are turning to ginger beer to enliven (and fill out) a variety of house-original cocktails—to add fizz and bold, not-too-sweet flavor to fresh-tasting formulations.

At the U.S. restaurants and bars tracked by Technomic’s MenuMonitor online resource, the number of specialty drinks containing ginger beer climbed 75% from Q3 2013 to Q3 2014. The number of operators menuing ginger-beer concoctions rose by about the same share (76%). Moscow mules alone saw their numbers rise 45%.

For a closer look at how operators are using ginger beer, consider this collection of ginger-beer creations currently appearing on menus:

Taking the Mule Out of Moscow…

  • Brazilian Mule, Charley’s Crab: VeeV açaí liqueur, ginger beer and fresh mint
  • Monterey Mule, Pappasito’s Cantina: Cimarron Silver tequila, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, fresh-pressed lime juice and ginger beer
  • Tennessee Honey Mule, Whiskey Creek Wood Fire Grill: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, ginger beer and fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • London Mule, Kona Grill: Bombay Sapphire gin, ginger beer, Monin elderflower, lemon
  • Mulo Romano, Maggiano’s Little Italy: Svedka vodka, blood orange, lime, Fever Tree ginger beer
  • Shanghai Buck, Big Bowl Chinese & Thai: Vodka, ginger beer, pomegranate and lime

Ginger Originals

  • Brugal Santo Libre, Adobo Grill (Chicago): Brugal Silver rum, ginger beer, bitters and a splash of pineapple juice
  • Dragon Fire, Baker St. Pub & Grill: Fresh muddled strawberries and simple syrup with Bacardi Dragon Berry Rum, Monin habanero-lime syrup, cranberry juice and ginger beer
  • Caribbean Cream Soda, Cuba Libre: Brinley’s Vanilla rum, Barritts ginger beer and a lime wedge
  • Bucktown Jack, Francesca’s Restaurants: Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Gosling’s ginger beer, apricot brandy and orange essence
  • Liz Taylor, Hamburger Mary’s Bar & Grille: New Amsterdam gin, lavender syrup, ginger beer and orange rind
  • Pineapple Ginger Smash, III Forks: Hennessy VS Cognac, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, fresh pineapple, mint and ginger beer
  • Blackberry Ginger Cocktail, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House: Woodford Reserve Bourbon, fresh blackberries, fresh lemon juice, mint and a splash of ginger beer

Christine LaFave Grace

Christine LaFave Grace writes for and produces Technomic's Trends & Directions e-newsletters. She joined Technomic in 2013 as an associate editor. Her previous roles include assistant digital editor for Crain Communications’ Modern Healthcare magazine and associate editor at Reed Business Information’s Restaurants & Institutions magazine.

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