HFCS & Ginger

Intermission time…

My distaste of High Fructose Corn Syrup, or HFCS, was the original reason for starting my exploration of sodas made with sugar cane. Then I got involved in a series of emails with Robert about the Cuba Libre using sugar-based Coca-Cola. This got me searching for Mexican Coke, which is made with cane sugar rather than the US version using HFCS. I had planned to blog about the Cuba Libre, but Darcy at The Art Of Drink beat me to it by posting about the Rum & Coke. This sparked even more interest in sugar cane Coke, and I managed to find some Mexican Coke (and Pepsi) so I planned on doing a comparison of Rum & Cokes. And then Darcy posted a Rum & Coke taste test. I was beaten to the topic by Darcy, twice, but I certainly enjoyed his posts so I forgive him for thinking about things before I did.

Over on on The Ministry Of Rum’s forums, a post from Hank about Rum & Ginger had thinking about this simple but tasty drink. My searches for Mexican Coke and sugar cane sodas led me to find several ginger ales made with cane sugar. I decided that this was worthy of some exploration, so I broke out 11 ginger sodas and compared them all. This, of course, led to the last two posts about comparing various Rum & Ginger lowballs made with Stirrings’ ginger ale.

I wanted to take a break from the ginger ales tonight and talk about HFCS, but Darcy beat me to it, again! I don’t mind this at all, really, I just find it curious that he keeps posting on subjects that I was just about to talk about.

This was getting seriously weird… But this coincidence is great for all of us, since this chemist-turned-scientist will certainly do a more interesting job on HFCS than I would.

Instead, I did some research about Ginger and compiled a bunch of interesting factoids. (These are cut & pasted from a number of sites listed at the end of this post.)


Ginger became so popular in Europe that it was included in every table setting, like salt and pepper. A common article of medieval and Renaissance trade, it was one of the spices used against the plague. In English pubs and taverns in the nineteenth century, barkeepers put out small containers of ground ginger, for people to sprinkle into their beer – the origin of ginger ale.

Although often called “ginger root” it is actually a rhizome (a rhizome is a horizontal stem of a plant that is usually found underground and often sends out roots and shoots from its nodes.)

Ginger is a known diaphoretic, meaning it causes one to sweat.

Ginger is most commonly known for its effectiveness as a digestive aid. By increasing the production of digestive fluids and saliva, Ginger helps relieve indigestion, gas pains, diarrhea and stomach cramping.

Ginger root is also used to treat nausea related to both motion sickness and morning sickness. Ginger has been found to be even more effective than Dramaminer in curbing motion sickness, without causing drowsiness.

When shopping for fresh ginger, look for pieces with a plump, smooth, somewhat shiny skin. If its wrinkled or cracked, the ginger is drying and past its prime.

Fresh ginger will get moldy in the refrigerator. It’s best to store it at room temperature much like you would potatoes.

Queen Elizabeth I of England is credited with the invention of the gingerbread man, which became a popular Christmas treat.
A Greek baker on the Isle of Rhodes is credited with introducing gingerbread in 2800BC.
(I’ve found several references to both “inventors” of gingerbread… I don’t know which to believe, really.)

Ginger is thought to have been introduced into Jamaica about 1525. By 1547 though, it is reported that the export of ginger amounted to over 22,000 quintals (1.2 million Kg). Between the 1930’s and 1960’s, Jamaica was listed as one of the three largest producers of ginger in the world, along with India and Sierra Leone. A 10-mile radius around Christiana was identified as the region which grew the finest ginger in the world. Since then the production has fallen significantly, from close to 2 million kilogram of ginger in 1953 to around 0.4 million kilos in 1995.

Fifty percent of the world’s harvest is produced in India. The other major producers in the world include Brazil, Jamaica (whence the best quality is exported) and Nigeria–whose ginger is rather pungent, but lacks the fine aroma of other regions.

Ginger ale was the No. 1 soft drink in America for over seventy years, beginning its vast popularity around 1860. Early ginger ales would not be recognizable to modem palates. By most descriptions, few bottlers made ginger ale worth drinking by today’s standards.

1936 – The first soda in a can, CLIQUOT CLUB Ginger Ale, was test marketed in a Continental low profile cone top can. Leakage, flavor absorption problems, and difficulty in stacking and handling spelled failure for the initial introduction.

Ginger takes about nine months to reach maturity.

When buying, look for ginger root with the least amount of knots and/or branching.

Ginger root should be kept in a cool, dry place, usually at 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. After purchasing, ginger may be refrigerated in plastic wrap for up to one week. Freezing for up to three months is also an option.

Ginger was used in ancient times as a food preservative.

Peel skin from the root and gently peel the skin beneath (that closest to the root is the most flavorful).

Ginger was cultivated in China up to 5000 years ago.




2 Responses to “HFCS & Ginger”

  1. Geoff Says:

    You should look at this as an excuse to go to the Caribbean and have a Cuba Libre on the beach in Mexico.

    Because it just tastes better there.

  2. Scottes Says:

    Yeah, ain’t that the truth!

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