23 June 2010

Stone's Green Ginger Wine

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...

GVC Cocktail
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.


fredric koeppel said...

well, not a success as a beverage, but at least it's a part of British and advertising history.

Benito said...


I do certainly appreciate the bottle, and used a splash of it in a sort of Moroccan tagine. It's still a pretty odd duck, though.


Barbara said...

I can't believe you've only just come across this Ben. We refer to it as "Stones". This was popular in my group during our late teens. I could only drink it straight from the bottle, not from a glass. I have no idea why we drank it, apart from getting giggly.Probably the price, it wasn't expensive. There was always a bottle or two at parties. It's popular in NZ also. There is a drink called a Whiskey Mac http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whisky_Mac . It is used in cooking a little also. The wine company I worked for in NZ was the NZ distributor for it.

Another drink from those years was Brandavino. I have a funny story about a night of drinking that someday.

Benito said...


Thanks for the story! I'll have to swig a bit straight from the bottle for the authentic experience. ;)

This is just being introduced to our part of the country--I have no idea how well known it is in larger American cities. There are some things like Pimm's No. 1 that are also not very common over here, but at least the name has percolated through TV/movies.


The Wine Commonsewer said...

and I merely laughed when Steven Wright said he made some wine out of raisins so he didn't have to wait for it to age.

Catherine said...

I love ginger wine, and rather than take it on it's own, I add some orange juice for a really nice cocktail.

Richard said...

An alternative mix is the rum mac: any dark or medium rum, 2:1 (or to taste) with the Stones Ginger Wine. I usually add a little water: say 1 part to 3 of the mix. In UK, we also have Crabbie's Ginger Wine. Most people express a strong preference: if they have come across both.

Artist in PT said...

OK, you do have to like: a) ginger, and b) dessert. It is certainly NOT a dinner wine, and too sweet for me before dinner... that said, Stone's is delicious straight, especially with salted nuts (best with smoked almonds), or served over custard, vanilla or really dark chocolate ice cream.
Here in Washington state, USA I grab several bottles at a time when it arrives in the local State Liquor Store, as it disappears from the shelf for months at a time. BUT suddenly the label reads only "Stone's Original Ginger", so what happened to the "green"???

Anonymous said...

On a recent trip to Jamaica, I was introduced to a drink consisting of a mix of Stones and Appleton Reserve Rum. It was very good! The rum on its own was great, the Stones on its own ok, but together they were excellent.

Anonymous said...

Pompous Git

Anonymous said...

You all take yourself waaay topping serious. Snobs.

Mick Gurney said...

You You put a splash of Stones in Scotch Wiskey or Brandy for a Whiskey Mac or Brandy Mac. Very popular in the UK.