Ginger's History

Ginger's story goes back over 5000 years, when the underground stem, or "root", of the wild ginger plant was first used by healers in Southeast Asia to treat indigestion and joint pain.

By the first century AD traders had brought the root to the Mediterranean and by the Middle Ages, ginger was coveted throughout Europe. It was also very expensive: one pound of ginger would get you a live sheep. In the sixteenth century, Henry VIII was recommending it as remedy for the plague while his daughter, Queen Elizabeth, invented what now we call the gingerbread man.

Flash forward to the nineteenth century, when ginger ale’s old brother, ginger beer, was first made. Who knows whether the inventor was curious, drunk, or merely unsatisfied with his beer, but powdered ginger was added to a beer and stirred with a hot poker, creating “ginger beer”. Soon thousands of local taverns and breweries across the United Kingdom, Canada, and the US were brewing up their own varieties. Some had an alcohol content of up to 11%.

In 1852 an unfermented, non-alcoholic version of ginger beer was first made for children and non-drinkers by Dr. Cantrell in Belfast, Ireland, a well-known manufacturer of aerated and mineral waters. He called it “ginger ale” and the concoction tasted more intensely like ginger than the ginger-flavored beers of the day. The good doctor described it as "sparkling and clear as the choicest champagne, as having a most agreeable odour, perfectly free from any intoxicating quality, and yet eminently warming and invigorating, pleasant to the taste and pleasant to look at."

By the 1880’s, Ginger Ale was far and away America’s favorite soda. Everyone seems to have their own strong opinion on the different varieties - imported vs. American, pale dry vs. golden, aromatic vs. fruity. Thousands of local bottlers made their own version, with some using dozens of different (and secret) spices to make theirs extra special. They each sought crisp flavor, brilliant clarity and appropriate pungency. In 1893, WB Keller, the editor of the National Bottlers Gazette wrote his immortal words: “it should be the aim of every bottler to bring its brand of ginger ale to the highest possible perfection, since a bottler’s products are judged for better or worst by the merit or lack of merit possessed by its ginger ale.”

But as World War II ended, Cola was America’s favorite soda, the country was focused on living better through modern science, and ginger ale-related aspirations were out the door and into the laboratory. Ginger and secret spices became natural and artificial flavors and sugar was replaced by high fructose corn syrup.

Q Ginger strives to be a ginger ale that would impress the likes of Dr. Cantrell or WB Keller. We approached it like the best bottlers of their day – we started with real ginger and then agonized and tinkered until we made something that makes us proud. So please enjoy. We certainly are.


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