Wow, what a difference an ingredient can make. I came in to this cocktail, as I did with the Pimm’s Cup, thinking that ginger ale could be substituted for ginger beer with no ill effect. Absolutely not the case. While you can make a good Dark and Stormy with ginger ale you definitely can’t make a great one. The flavors of the two beverages are simply much too different.
Ginger ale on the one hand is sweet, not particularly tart and mildly gingery. When you mix this with dark rum, such as Gosling’s Black Seal, you end up with a cocktail that is quite sweet, has little ginger flavor and no sourness. You can perk things up a bit by squeezing two or three lime wedges into the drink for some added sour. Now, on the other hand, ginger beer is less sweet, has a higher citrus tang and is very gingery. This flavor profile allows the ginger beer to compliment the deep, sweet rum as opposed to get smothered by it.
You’ve probably gathered from my fanboyesque gushing that round two of the homemade ginger beer turned out fantastic. There is very little noticable difference in flavor between the force carbonated and yeast carbonated versions, with the possible exception that the yeast version was a touch less sweet. Although, since I had already consumed all of the first batch I wasn’t able to taste side by side to confirm.
The toughest part of the process is juicing the ginger. I lucked out and was able to borrow my mom’s juicer and the process still took about 20 minutes. If you don’t have access to a juicer I did find that grating the ginger on a microplane grater and then straining the pulp through a fine strainer also worked very well. As with the other homemade ingredients my second favorite feature (the taste being the obvious first) is the ability to customize the product to suit your tastes. More ginger, less lemon, more sugar, the sky is truly the limit.
Ok, enough about ginger beer, what about the cocktail? Truly sublime. This drink is refreshing and summery without being overly sweet and heavy. I could easily see myself sipping these on a lazy afternoon reading a book in the sun. I found that I liked mine with a bit more ginger beer, about 4 oz. This is a bit of a double edged sword however. It makes the drink lighter and less intensely rum focused. Which is nice because it allows you to enjoy the ginger beer flavor. However, it also makes this drink even more gulpable. You suddenly find that what was once a full cocktail glass has inexplicably become empty in a matter of moments. Finally, the lime wedge garnish is nice for those who would like to up the sour ratio, but I didn’t find myself needing it except in the drinks where I used ginger ale.
The Dark and Stormy is one of those drinks that on first glance can seem a bit boring but once you start sipping you’ll be changed forever. You really shouldn’t let summer pass by without giving one a go. Keep your eyes open for ginger beer or do as I did and make your own. You won’t be disappointed with either option.