On a recent hot Thursday afternoon, I joined Fredric for a wine tasting over at his place. I brought a very odd beer, and he sent me home with a very odd wine called Stone's Original Green Ginger Wine, a favorite in England since 1740. I looked at it, wondered where in the hell he got it, and ventured a sip. More on the flavor later, but he got it as a sample, and thought I might find it interesting since I have a tendency to write about some of the stranger corners of the wine and beverage world. (Though on previous visits, he has served me Mississippi corn wine and Italy's forbidden grape, Fragolino, so I do not mean to diminish his interest in esoterica.)
It's made with middle-eastern raisins and grated ginger, originally just a flavorful beverage that got a boost in the 1830s as a believed aphrodisiac and treatment for cholera. (You've got to love 19th century medicine.) It's sort of hard to call this a wine, as it's more like a low-alcohol liqueur or digestif than what we would normally call wine. I'd probably stock it with the vermouths if I had to make a choice. It is very sweet, and the overwhelming aroma and flavor is of ginger. You can barely taste the raisins in the background. Take flat ginger ale, mix with white grape juice, and bring the alcohol level up to 13.5%. You've got a mild version of this. The ginger is hot, peppery, and really blots out anything else. So for an experiment I had to try it as a cocktail ingredient. Looking at the website suggestions, I settled on the...
2 parts Ginger Wine
1 part Vodka
1 part Cointreau
dash of Lime Juice
dash of Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a glass.
The wine glass contains the cocktail, while the shot glass contains pure ginger wine, just in case anyone was curious what it looked like raw. The end result of this cocktail is just a more tart version of the main ingredient with a huge alcohol boost. I would not recommend it. I'm a bit biased here, because while I love ginger, I really don't have a sweet tooth, and this is almost painfully sweet. I suppose if your family has been drinking it for 270 years you might feel differently about it, but after attacking this beverage from a dozen different directions I'm hard pressed to endorse it or even find a good use for it.
I sincerely hope that my dear readers from the Commonwealth will provide helpful suggestions in the comments!
Here are the sources for the old ads, and I've intentionally retained a bit of the adjacent ads just for context and headers. Note that these PDFs are nearly a thousand pages each, annual collections of weekly magazines.
To-day, A Weekly Magazine-Journal, Volume 16, November 13, 1897
Google Books Link
The Strand Magazine, Volume 16, July, 1898 to December, 1898
Google Books Link
Also view dozens more ads on a blog devoted to the product.