The Ginger Beer Story
Bars & Drinks SSC
Mike Parker

As far back as 500 B.C., ginger has been used as both a spice to flavor food, and as a medicinal agent, to calm unruly stomachs. In the midst of the colonial spice trade days, enterprising British inventors brewed up the first batch of what is now known as ginger beer from a combination of naturally fermented ginger spice, sugar and yeast. Although originally alcoholic, excise tax laws established in the middle of the 19th century limited the alcohol content in ginger beer to a maximum of 2 percent, and most brewers simply started producing the non-alcoholic variety that has become the norm for contemporary ginger beers. Unlike ginger ale, ginger beer is typically brewed, resulting in natural carbonation, and is spicier on the tongue than ginger ale.

Ginger beer gained popularity in America when Jack Morgan, owner of Hollywood’s famed Cock’n Bull Restaurant, got involved with the product in the 1940’s, resulting the the creating of Cock’n Bull Ginger Beer. Legend has it, the restaurant mogul had a sit-down meeting with John G. Martin of Heublein Spirits, a major distributor of alcoholic beverages. Martin had just acquired the Smirnoff Vodka brand and was having trouble selling it to a market that preferred whiskey and gin to vodka. Morgan was eager to spread the word about his newly minted Cock’n Bull Ginger Beer.

The meeting resulted in the creation of a new drink, the Moscow Mule, which combined Martin’s Smirnoff Vodka with Morgan’s Cock’n Bull Ginger Beer, and everybody won. In case you were wondering, the name was a nod to vodka’s Russian heritage and Cock’n Bull Ginger Beer’s added kick.

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