Why does ginger ale get no respect?
December 17, 2007 7:36 PM   Subscribe

I was drinking a tasty ginger ale today and wondering why it's so uncommon. Although you can find it in virtually any store in the USA, it's seldom available in gas stations and almost never in restaurants. Yet it's very popular on airplanes. Why is that?
posted by tomwheeler to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ginger is somewhat effective against motion sickness, which may explain its presence on airplanes.
posted by jedicus at 7:38 PM on December 17, 2007


Maybe because I hail from the land of one of the greatest ginger ales ever, Ale 8 One, I find ginger ale in gas stations all the time and in a few mom and pop restaurants.
posted by banannafish at 7:39 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


This article suggests that there is no clear answer but offers a few conjectures. In summary: people hear someone else ordering a ginger ale, thing "oh, hey, ginger ale" and then order one themselves. Alternatively, it may be a holdover from the early days of air travel when passengers were mostly wealthy white males, who (the article claims) drank ginger ale and tomato juice.
posted by jedicus at 7:43 PM on December 17, 2007


As someone who hails from the land of what I would claim to be the best ginger ale ever, Vernors, I also find ginger ale in gas stations all the time.
posted by Quazie at 7:49 PM on December 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


Perhaps it's more of a mixer drink and less of a straight soft drink. Airplanes have it to mix with scotch*. It's also popular as an alcohol substitute and therefore good for those passengers who think alcohol and flight don't mix.

On preview, this fits with the tomato juice thing too - a proper "virgin mary" making a pretty good substitute for the real deal.

*Or whiskey/whisky from other nations of course.
posted by GeckoDundee at 7:49 PM on December 17, 2007


On flights? It's a mixer, so it's there (at least on flights with booze) as a holdover from people people who order whiskey and ginger. Same with tonic water. Also non-caffeinated, which is useful when flying.

I've never noticed its absence, but this may be a regional thing. There are only a few big national brands, and you may live in an area where bottling and distribution limits availability in restaurants. And I'd second jedicus' linked conjecture that it would be hard to dedicate space on a restaurant dispenser or syrup line to ginger ale over a root beer or Dr Pepper.

(Ah, Blenheim.)
posted by holgate at 7:52 PM on December 17, 2007


Could it be more difficult to get a good ginger ale product in a dispenser? I know it comes canned, but does the (very) heavy carbonation hold up well in the syrup and water system the restaurants usually use?
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2007


Oops, misread. Yes, I think there's a 'me too' effect for ginger ale and tomato juice on planes, given the expectations of the drinks trolly, but that doesn't carry over to restaurants.
posted by holgate at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2007


Along with being a good mixer, airplanes carry stock in cans, which store pretty well for long periods. Restaurants would have to dedicate a fountain line to it, and demand may not make that attractive to a lot of places. As for getting it in a restaurant, almost any place with bar service will have it, whether it's on the menu or not - one of the benefits of being a good mixer.
posted by pupdog at 8:10 PM on December 17, 2007


I'll second the motion-sickness theory; back when I was younger, I often had minor motion sickness on planes, and the ginger ale always seemed to help. My sister still orders it from time to time for precisely that reason. It might have been the placebo effect — somehow, I doubt that there's much ginger in ginger ale — but it certainly didn't hurt.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:17 PM on December 17, 2007


almost any place with bar service will have it, whether it's on the menu or not

But check with the waitress to make sure it's real ginger ale. Some places will serve a mix of cola and lemon/lime soda and call it 'ginger ale'. (yuck)
posted by marsha56 at 8:29 PM on December 17, 2007


Ginger is somewhat effective against motion sickness, which may explain its presence on airplanes.

There's no ginger in most nationally distributed ginger ale.
posted by birdie birdington at 8:56 PM on December 17, 2007


I noticed when I moved back to Canada that the mofos here love the stuff. I'm back on it as a mixer and all around good time beverage. Ginger beer, too.
posted by SassHat at 8:57 PM on December 17, 2007


I grew up on the east coast, and ginger ale was my drink of choice. I have not found a single restaurant in Seattle that serves it.
posted by astruc at 9:22 PM on December 17, 2007


The northeast and Canada are both ginger ale country, and living in one and being from the other I naturally love the stuff. But I've also never noticed that it's hard to find in restaurants, especially in delis. In Toronto, many delis even carry Vernor's (which alas is very hard to find here in Rhode Island).

And I don't think there's anything special about airplanes, necessarily. Whenever I serve pop at a party, the ginger ale invariably goes fastest. Maybe there are lots of people who like ginger ale but forget about it until it's in front of them...
posted by goingonit at 9:50 PM on December 17, 2007


Could it be more difficult to get a good ginger ale product in a dispenser? I know it comes canned, but does the (very) heavy carbonation hold up well in the syrup and water system the restaurants usually use?

Yeah it holds up just fine. It's a little foamy coming out of the soda gun, but that's about it.

But check with the waitress to make sure it's real ginger ale. Some places will serve a mix of cola and lemon/lime soda and call it 'ginger ale'. (yuck)

Yuck is right. I remember doing this at a restaurant I worked at years ago...most people didn't even notice, or at least they never said anything.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:28 PM on December 17, 2007


Isn't the sense of taste somewhat suppressed while flying? I've heard various explanations as to why - mild hypoxia or motion sickness, etc - but never really noticed it myself.

That might go part of the way towards explaining why tart-tasting drinks like ginger ale & tomato juice are more popular in the air than on the ground, though I'd guess "tradition" is the root of it.
posted by Pinback at 10:34 PM on December 17, 2007


Possibly because Coca-Cola and Pepsi have a wagged a fierce battle for exclusive rights to every soda fountain from the smallest gas station to the largest chain restaurant. They even battle over exclusive vending machine rights to college campuses. The only neutral party I can think of off the top of my head is 7-Eleven, which serves both Coca-Cola and Pepsi products.

And the last time I checked Canada Dry, Schweppes, and Vernors were all owned by the same company - Cadbury Beverages- which can't get by the exclusive contracts the Big Two make.
posted by sharkfu at 10:39 PM on December 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


I can't remember ever seeing advertising for Ginger-ale. Maybe that has something to do with the availability.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:04 PM on December 17, 2007


In my hometown of Cville, where every bar is a "restaurant" (and therefore, most restaurants are bars), ginger ale is pretty commonly available. I think this might be regional. For sure chains will probably not have it.

But you know what I really wish there was more of? Root beer. Even fewer places have it, because ginger ale is at least a mixer. I don't know of any common mixed drinks that use it (although there are a few Dr Pepper based drinks).

For those of you in Cville who love root beer: last time I was there, Mellow Mushroom had root beer on tap. Not from a soda fountain; we're talking draft root beer. Of course, that may be gone by now (I was last there more than 2 years ago).
posted by Deathalicious at 5:49 AM on December 18, 2007


It also (at least the ones I'm familiar with) doesn't contain caffeine, so it's not very effective if you're looking for that jolt. (Though I love ginger ale)
posted by drezdn at 6:52 AM on December 18, 2007


Sharkfu has it. It's a commercial barrier, combined with a failure of marketing. Have you ever, ever, ever seen a ginger ale commercial? I prefer it by far to other types of pop (well, tonic water is cool too) as it has an interesting flavour and isn't as sickly sweet as most. I'm also guilty of ordering rye and ginger on airplanes (A canadian classic!). Homemade ginger ale, or better yet, ginger beer is pretty unbelievable stuff, but hard to find.

Frankly I think people order ginger ale on airplanes because it's one of the few places it's actually available.
posted by mek at 8:11 AM on December 18, 2007


It's easier to find ginger beer around here than ginger ale. The "Beer" version is just spicier/stronger (nonalcoholic).
posted by mrbill at 8:40 AM on December 18, 2007


Have you ever, ever, ever seen a ginger ale commercial?

I'm making a move... to ginger ale so dry... I'm making a move... and dry is why... I'm making the move... to Canada Dry

Okay, so it's been a while, and I can't find that exact jingle that's now stuck in my head.

I'm old.
posted by nanojath at 9:16 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, sharkfu is on the money.

If the restaurant you are dining in has a full-service bar, the chances are good that they will have (real) ginger ale. It's standard on a bar gun, and it's cheap and common enough that most places carry it automatically. It'll be whatever brand the local bottler has a contract to distribute. Your server may not even know they have it. Ask the bartender, they'll know.

And I can't resist a plug for my favorite ginger ale. It contains real ginger, it's spicy and delicious, and it mixes great with bourbon.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:25 AM on December 18, 2007


I think it's a combination of being available in bars as a mixer, and being a regional thing. I remember Vernors being rather prominent in the Detroit area when I lived there in the 90s (including advertising). Here in Texas that regional niche is filled by Dr. Pepper and root beer (Barq's being the most popular brand).
posted by Doohickie at 9:42 AM on December 18, 2007


If you haven't had Blenheim, you haven't had ginger ale.

The 'hot' variety is handy for giving yourself a tracheotomy.
posted by dmd at 9:53 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


mek writes "Have you ever, ever, ever seen a ginger ale commercial?"

I see print ads for it in magazines but I'm also in Canada so that may explain it.

For those jonesing for a ginger beer Extra Foods/Real Canadian super store carry it and it's _very_ gingery.
posted by Mitheral at 1:35 PM on December 18, 2007


It'll be whatever brand the local bottler has a contract to distribute.

Canada Dry and Schweppes are distributed by Cadbury Schweppes. Contracts for ginger ale are separate from contracts with Pepsi or Coke. Maybe that could explain why it's harder to get it in some places since it's a little more of a pain in the ass to order? Who knows. We carry Coke products at our work, but we order our ginger ale from a separate company.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:09 PM on December 18, 2007


This must vary from state to state, cuz every bar I've ever worked in (in Alabama) since the implementation of boxed syrup racks has had their ginger ale delivered by whichever bottler (Coke or Pepsi) has the contract. The local Pepsi bottler (who also make delicious Buffalo Rock ginger ale, referenced above) also supplies Canada Dry ginger ale, for example.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:36 PM on December 18, 2007


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