The History of Ginger Ale

Ginger ale with ice cubes in drinking glass
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The sparkling, spicy refreshment known as ginger ale began with ginger beer, an alcoholic Victorian-era beverage invented in Yorkshire, England. Around 1851, the first ginger ales were created in Ireland. This ginger ale was a soft drink with no alcohol. The carbonation was achieved by adding carbon dioxide.

The Invention of Ginger Ale

John McLaughlin, a Canadian pharmacist, invented the modern Canada Dry version of Ginger Ale in 1907. McLaughlin graduated from the University of Toronto in 1885 with a Gold Medal in Pharmacy. By 1890, John McLaughlin opened a carbonated water plant in Toronto, Canada. He sold his product to local drugstores that used the carbonated water to mix with fruit juices and flavoring to create delicious sodas to sell to their soda fountain customers.

John McLaughlin began making his own soda drink recipes and created McLaughlin Belfast Style Ginger Ale in 1890. McLaughlin also developed a method of mass bottling his Ginger Ale leading to successful sales. Each bottle of McLaughlin Belfast Style Ginger Ale featured a map of Canada and a picture of a beaver (the national animal of Canada) on the label.

By 1907, John McLaughlin had refined his recipe by lightening the dark color and improving the sharp taste of his first Ginger Ale. The result was Canada Dry Pale Dry Ginger Ale, which John McLaughlin patented. On May 16, 1922, "Canada Dry" Pale Ginger Ale was trademark registered. "The Champagne of Ginger Ales" is another famous Canada Dry trademark. This “pale” style of ginger ale made a fine, flavorful substitute for club soda, especially during the Prohibition era in the U.S., when the spice of the ginger ale covered up the less-than-refined illegal alcoholic spirits available.


Dry ginger ale is enjoyed as a soft drink and as a mixer for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. It is also commonly used to combat stomach upset. Ginger has been proven beneficial to digestion for centuries, and scientific studies have indicated that ginger ale is somewhat beneficial in combatting nausea.

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Bellis, Mary. "The History of Ginger Ale." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Bellis, Mary. (2020, August 26). The History of Ginger Ale. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "The History of Ginger Ale." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 1, 2023).