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May 13, 2014 02:54 PM

Dark and Stormy - Ginger Beer Challenge

Decided that I would buy a sampling of ginger beers and do a highly unscientific study of which made the best dark and stormy. The study was 'unscientific' because there was a lot of variation in each drink. Occasionally did a Gosling's 151 float and usually didn't add lime till later in the drink so that I could best measure the interaction of the rum and ginger beer (may of the ginger beers had an added lemon flavor). Also, tried out a few different ratios.

Worth noting that I wasn't able to obtain the Baritt's (Gosling's brand ginger beer). Thoughts below with grades in parentheses after the name:

Bundaberg (B)
A very complete blender - has a lemony flavor that puts a bridge between the rum and the ginger. Very nice for a mixer but not very interesting either.

Jamaica's Finest - HotHotHot! (A+)
The only one of the group made with actual ginger oil (vs. extracts). Intense Ginger Flavor and nothin' but. The most sophisticated in a way but not a crowd-pleasing blender. Made with real cane sugar.

Fever Tree (B)
Bottle is full of cloudy crystallized ginger. Nice touch for showmanship. Very elegant but after the Jamaica's Finest the ginger extract is noticeable. Added the lime halfway through which helped. Worth noting that it is the smallest bottle and yet the most expensive.

Cock and Bull (B-)
Reminded me of a lesser version of the Bundaberg. Too sweet and not too much a ginger kick but still had the lemony middle ground that made it a good mixer. While not for me I did note that the Tiki Ti - a bar I trust for all things rum drink - does use it in their dark and stormies. They also said that they sometimes use the Gosling's brand (Baritt's). This was the least expensive of the brands I tasted.

Old Jamaica Ginger Beer (A-)
Really like this one. Lots of kick and not too sweet. Pours very cloudy. While the company that makes it is listed in Kingston this one was bottled in Canada.

Fentiman's (A)
Bitey. Good. Most herbaceous of the lot. Well-rounded flavor. A good choice but pricey like the Fever Tree. Floated it with a bit too much 151 so not quite getting the fair shake it deserves.

Reed's (C)
Wasn't expecting much of this. When tasted on it's own it was cloying. Says it was made from fresh ginger (not fermented). Didn't like it much when I tasted it on it's own but it did make a reasonable dark and stormy but by no means the best. It has an 'off' sour lemony flavor.

Would love to get other 'hounds thoughts on these and other brands.

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  1. My favorite brand of ginger beer, for mixing or to drink on its own is DG Jamaican Ginger Beer (I live in a neighborhood with a lot of Caribbean people, so you can get it at pretty much any grocery store).

    I like it, because it has a spicy flavor and not just a hot ginger taste with some sugar on top the way some ginger beers do (though the ginger flavor is still bold and upfront).

    From what I understand, DG also distributes Old Jamaica Ginger Beer, though I'm pretty sure they're different products. I must investigate now...

    1. it's very odd. i love rum. i love ginger beer. i love lime. but for some reason, i can't seem to love the dark and stormy.
      go figure.

      that said, i'm with you on jamaica's finest. a great ginger beer.
      i'd be curious to know how the drink is using the hot blenheim ginger ale.
      i've not seen old jamaica. i'll have to keep it in mind.

      1. Not sure what you are referring to when you say Barritt's is Gosling's brand - I have read that they are imported by the same company, but there is a Gosling's brand of Ginger beer.

        I have had both, and they taste nothing alike. I much prefer the Gosling's, was really not impressed with the barritt's. We just found it not to have much ginger bite at all.

        1. The two you didn't try -- Barritt's and Gosling's -- are the 'traditional' and, in my opinion, best options for a Dark & Stormy. As with ncyankee, Gosling's own ginger beer is my favorite and goes perfectly with Gosling's dark rum.

          Jamaica's Finest and Bleinheim are both great ginger beers if you want that shockingly hot flavor, but that's all you'll taste-- hot pepper bite. Gosling's and Barritt's give you a decent balance between the mixer and the rum. Otherwise you may as well put vodka in there if you just want alcoholic ginger beer.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Boston_Otter

            One question - is there any difference between the Barritt's in the bottle, and the Barritt's "Stone Ginger Beer" in the can?

            1. re: ncyankee101

              That's a good question that I don't know the answer to, as I've never been able to find Barritt's in bottles -- only cans.

              1. re: ncyankee101

                I believe the Barritt's in the bottle has HFCS and the can has cane sugar. I'm unaware of other differences. I was told this by the rep, but I haven't sampled both.


                1. re: EvergreenDan

                  I have only been able to find it in the bottle, and it seemed overly sweet. If I can find it in a can I will try it again, but I was totally underwhelmed especially for the price.

                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                    Dan - I looked at the Barritt's can while I was in Total Wine yesterday, and unfortunately it says HFCS. They were out of the bottles so I couldn't check.

                  2. re: ncyankee101

                    I have access to both Barritt's, so I need to try it in the bottle. I find that Barritt's in the can is a competent ginger beer. I recently tried Fentiman's and did not find it to be markedly better [but was 2x the price of Barritt's]. I would rather use Fever Tree [before the recent recipe change] for the same money. Gosling's Ginger Beer is in the same class as Barritt's to me. I would put Bundaberg in the same class as Barritt's/Goslings. Cock 'N Bull was a rung below at best. One decent Ginger Beer to try is the offering by Saranac Brewery. Reed's and Sioux City Ginger Beer currently hold down the bottom rung for me.

                    1. re: hawkeyeui93

                      I just got a 6 pack of the saranac, to be honest it tastes more to me like ginger ale than beer, with very little bite at all.

                      I find it odd that so many people like fever tree and not Reed's, because I found them to be the most similar of the ones I have tried, with a lot of spicy ginger taste and heat.

                      1. re: ncyankee101

                        Taste is indeed subjective. To me, Reed's had very little ginger zing and got lost in my drink. I thought the Saranac was in the middle-low of the ginger beers I prefer to use in my gin bucks/moscow mules. I have a new one to try [A.J. Stephans] and will report on it soon.

                2. Nice job on the tasting.

                  My two favorites are AJ Stephans, followed by Maine Root. Stephans, to me, has the best spicy bite of any commercial brand, while Maine Root brings a prominent citrus element I don't find in most brands.