Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Drink, Tall and Gingery

Stoney is back!” Mark shouted with glee from the other end of the supermarket aisle. I abandoned our cart, rushed to the refrigerated section, and saw that it was true. There, resting innocuously behind the refrigerator door were rows and rows of our favorite soda – Stoney Ginger Beer.

Like fuel, bread and sugar, soda is prone to shortages in Zimbabwe. In fact, one month last year, soda disappeared from store shelves entirely. So we weren’t surprised when Stoney vanished several weeks ago. We just hoped its return would be imminent.

Stoney was introduced in South Africa in 1971, and is now one of Coca-Cola’s more than 400 brands. Ginger beer itself has a much longer history. The drink was first brewed in England in the 1700s, and contained a considerable amount of alcohol. It is traditionally made by using a “ginger beer plant” – not a plant at all, but an ever-growing mixture of microorganisms that produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. Today, mass-produced ginger beer like Stoney or Bundaberg is carbonated without fermentation, so it is non-alcoholic. Unlike its close cousin ginger ale, ginger beer is typically cloudy.

The Stoney Ginger Beer we drink is bottled in Harare. Yes, I said BOTTLED. Almost all soda here comes in actual glass bottles, which you later return for a refund. The bottles that contain Stoney do double duty – Stoney’s old-timey label is on one side, and the label for a hideous chartreuse drink called Sparletta is on the reverse. Woe to the person who thinks they spot Stoney at the store, only to discover it is the dreaded Sparletta.

On a “ginger-bite” scale from Schweppes to hot Blenheim Ginger Ale, Stoney is a 7. Stoney won’t clear your sinuses like a sip of Blenheim, but it is much more drinkable and has a very satisfactory ginger tang. Although Stoney does not need any accompaniments, today I decided to celebrate its return to our refrigerator by testing a recipe I spotted in Food and Home Entertaining. I didn’t think it was possible, but this gingerade is even more refreshing than Stoney solo.

Gingerade
Adapted from Food and Home Entertaining, May 2006
Serves 4 (or 2 very thirsty people)

500 milliliters / 2 cups ginger beer, chilled
500 milliliters / 2 cups peach (or apricot) juice, chilled
Juice of half a fresh lime (or lemon)
150 milliliters / 2/3 cup brandy (optional)
Ice

In a pitcher, combine the ginger beer, juices and brandy. Stir to combine. Add a handful of ice cubes and serve immediately.

For those of you who live outside of southern Africa…well, you are far, far away from Stoney Ginger Beer. In the States, try to make this drink with Blenheim’s mild ginger ale. If you must use a standard ginger ale (like Schweppes or Canada Dry), try amplifying the ginger flavor by adding some shavings of fresh ginger.

6 comments:

Alanna said...

Nice to have a voice from Africa ... welcome to the community of food bloggers! It's a big table, ours.

Carolyn said...

Hi Alanna - thank you for your encouragement!

Everyone - Just wanted to say that the excellent Anna from Morsels and Musings has included this gingerade recipe in one of her well-known Recipe Carousels. You can visit the post here: http://morselsandmusings.blogspot.com/2006/10/recipe-carousel-17-cocktails.html .

Thanks, Anna!

Best,
Carolyn

Anonymous said...

Stoney tangawizi, best ginger beer in the world... I´m a cocktail master in Copenhagen(Denmark) / NYC, I´m really interestet in to bring this produkt to north, can you help me... Venlig Hilsen best regards LE... lars@perron.dk

Carolyn said...

Lars - I wish I could help you, but I would really don't know where to start! From what I can tell, Stoney is a Coke-owned product, so you might have success by contacting your Coke distributor. Here in Zimbabwe, the product is produced and bottled by Delta Beverages. I share your sentiments that Stoney is the best! It has actually been out of stock in Harare for the past month or so...again....

Good luck!

Carolyn said...

Lars - I wish I could help you, but I would really don't know where to start! From what I can tell, Stoney is a Coke-owned product, so you might have success by contacting your Coke distributor. Here in Zimbabwe, the product is produced and bottled by Delta Beverages. I share your sentiments that Stoney is the best! It has actually been out of stock in Harare for the past month or so...again....

Good luck!

Andreas said...

I just found some Stoney in a shop here in Leicester, and I have to say it's the best ginger beer I've tried. Hopefully they'll keep selling it, I'm addicted now.