History: Bruce Cost knows about ginger. Dude’s been writing books about it and using it in his Asian-inspired restaurants since 1984. According to Bruce Cost Ginger Ale Marketing Manager, Kevin Li, Cost is also a “2-time James Beard nominee as ‘Best Chef in California.'” As of this sentence, I’m a two-time Bruce Cost Ginger Ale and rum consumer. I wonder if I can make it to four by the end of this review. If I do, I wonder if I’ll even make it to the end. It’s good timing for Cost, considering in mid-2015, we’re in the midst of a ginger boom in craft soda. But, as Li tells us, Cost started making his “chef-driven” unfiltered ginger ale back in 2010 in Brooklyn, New York, introducing it in three flavors: original, jasmine tea, and pomegranate. You can literally see pieces of ginger floating in the bottle, hence the “unfiltered” label. The chef went through 14 different restaurants before putting all of his eggs in the craft soda basket. “The idea was to produce a kind of soda that was more akin to a microbrew beer, full bodied with the mouth feel of beer or wine rather than the sparkly flavored, sugar water that is familiar to most people,” says Li. But don’t think this soda has no sugar. He adds the company strives for a flavor that is “somewhat sweet and lightly carbonated.” There’s a reason we’re reviewing the original. Look around on the Internet. You’ll notice that Bruce Cost Ginger Ale has quite the reputation. Li notes the company sources its fresh ginger from Shangdong, China and does not use any ginger extracts or flavorings in its soda. Each bottle contains a whopping 40 grams of ginger. Though not fermented, Bruce Cost ginger ale’s unfiltered look, slightly foamy head, and use of only fresh ginger make it a close cousin to ginger beer. Like Arkansas-cousin close. Sorry, Arkansas readers. In fact, Li surprises us with a scoop, telling us the company is entering the other side of ginger soda market this fall and will introduce an 8.4 oz can of ginger beer. Until then, we pull back the curtain on Bruce Cost’s original ginger ale and see if the critical claim has merit.
Where to get: Bruce Cost Ginger Ales are sold in physical retailers mostly in New York and California. You can also find it at The Fresh Market stores nationwide and Whole Foods in five regions. Check out Bruce Cost’s online store locator to find out where the nearest retailer is to you. For the rest of us eating pizza in our Snuggies, there’s always the Internet. Amazon, BevMo, Harney and Sons Teas… just take your pick.
Nose: Musky, kind of has an agave syrup smell to it. Definitely not spicy ginger like you might be expecting from a soda with actual pieces of ginger floating in the bottle.
Taste: Cane sugar; candied ginger; light spiciness. An easy-drinking ginger ale that surprisingly leans on the sweeter side of things. This is an unfiltered ginger ale, and while this is obvious when looking at the pieces of ginger in the bottle, it seems to have an effect on the sugar as well. The sugar, in turn, really impacts the flavor profile. The signature flavor in this is more of a candied ginger than one that’s raw and full of fire. There is a little bit of spice to the ginger on the backend every now and then, but not enough to make those hesitant of spicy flavors bat an eye. You’ll taste more sweet than spicy with just enough of the latter to provide balance. The carbonation is very light and the ginger intensifies throughout the drink. Definitely does not have the same bite and tartness you’ll find in a ginger beer, but also isn’t as dry as most ginger ales. Lots of sweet ginger flavor.
Finish: Sweet ginger with a tinge of pepper. Almost a little bit of a mild herbal effect if you take enough time in between sips.
Rating: Generally ginger ales are full of carbonation and fairly light on flavor. Bruce Cost flips the script with its Ginger Ale by filling each bottle with unfiltered pieces of ginger root packed with big, sweet flavor and hardly any bubbles. The ginger flavor tastes more candy than spicy, but it permeates every sip from beginning to end, increasing in strength as you continue to drink it. Probably one of the sweeter ginger ales you’ll try and not quite as dry as some others. This makes it a great candidate for cocktails. I understand a lot of you will leave at this point to go make a drink. I get it. For those of you who stuck around, the password is wast3ofAsentenze. Bruce Cost certainly tastes like a gourmet ginger ale, but it is a little on the sweet side, coming in at 37 grams per bottle. I’d probably chop that number down to around 30. But this has a nice ginger flavor and is versatile enough to be enjoyed on its own or in your favorite Friday night concoction. One of the better ginger ales on the craft soda market. It certainly seems to be a fan favorite.