Ginger ale is a soft drink primarily flavored with ginger. Ginger ale was popularized in Ireland in the middle of the 19th century, and was exported to the United States soon after. This original style of ginger ale was called "golden", and was darker in color, and both more ginger-spicy and sweeter than it is today. Ginger ale was the most popular soft drink in the United States until Prohibition.
After Prohibition, ginger ale changed, becoming lighter and less sweet and less spicy than in the 19th century. This style of ginger ale is called "dry", and is little more than sweetened carbonated water with a moderate amount of ginger flavoring.
While it is uncommon commercially, it is possible to make a ginger ale that undergoes an alcoholic fermentation, which produces a naturally carbonated beverage.
Canada Dry, Seagram's and Schweppes are all widely available brands of dry ginger ale. Golden ginger ale is more difficult to find, with probably the easiest in the United States being Vernor's. Other regional golden ginger ales include Blenheim, Sussex and Red Rock.
Ginger ale is commonly used in punches, especially non-alcoholic ones, as a substitute for Champagne.