What’s the Difference Between Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer? (2024)

Christine Gallary

Christine GallaryFood Editor-at-Large

Christine graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, and she has worked at Cook's Illustrated and CHOW.com. She lives in San Francisco and loves teaching cooking classes. Follow her latest culinary escapades on Instagram.


updated May 1, 2019

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What’s the Difference Between Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer? (1)

I’m a big fan of ginger drinks, especially since I love that fiery, spicy kick ginger adds. My refrigerator always contains ginger ale or ginger beer.

But what is the difference between the two? And is ginger beer actually beer (and therefore alcoholic)?

The Difference Between Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer

Ginger beer was originally an alcoholic brew made from fermenting ginger, sugar, and water, although most commercial ginger beers nowadays are non-alcoholic.

Ginger ale is a non-alcoholic, sweetened, ginger-flavored soft drink. Ginger beer is stronger-tasting and spicier than ginger ale, but less carbonated.

Traditional Ginger Beer

Ginger beer is a drink originating from England, where sugar, ginger, water, and sometimes lemon were fermented and brewed with a starter culture called the ginger beer plant, resulting in a brew with about 11 percent alcohol. This also explains how the word “beer” is part of the name. The carbonation occurs naturally from the brewing process, so this form of ginger beer has less carbonation than ginger ale.

Modern-Day Ginger Beer

A lot of today’s commercial ginger beers are made differently than the original brew, so what ends up in the bottle can vary widely across brands. Many are actually classified as non-alcoholic because they contain less than .5 percent alcohol or contain no alcohol at all. Some ginger beers are brewed with champagne yeast, and some are finished with forced carbonation. There are even producers that just make a more ginger-intense version of ginger ale and call it ginger beer.

Ginger beer can be clear or cloudy, depending on the filtering process, although it is usually darker in color than ginger ale. It is an integral part of co*cktails like the Moscow Mule and the Dark ‘n’ Stormy.

More About Ginger Ale

Consider ginger ale to be ginger beer’s more sedate cousin. It contains no alcohol and is basically a ginger-flavored soft drink. Its roots are rumored to be from Ireland, but it really took off in Canada in the early 1900s, when the Canada Dry style of ginger ale was invented. Most ginger ales are now made in this pale, dry style, resulting in a lighter color and a more delicate flavor than ginger beer, but with more carbonation.

Ginger ale can also be a fermented drink (sometimes containing a small amount of alcohol) made from ginger bugs, which is a culture of beneficial bacteria.

Ginger ale is a popular drink on airplanes, and is also used to combat stomach upsets. It’s a great substitute for club soda due to its mild taste — perfect if you want a sweet but not strongly flavored mixer for co*cktails.


Both ginger ale and ginger beer are bubbly drinks with a gingery kick, refreshing on their own or mixed into your favorite co*cktail. Some drinks rely on the deeper flavors of ginger beer to stand up to other ingredients, but you can really use it interchangeably with ginger ale — as long as you know that ginger beer is more intense in flavor than ginger ale.

What’s the Difference Between Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer? (2024)


What’s the Difference Between Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer? ›

While these two drinks were once identical, ginger ale is typically sweeter, non-alcoholic, and made using artificial carbonation. Ginger beer tends to be spicier and is carbonated via fermentation. As a result, it may contain alcohol, though sometimes in amounts as low as 0.5% ABV.

What is better for you, ginger ale or ginger beer? ›

Ginger beer and ginger ale do not differ greatly in terms of nutritional values. Ginger ale is the lighter option, with 125.1 calories and 32.3 grams of sugar per can (12 fl oz). Ginger beer is a bit heavier but nevertheless very close to ginger ale, with 140 calories and 35 grams of sugar per can or bottle (12 fl oz).

Can you substitute ginger ale for ginger beer? ›

The manner in which it's made also affects the flavor, making different brews zestier than others. So, while ginger beer and ginger ale can be used interchangeably, it's important to remember that ginger beer does have a stronger flavor.

Do ginger beer and ginger ale taste the same? ›

Ginger beer was originally an alcoholic brew made from fermenting ginger, sugar, and water, although most commercial ginger beers nowadays are non-alcoholic. Ginger ale is a non-alcoholic, sweetened, ginger-flavored soft drink. Ginger beer is stronger-tasting and spicier than ginger ale, but less carbonated.

Is ginger beer good for your stomach? ›

Ginger root, a plant indigenous to southern China, contains hundreds of compounds that provide several important benefits to those who ingest it. Drinking ginger beer can help reduce inflammation, promote digestion, relieve nausea, and even help in the prevention of cancer.

Why do doctors recommend ginger ale? ›

May help reduce nausea

Consuming ginger may help relieve upset stomach and nausea related to stomach flu, severe migraines, chemotherapy, or morning sickness in pregnancy. This may be partly due to natural compounds found in ginger, including gingerols and shogaols ( 1 , 3 , 4 , 5 ).

Can you drink ginger beer straight? ›

Packed with flavor, it's good enough to be enjoyed on its own, or mixed to make a variety of different co*cktails. But let's set one thing straight – the key ingredient to a great Moscow Mule is a good ginger beer, not ginger ale!

Does a Moscow Mule have ginger ale or ginger beer? ›

After all, today, we all know that ginger beer is what makes a Moscow Mule, but what exactly is it, and what separates it from the more ubiquitous ginger ale.

Why is ginger beer so expensive? ›

It is expensive to do it, and ginger juice makes such a big component that to make it it's our highest cost per production beer that we make.

Which ginger beer has real ginger? ›

Reed's Original Ginger Beer

This world-famous, Jamaican-inspired recipe is crafted with REAL fresh ginger root, natural fruit juices, honey and spices.

Why do they call it ginger beer? ›

Ginger beer originated in England and it was made by fermenting and brewing sugar, ginger, water and sometimes lemon with a starter culture called the ginger beer plant. As a result, traditional ginger beer contained around 11 percent alcohol; this is also why beer became part of its name.

Why does ginger beer taste so good? ›

Ginger beer packs a punch with its bold flavor profile. Its key ingredients are carbonated water, cane sugar, and ginger root, which gives it a strong and spicy ginger flavor with a balanced sweetness. Many ginger beers also contain lemon or lime extract for a note of tangy citrus to round out the strong ginger flavor.

When not to take ginger? ›

Blood-thinning medications: Ginger may increase the risk of bleeding. Talk to your doctor before taking ginger if you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin. Diabetes medications: Ginger may lower blood sugar.

Does ginger beer get rid of gas? ›

If a person has bloating, gas or indigestion, the carbonation and sugar may make it worse. Even diet ginger ale can be harmful because our bodies may not digest artificial sugars as well.” The same can be said for ginger beer.

Does ginger beer have more sugar than co*ke? ›

The average glass of ginger beer contains a whopping 38.5g of sugar - the equivalent of just over eight teaspoons - according to the research by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Open. A glass of co*ke, on the other hand, contains 35g - that's about seven teaspoons.

Is it OK to drink ginger ale everyday? ›

In either case, ginger ale is still soda, and numerous studies have linked drinking soda with an increased risk of obesity. "Ginger ale is not classified as a health food and should be consumed in moderation," advises Jamie Bering, MD, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

Is there a healthy version of ginger ale? ›

Also called the “pale style,” dry ginger ale has a spicier or drier ginger flavor due to the way manufacturers source and process the ginger root. Diet. This is similar to the regular version except that artificial or calorie-free sweeteners are used in place of sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Is ginger beer a healthy drink? ›

Yes, you read that right! Ginger beer is much healthier than most carbonated drinks, and it's also one of the most refreshing drinks you can easily prepare in your own home. The key ingredient in ginger beer is ginger root, which is known for its myriad of culinary and medicinal uses since ancient times.

Why is ginger ale good for your belly? ›

She explains that ginger works to calm the spasms that occur in the smooth muscle, which is the type of muscle found in the stomach and other organs that comprise the digestive system. Walsh says that these spasms are likely what's causing your stomach to be in pain.

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