Ginger beer is a fabulous drink isn't it? It's a soft-drink with attitude. Something with a personality and some kick. You know, not just cloyingly sweet, fruity, fizzy water in garish shades of bright. I've always been a fan, especially with a squeeze of lime and some mint over summer (add a cheeky shot of manuka honey vodka and you're really in business).
But Hakanoa ginger beer adds a whole new level of wonderful to this drink. At first it seems understated, our palates being so used to the rush of fizzy, sweet sharpness that comes with supermarket varieties, but it leaves you with the most satisfying, pure taste in your mouth. Maker Rebekah Hay has found the perfect balance of ginger, sugar, water, sultanas and lemons and the result really is stunning. It's sparkly but not too fizzy; gingery but not too overpowering; sweet but not too sugary and utterly, utterly refreshing. The sultanas provide the perfect anchor for the ginger - but don't worry, it doesn't taste like raisin water.
It has a lot less sugar than other varieties, which makes it an excellent non-boozy option for parties (no sugar hangover). It is hand-brewed weekly and has no preservatives, meaning it has a shelf life of only 12 days.
The back comes with a warning of "liveliness" if you open it after the best-by date. Hakanoa is made from 90 per cent organic ingredients, and, Hay says, it's even good for you - acting as a natural probiotic, among other health benefits.
There are other products in the range - a lime and chilli ginger beer as well as a ginger syrup and spicy chai syrup.
The lime and chilli is not as strong as it sounds, just a gutsier, slightly spicy version of the regular drink. It would be great with a curry or fish and chips, as its crisp taste cuts cleanly through fat and spice. And the ginger syrup can be used in cooking - stir-fries, salad dressings, marinades, desserts, whatever. But our favourite has to be a ginger latte. Hay describes it as ginger crunch in a drink. Just mix 15mls with frothed milk and we guarantee addiction. The spicy chai syrup is divine too.
Where to buy
You can buy the Hakanoa range from markets at Oratia, Howick Village, Hobsonville Pt, Grey Lynn, Kumeu and Titirangi village as well as from the stockists listed on hakanoa-handmade.co.nz