Cocktails

Ginger fever

Fever Tree's Craig Harper extolls the virtues of the humble whisky ginger
By Christopher Coates
Whisky and ginger
Whisky and ginger
Twice named bartender of the year, Craig Harper has over 20 years of drinks industry experience. A proud Scot, Craig’s first experience of the industry was working in his father’s pub in Inverness. During a period in the Royal Marines, Craig began working in award-winning cocktail bars alongside some of the most widely recognised names in the drinks industry.

Craig then worked for a number of premium spirits brands, including Bacardi and Martin Miller’s before landing his dream job with Fever-Tree in 2012. We caught up with him to find out more about his views on a classic whisky serve: the whisky ginger.

What’s the history of the whisky ginger?
The Whisky Ginger goes back a long way. The Horse’s Neck and Mamie Taylor were two of the most popular drinks of the 20th century, featuring in classic drinks guides such as Harry Johnson’s Bar Tender Manual and the Savoy Cocktail Book. The Horse’s Neck was popular at naval cocktail parties and legend has it that the Mamie Taylor was created in 1899 in New York at the request of the famous opera singer after which the drink is named. People have been mixing whisky for years, but these whisky ginger drinks fell out of fashion as increased demand led to lower-quality ginger mixers being used. Fast-forward to the 21st century and a whole new generation of drinkers is rediscovering the whisky ginger.

Ginger is pretty pungent. How should one decide which styles of whisky pair best with ginger ales and beers?
Ginger is actually a flavour enhancer, making it a fantastic ingredient for mixers. People can be intimidated by drinking whisky neat, but by mixing it with ginger ale you create a long, refreshing drink that is a lot more accessible. It creates new whisky lovers and gives existing whisky fans even more occasions to enjoy their favourite spirit. We have a range of ginger mixers to fit all types of tastes – Premium Ginger Ale, Spiced Orange Ginger Ale, Smoky Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer. This allows us to pair our mixers with all types of whiskies – for example the citrus and spice in our Spiced Orange Ginger Ale complements the rich full-bodied flavours found in fruitier whiskies whereas the smoked applewood and subtle citrus flavours of our Smoky Ginger Ale complement the complex flavour notes of Bourbons. We have just completed a tough round of tasting 100 whiskies with each of our four gingers to create a book to guide people on just this, which is being written by bestselling whisky author Tristan Stephenson. It’s a whole new world of combinations to try!

What’s the difference between ginger ale and ginger beer?
Similar in name, but not in taste, ginger ale and ginger beer are two very different things. They are both made using three of the freshest types of ginger (at Fever-Tree anyway), but what really sets them apart is how you use it. While ginger ale is made using essential oils of the three gingers, our ginger beer is made using the roots of the gingers, brewed for 24 hours, which gives it a much more fiery taste.

The Cocktails

Whisky Ginger
Ingredients
  • 50ml Caol Ila 12 Years Old
  • 200ml Fever-Tree Premium Ginger Ale

    Method
    Mix together with lots of ice.

    Garnish
    An orange twist

    Spiced Orange Whisky Ginger
    Ingredients
  • 50ml Balvenie Doublewood 12 Years Old
  • 200ml Fever-Tree Spiced Orange Ginger Ale

    Method
    Mix together with lots of ice.

    Garnish
    A stick of cinnamon.

    Smoky Whisky Ginger
    Ingredients
  • 50ml Monkey Shoulder
  • 200ml Fever-Tree Smoky Ginger Ale

    Method
    Mix together with lots of ice

    Garnish
    A lemon twist.

    The Whiskies

    Monkey Shoulder
    Blended Malt (40% ABV)
    Monkey Shoulder was originally crafted using single malts from three well-known Speyside distilleries owned by William Grant & Sons (Kininvie, Balvenie, and Glenfiddich), which were represented by the three monkeys on the shoulder of the bottle. Today the recipe is an unknown blend of malts but its smooth and rich character remains very popular with bartenders and consumers alike.

    Caol Ila
    12 Years Old (43% ABV)
    This release from Caol Ila Distillery on Islay may be the brand's most ubiquitous expression, but is it nevertheless a superb representation of the distillery’s character. Delicate and with a slight medicinal quality, a fruity citrus note keeps the nose fresh. A lingering sweet and smoky finish led our editor, Rob Allanson, to describe it thus: ‘A great Caol Ila, everything fits together perfectly’ (Issue #79).

    Balvenie
    Doublewood 12 Years Old (40% ABV)
    Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018, Balvenie Doublewood 12 Years Old is said to be one of the first commercially available whiskies to be produced by ‘finishing’ mature spirit in a second cask type (in this case dry Oloroso sherry casks) to achieve a more complex flavour. Two and a half decades on, this whisky's rich and honey-led character continues to draw in new recruits to the world of quality single malt.
    whisky and smoky ginger
    whisky and smoky ginger
    Spiced orange ginger ale
    Spiced orange ginger ale