Group of ginger ale bottles cans

Given how powerful brand allegiances can be in the soda world, it’s strange that ginger ale seems to be viewed as a generic product. Plenty of folks have a strong preference for either Coke or Pepsi. The same can be said for Sprite versus 7UP too. And yet, when someone wants ginger ale, you don’t often hear them ask specifically for Schweppes, for example. Perhaps this is because of ginger ale’s place in the culture: If you’re not using it to treat airsickness or to soothe a sore tummy, you’re probably ordering it mixed with well liquor at a club or dive bar. In these situations, brand differences aren’t so important.

But this doesn’t mean that all ginger ales taste the same. Far from it, in fact. We rounded up the best ginger ales that soda manufacturers have to offer, and as you’ll see, they’re wildly different from each other. Some are fancy, small-batch brews from tiny companies, while others are available in every gas station in America. Some add interesting new wrinkles to the standard ginger ale we all know and love, while others play it safe. All are worth a taste if you can get your hands on them, but some really stand out from the pack. Read on to see which ginger ale you should buy the next time a craving strikes.

13. Sprecher Ginger Ale

Sprecher ginger ale bottle

We know Sprecher mostly as a maker of craft sodas, but the company is also the longest-standing craft brewery in Milwaukee. Sprecher’s unique twist is that it fire-brews its drinks and uses raw Wisconsin honey to flavor its sodas. These techniques make for interesting, complex soft drinks; we’re big fans of the company’s root beer, cream soda, and Puma Kola.

Given Sprecher’s expert touch at crafting other soda flavors, we thought its ginger ale would rank higher on this list, but after tasting it, we feel like this soda isn’t for everyone. It’s certainly more distinctive and complex than the average ginger ale; the drink has an overwhelming herbal character that’s reminiscent of evergreen trees. It’s an interesting taste, but it’s also fairly bitter. The bitter piney taste dominates this soda to the extent that the ginger becomes a backup singer in its chorus of flavors. We also noticed an almost smokey, woody note that is probably a product of the fire-brewing process. Overall, it was a thought-provoking drinking experience, but we wouldn’t choose this ginger ale to quaff for refreshment on a hot day. It’s best sipped slowly in small quantities.

12. Zia Ginger Ale

Zia ginger ale bottle

Zia is a craft beverage company based out of New Mexico. Its sodas lean heavily on New Mexican ingredients like nopales, piñon, and yucca. The company’s ginger ale is flavored with perhaps the most famous New Mexican food of all: red chiles.

This soda is filled with unexpected flavors. On the palate, it first registers like lemon-lime candy. The lemon and lime juice combined with the natural cane sugar in the recipe makes it taste very sweet. Then after that, you get the mildly bitter, smoky savoriness that’s typical of New Mexican red chiles. As with the Sprecher, the ginger element in Zia plays a supporting role in this drink instead of being the star of the show.

More than ginger ale, this drink reminded us of a chile-infused craft cocktail. It would probably pair well with tequila or mescal. However, it wouldn’t be our pick for an everyday ginger ale.

11. Fever-Tree Premium Ginger Ale

Fever-Tree ginger ale bottle

Speaking of craft cocktails, this next brand specializes in top-quality mixers. You may know Fever-Tree as a brand that specializes in artisanal tonic waters or for its zippy ginger beer, but the company also manufactures an upgraded take on ginger ale.

Fever-Tree ginger ale has a potent aroma that reminds us of freshly-mowed hay. It’s a savory rather than sweet smell, and this savoriness extends to the flavor of the drink. It has a strange mineral tang that almost tastes like clay. It’s identifiably a gingery flavor, but it’s unlike the standard ginger you’d find in most ginger ales. This product is flavored with three types of ginger, including one from the Ivory Coast that Fever-Tree says tastes a little bit like lemongrass. We’d guess that these unusual ginger varieties are responsible for the eccentric flavor of Fever-Tree’s ginger ale. It’s a memorable beverage, and we like the cute mini-bottles it’s packaged in. It may prove too weird for some palates, however.

10. Q Ginger Ale

Q Mixers ginger ale bottle

Q Mixers occupies a similar niche to Fever-Tree. The company’s mission is to create superior cocktail mixers, including tonic water, ginger beer, and, of course, ginger ale. Also like Fever-Tree, Q’s ginger ale resides more in herbal/spicy territory than sweet, although it achieves its flavor profile in a very different way.

The brand’s ginger ale has several virtues to recommend it. For one, it’s sweetened with agave nectar, which could appeal to people who are avoiding refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup. It also contains somewhat less sugar than standard ginger ale. Its complex, multi-faceted flavor is a product of ginger mixed with rose oil, orange oil, coriander, cardamom, and chili peppers. This combination gives the drink a taste and smell that’s reminiscent of Indian or Thai food. The overall flavor profile is spicy and not overwhelmingly sweet. While the additional spices taste good, we’re not sure they elevate this ginger ale over some of its more classic competitors.

9. Arizona’s Own Mesquite Ginger Ale

Arizona's Own ginger ale bottle

This is the last of the left-field options on this list. Like Sprecher, Arizona’s Own sodas are made by a brewery; per the label on the bottle, this ginger ale is produced by Tempe, Arizona’s Big Head Brewing Company. And like Zia, Arizona’s Own uses a surprise ingredient from its home state to add a surprising local twist to its ginger ale.

In this case, the secret ingredient is mesquite. While you might think of mesquite mostly as a wood used to smoke barbecue, the tree also produces a bean that can be eaten. The addition of mesquite completely transforms this soda: It brings an intense, molassesy sweetness and an undercurrent of smokiness that’s unlike anything else we’ve ever tried. It also gives the ginger ale an intensely smoky aroma. This is really more like mesquite soda with a hint of ginger rather than ginger ale flavored with mesquite. If you want to try something totally new in the world of soda, we’d heartily recommend Arizona’s Own ginger ale. We’re not sure we’d want to settle our stomachs on an airplane with this, though.

8. Zevia Ginger Ale

Zevia ginger ale can

This is the first zero-sugar ginger ale on this list. In fact, Zevia only makes zero-calorie beverages. As you might be able to guess from the company’s name, its sugar substitute is stevia leaf extract.

Zevia ginger ale pours clear, not golden like most ginger ales, because of its lack of caramel color. It has a short ingredient list, with only ginger extract as a flavoring. This results in a pleasantly straightforward, clean ginger flavor. If you enjoy normal supermarket brands of ginger ale but want to reduce your sugar intake, Zevia would probably hit the spot.

The only thing we don’t love about Zevia is the stevia. As with other stevia-sweetened products we’ve sampled, Zevia somehow tastes both way sweeter than sugar-sweetened sodas and not sweet at all. Some sips were cotton-candy sweet, while others reminded us of a ginger-flavored seltzer. Stevia also has a slightly bitter aftertaste. However, stevia’s shortcomings didn’t ruin the nice gingery flavor of Zevia’s offering.

7. Virgil’s Zero Ginger Ale

Virgil's Zero ginger ale can

Virgil’s is another craft soda company that avoids using ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and aspartame that many people may want to limit in their diets. Interestingly, while the company makes both full-sugar and zero-sugar sodas, its ginger ale is only available in diet form. That’s no problem for us, however, as Virgil’s zero-calorie ginger ale is seriously tasty.

Although this ginger ale contains stevia, it avoids the slightly strange sweetener taste of Zevia, possibly because the stevia is balanced with another sweetener, erythritol. The ginger flavor comes courtesy of pressed ginger root, and you can tell — Virgil’s Zero has a strong fresh ginger taste. Thankfully, the freshness of the ginger doesn’t make this soda too spicy. It’s quite well-balanced between ginger heat and sweetness. The ginger juice has an herbaceous, almost grassy note that makes Virgil’s super refreshing and chuggable. Even if you’re not generally a fan of diet soda, this brand is worth a try.

6. Schweppes Ginger Ale

Schweppes ginger ale bottle

Now we’ve reached a real heavy-hitter in the ginger ale game. Unlike most of the previous entries on this list, which offer novel interpretations of the ginger ale formula, Schweppes tastes like the ginger ale of your childhood. In fact, there’s a good chance it was the ginger ale of your childhood — and your grandpa’s too. Schweppes has been making beverages since 1783 when Jacob Schweppe was a pioneer in the emerging carbonated water industry. In a sense, we have Schweppes to thank for all the bottled fizzy drinks we enjoy today since the company claims it was the first manufacturer to figure out how to package carbonated beverages.

The best thing about Schweppes is the carbonation. It’s filled with a ton of tiny bubbles that tickle your tongue without aggressively shooting up your nose. The taste is simple but satisfying. There’s just enough ginger to let you know this is ginger ale, and not an ounce more. If you’re sensitive to ginger heat, this would probably be the best ginger ale for you. The mild ginger kick is balanced by a little bit of citrusy sourness from citric acid. It’s quite an enjoyable drinking experience, but it lacks the depth of flavor that the truly exceptional ginger ales bring to the table.

5. Canada Dry Ginger Ale

Canada Dry ginger ale

Canada Dry does everything Schweppes does, but just a little bit better. Like Schweppes, it’s a brand with a long history: It was launched in 1904 as a drier alternative to sweet ginger ales. And yes, it really is Canadian, or at least it was originally.

This is the brand we saw on the most store shelves when we were shopping for this list, and we can see why: It’s a robust, high-quality version of the classic, archetypal ginger ale flavor profile. It has significantly more ginger flavor than Schweppes and manages to taste sharp without being spicy. It’s also nice and bubbly, delivering the champagne-like experience you want from ginger ale. There’s a slight floral note to the aroma that makes Canada Dry a tad more complex than you would expect.

Ultimately, unless you were tasting Schweppes and Canada Dry back-to-back like we did, you’d be unlikely to notice much difference between these two popular supermarket brands. In this taste test, however, Canada Dry squeaks out a victory. Ironically, given its origin story, Canada Dry is one of the sweetest and most syrupy sodas we tried, so if you’d like something a little, ahem, dryer, something closer to the top of this ranking might suit you better.

4. Reed’s Real Ginger Ale

Reed's ginger ale

You might be more familiar with Reed’s ginger beer, but the company also makes ginger ale. The brand flavors its drinks with fresh Peruvian ginger, and that’s evident in the flavor of the finished products — this ginger ale practically screams "Ginger!"

Reed’s ginger ale is noticeably cloudy, indicating the presence of actual ginger juice. It smells like candied ginger and tastes like sweetened fresh ginger. Some ginger ales succeed by blending the root with other complementary flavors, but this one goes all-in on giving you the strongest, purest ginger taste possible with nothing else getting in the way. It’s one-note, but that one note is fantastic.

The only thing that docks a few points from Reed’s score is that it may be a little too gingery. After all, the point of ginger ale is that it’s a little milder and less spicy than ginger beer. Reed’s ginger ale is spicy enough that it could easily be labeled as ginger beer, and some people just don’t want that level of kick in their ginger ale.

3. 365 by Whole Foods Market Ginger Ale

Whole Foods 365 ginger ale

Back in the day we would have thought that the store-brand ginger ale from a supermarket we associate with exorbitant prices and hippie-ish products would be an afterthought. Maybe if we were doing a kombucha ranking we’d have higher expectations, but soda seemed a little outside of the Whole Foods wheelhouse. However, the wide range of standard products that carry the 365 label have proved to be reliable, and that is the case here. Not only is 365 by Whole Foods Market ginger ale one of the best we tried, but it is also cheap — we paid less than $0.50 for a 12-ounce can of soda sweetened with real cane sugar.

And that cane sugar is part of the reason this soda is so good. Unlike the corn syrup-sweetened sodas we tried, 365 ginger ale didn’t leave a sticky residue on our teeth. But it’s not just the crisp, clean mouthfeel — this soda also has a great flavor and aroma. It smells gingery, with a sharp undertone that’s almost boozy. The taste is multi-faceted, with a strong ginger presence that’s complemented by just enough caramel and vanilla to add interest without overpowering the main ingredient. We know lots of people like to grab lunch from the prepared food section at Whole Foods, and we can’t imagine a better beverage to wash that down with than 365 ginger ale.

2. Boylan Ginger Ale

Boylan ginger ale

Boylan may not be quite the household name that Canada Dry is, but it’s been in the soda business for even longer. Its roots stretch back to the late 1800s when it began as a birch beer manufacturer. These days, the company makes a wide variety of soft drinks and mixers sweetened with real cane sugar and packaged in classy glass bottles.

Boylan’s ginger ale manages to thread the needle by tasting like a unique craft soda without introducing too many distracting flavors. As with Whole Foods’ ginger ale, the real sugar makes Boylan’s extra delicious. We also picked up vanilla and caramel again, though not as much as we detected in the 365 offering. In addition to that, this product contains lemon and lime oil, which adds a citrusy kick that makes it taste a little like a cross between Sprite and ginger ale. It sounds like there’s a lot going on, and there is, but the flavors are blended expertly, with each component working to support the ginger. It is on the sweeter side, but other than that, this is just about a perfect ginger ale. But … there’s just one that’s a little bit better.

1. Vernors Ginger Ale

Vernors ginger ale bottle

The pride of Detroit, Vernors ginger ale is our top pick. The company was started by a pharmacist in the 1800s. The pharmacist in question, James Vernor, cooked up the original recipe in a basement (via Detroit Historical Society). It has a unique vanilla and spice-heavy formula, yet it still delivers all the standard flavor notes you want from ginger ale. For a long time, the copy on Vernors cans claimed that it was aged in oak barrels, sort of like whisky, but the brand no longer includes this claim in its advertising material, per Hour Detroit.

It may not be aged anymore, but Vernors is still something special. The first thing you notice about it is that it’s heavily (some might say aggressively) carbonated. Even though it wasn’t the most gingery soda we tried, the bubbles made our nose and palate tingle with a spicy sensation. Vernors also has so much vanilla in it that it almost tastes like spicy ginger ale mixed with cream soda. It seems to have more caramel in it than other brands as well, which gives it a dark color and a rich flavor. We thought we could detect some molasses notes and just a hint of bitterness too. With all the vanilla and caramel, it sounds like Vernors might be too sweet, but the robust ginger and spice presence helps balance out the sugar. We’d easily pick Vernors over any other ginger ale.