March 3, 2024
Best Ginger Ales of 2023 (Tested & Reviewed)

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For some, ginger ale is a perpetual resident of their fridge; for others, it’s only a must-buy for holiday parties (the leftovers — even sans bubbles — make excellent next-day crepes). No matter where you fall on the fizzy spectrum, chances are high you want the best ginger ale money can buy. That, dear reader, is where we come in.

We tasted our way through nine ginger ales (not to be confused with ginger beer), focusing on widely available national brands and regional players with a decent online presence. We eliminated any potential contenders with high-fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list, which ended up including eight ginger ales (many from major brands). All but two are made with cane sugar; the ones that aren’t contain fructose (fruit sugar) and agave. 

While some ginger ales were less than $1 per can (when sold in bulk bottles or packs of four, six, or 12),  we added in a few pricier options to see if any are worth the splurge. We also looked at recent sales data and past taste tests to round out the selection. 

After one bubbly afternoon of tasting and tallying, these are the ginger ales you’d find in our fridge from here on out.

Best Ginger Ale: Reed’s Real Ginger Ale

Reed’s Real Ginger Ale is, in two words, “on point.” (Just ask our Social Media Manager, Brian W.) In fact, seven out of 10 tasters rank this ginger ale in their top-three favorites — four of them listing it as their number one pick. From the jump, tasters are smitten: “It smells really tasty and the color looks attractive,” says Sam, our Social Media Manager. Maya, our Studio Assistant, likens Reed’s to “green tea” colorwise, with a “smell that has a bit of a bite to it, but not overpowering.” 

Beyond its appealing looks and aroma, Reed’s earns high marks for its “very gingery flavor,” says Maria, our Senior Designer, though she also thinks “it could be sweeter,” and “good carbonation,” says Raquel, our Account Manager. It’s made with a handful of ingredients — sparkling filtered water, cane sugar, pressed organic ginger, natural flavors, citric acid — and several people note (and enjoy!) those citrusy notes. But what really clinched it: The “refreshing” taste, says April, our Co-op Partner Manager, adding “it goes down real easy.” 

Runner-Up: 365 by Whole Foods Market Ginger Ale

Ironically, the runner-up stood out for its mild, well, everything. Another five-ingredient wonder, 365 by Whole Foods Market Ginger Ale contains carbonated water, invert cane sugar (boiled water and sugar), citric acid, natural flavor, and caramel color. That combination translates to a “slightly golden” or “VERY PALE!” color, depending on who you’re talking to, and an aroma that’s somewhere between “faint” and “non-existent” — or “an instant hit,” as Brian W calls it. The muted flavor is also a hit for tasters, like Maya, who call it “nice and balanced” and “not too sweet, not too herbal/ginger heavy.” Even the bubbles are “very fine.”

“Classic,” “very familiar,” and “instantly recognizable” are just a few of the (nice) things tasters had to say about Whole Foods’ store-brand ginger ale. In fact, several were shocked to learn this wasn’t the beloved ginger ale they grew up drinking! We guess that means it’s time for a new favorite. (Five tasters did rank this pick in their top three.)

How We Tested the Ginger Ales

We held a blind taste test of nine different ginger ales and recruited 10 ginger ale enthusiasts (so you know they’re qualified) who work in our office to participate in this one-day test. Fun fact: Two said ginger ale is the only soda they drink. Whether it’s their drink of choice on a flight, with takeout, or whisky — especially during the holidays, tasters want a tall glass of ginger ale that’s ginger-forward with strong carbonation and some sweetness. Overly sugary taste was the number one watchout for most. 

Each ginger ale was assigned a letter to conceal the brand’s identity. After chilling them in the fridge, Tom, our Studio Producer, poured each one into an unmarked pitcher/large liquid measuring cup. Tasters were instructed to sample the ginger ales in random order to avoid giving any one entrant an advantage. We also had pitchers of cold water on hand for palate cleansing. 

Tasters rated each of the ginger ale on a scale of one to five (1 = No, thanks; 2 = Meh; 3 = Pretty good; 4 = Really like; 5 = Yes, Please!) across four criteria — look, smell, texture, and flavor — and included any specific observations, tasting notes, and general opinions worth mentioning. They were also asked to answer, arguably, the most important question of all: Would you buy this ginger ale?

This was a blind taste test, which means tasters had no knowledge of the brands being evaluated ahead of or at the time of the tasting. It was held over one day and tasters were instructed to sample the ginger ales in random order (to stave off palate fatigue and not give any one mix an unfair advantage). The group of tasters included a mix of food professionals and ginger ale fans who work at The Kitchn and/or Apartment Therapy Media (The Kitchn’s parent company). All participated in the taste test voluntarily, and we thank them for being so generous with their time and feedback. 

Speaking of, each taster filled out a score sheet (without discussion or influence) ranking the ginger ales across several criteria (listed above). The results were also tabulated without any visibility into the brands. Only after the numbers were finalized, did we reveal which brands corresponded to the winners.

Did your favorite ginger ale make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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