King Edward VII was 62 when he took the throne from his mother, Queen Victoria. Despite being elderly and overweight, he partied hard. And he took his topless Daimler for joyrides around the English countryside.
But Edward’s car exposed him to the elements, and the royal physician grew concerned. In 1903, he commissioned an established London merchant, Berry Bros. & Rudd, to formulate a warming, fortifying beverage to put in the aging monarch’s driving flask. The result was “The King’s Ginger,” a brandy-based elixir with ginger, honey, and lemon, designed specifically “to stimulate and revivify His Majesty during morning rides.”
The king loved his new zesty, sweet liqueur. Not only did he drink it in his “horseless carriage,” he drank it while hunting. And in addition to defending himself from windchill, he made sure all of his companions had their fair share of the concoction. By the time Edward died in 1910, the royal family was hooked. Berry Bros. continued to make and sell The King’s Ginger to nobility, who purchased hundreds of cases of it every year. The bottles were unlabeled, produced exclusively for consumption by the elite.
In recent years, a bartender approached Berry Bros. asking for a standardized version of the elusive drink. The company enlisted a boutique distiller in the Netherlands to make the beverage for the masses. A modern version debuted in 2011, using a base of neutral grain spirits instead of brandy, along with ginger, lemon oil, Glenrothes single malt scotch, and sugar.
Today, The King’s Ginger is for commoners, too. According to one reviewer, it tastes “like a hug in front of a fire.” At 82 proof, that sounds safer than a kiss behind the wheel.
Where to Try It
Berry Bros. & Rudd3 St James's Street, London, England, SW1A 1EG, United Kingdom
Buy the King's Ginger among other wines and spirits at the shop.