Why Restaurants Are Obsessing Over This 91-Year-Old Kentucky Soda

Ale-8-One, a gingery Prohibition-era soft drink, is making a strange comeback: in sauces, braises and even deviled eggs


January 12, 2018

If you don’t live in the South, chances are Ale-8-One (pronounced “ale eight one”), a craft soda hailing from Winchester, Kentucky, may be news to you. Developed during prohibition in 1926, the gingery, citrusy soda has become a staple in the South, going way beyond a refreshing drink of choice. Chefs throughout Kentucky are now using the beverage to cook. I’ve been drinking Ale-8-One for 46 years and I love it because it combines two of my favorite flavors: citrus and ginger,” says Kentucky chef Ouita Michel, of Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants.

So, what’s all the hype? It’s like ginger ale but with a citrus kick, containing a little less carbonation and fewer calories than typical soda. “I love the unapologetic, slight burn of ginger that Ale-8-One starts and finishes with on the palate,” says chef Jeremy Ashby, AZUR Restaurant. “Its effervescent qualities are thirst quenching but not too dry or sweet. The flavor balance on the palate mirrors my style of cooking.”

The company, run by fourth-generation family owner, Fielding Rogers, still uses the original handwritten, secret recipe. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted a Moscow Mule with Ale-8-One, you know it’s a solid cocktail mixer that can be used in place of ginger beer. “I like its soft spiciness and tang, making it especially good with your favorite bourbon—down here we call that a Kentucky Gentleman,” says Michel.

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