History: Red Rock Golden Ginger Ale is one of the classics in the American craft soda scene, and man, was it hard to track down someone to talk to about it. After a seemingly endless number of fruitless Internet clicks, we finally used some common sense and just looked on the bottle to discover Red Rock is distributed by Clayton Distributing in Atlanta, Georgia. We spoke to Paul Redd, the company owner and proud southern boy. The accent? Thick. Occasionally when he really got going, his words all spilled out in one gelatinous blob like molasses dripping out of a jar. For example, he explained “Red Rock was formulated inAtlantahfewYAassforeCo-CoCola.” But in all seriousness Redd was extremely helpful, and to translate, he said Red Rock Ginger Ale was created in Atlanta in 1885 by Lee Hogan and G.T. Hogan even before Coca-Cola. It reached its peak popularity in the 30’s and 40’s when it was available in all 48 states of the continental U.S. “It did very well on up through World War II,” says Redd. But with the sugar rationing that occurred during the war, Red Rock as a brand took some damage (there’s also a Red Rock Cola). The ginger ale always survived, though its availability shrunk decisively to mainly just Atlanta until the 1980’s. From one southerner to another, this is a soda that’s seen hard times, daddy! The ginger ale’s formula, made with cane sugar, has been the same since 1885 with one exception: Clayton Distributing added capsaicin, a component from chili pepper. Redd adds that it gives the ginger ale its signature “hot and spicy taste.” Red Rock is similar to another old time ginger ale called Blenheim in that both are known for being especially fiery when it comes to taste. In fact, Redd says “The first time you drink it, some people think it’s too hot,” before quickly adding “the more you drink it, the better it tastes.” I guess we’ll find out.
Where to get: Red Rock Golden Ginger Ale can be purchased online in single bottle quantities from Soda Emporium or in six-packs from Beverages Direct. If you’re a retailer looking to sell Red Rock in your store or just need to make a large order, contact Homer Soda Company. Physically, the ginger ale is available mostly in the southeast. Cracker Barrels around the nation also carry the soda. Basically, you’d need to have a really good excuse not to find it.
Nose: Smells like what you’re accustomed to with ginger ale. Slightly earthy, slightly sweet.
Taste: Medium spice; bold ginger ale flavor. I think we all know how Canada Dry Ginger Ale tastes. Take what you know about Canada Dry and imagine its flavor emboldened by about two levels with a little heat, and that’s what you have in Red Rock Golden Ginger Ale. A couple other differences: this has more carbonation and it also has a funky initial taste I’m not crazy about. It has an earthy spice to it that crawls into the sinuses at first, but mostly resides in the throat. This is a ginger ale that has some familiarities, but is stronger than what most people buy at the grocery store. Definitely has a noticeable kick.
Finish: Candied ginger with some earthy notes and lingering medium heat in the throat.
Rating: Red Rock Golden Ginger Ale is a classic and one of the bolder-tasting ginger ales on the market. If you’re using Canada Dry as a base, this has stronger flavor, more carbonation, and some actual heat for a ginger ale. The spice initially creeps into your nostrils before settling in the back of the throat. It’s definitely a good ginger ale, but I wouldn’t call it great. There’s a funky, earthy taste you get immediately at the beginning of each sip that’s just hard to shake. It’s a little too earthy and unwelcoming. The longer you drink this, the more it goes away… or maybe you just get used to it. But I can’t forgot it when it comes to rating this ginger ale. That said, there are also good qualities. One is the carbonation. There’s lots of it and the bubbles really make the ginger ale pop in your mouth. Great texture. The body of the ginger ale also has really nice flavor. Bold, crisp, and refreshing. This would probably make a really good cocktail mixer. Love the color. Like the flavor, but don’t love it. Definitely stands out as retro amongst the newer styles and flavors of ginger ale, so if you’re looking to get down with some old fashioned nostalgia, Red Rock Golden Ginger Ale is definitely an option for you.