Ginger Beer: It’s almost embarrassing how long it took me to realize that there isn’t actually any booze in it, though I’m pretty sure at some point I may have fooled myself into getting a “strong buzz.”
So what is ginger beer and what’s in it (or not in it, for that matter)? It’s a sweet, carbonated beverage that has a bright & spicy flavor from a whole lot of lemon and ginger root. If you’ve ever had a Moscow Mule or a Dark & Stormy, you’ve had some version of it; but sadly, it’s probably a version of it that doesn’t have any of the fantastic qualities of fresh, crisp ginger beer.
So let’s make some of that fresh stuff!
Quality ginger beer requires fresh ginger, fantastic forearm strength to juice a lot of lemons, and sugar. Oh, right! You may need a juicer for that ginger as it will make your life less stressful in the end. Let’s face it, the reason you’re making this stuff is ’cause you want to relax and have a drink in the first place.
What you’ll need:
- 2 cups of cane sugar
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of ginger (the fresher the better)
- 10 ounces of fresh lemon juice (about 10 to 14 lemons)
- 1 packet of Champagne yeast
- 5 cups of mineral water
- Glass bottles with rubber pressure caps (flip-top)
In a small saucepan, make some trusty simple syrup by bringing the sugar and 2 cups of water (1:1 ratio) to a boil and then allowing it time to cool.
Juice the ginger. (I used a Breville juicer, but you could probably get away with a regular blender and some water.) Combine the ginger and the lemon juices in a large pot. Give the mixture a good stir.
Add the simple syrup to the large pot along with 5 cups of warm mineral water and stir this for a bit. The goal here is to make sure everything blends together thoroughly. If you can, I would shake this if at all possible.
Use a funnel to divide the mixture into your flip-top bottles. This will make for about four 16-ounce bottles. This means you’ll be drinking a lot of this in the coming week unless you plan of being super nice and giving some away.
The magic happens when you add some yeast into the equation. This is where the carbonation comes from (and why you need pressurized bottles) and real science happens! Take 1 packet of champagne yeast and pour just a pinch into each bottle. A little bit goes a long way so try not to add too much yeast into each bottle.
Now grab all your bottles and give each one a really good shake to mix everything up with the yeast, then store them somewhere warm & dark (that place where you hide all your secrets works wonders here) for two full days.
Pictured above are 2 bottles that were resting, undisturbed in one of my cabinets. You’ll notice some funky looking stuff going on (don’t worry, this is totally cool), like the separation of the ginger.
Give them a good shake to incorporate everything and pop one open (the best part of the process!). Fingers crossed and you’ll be greeted with some carbonation, ready to be used in your favorite cocktails or perhaps just with some ice. Refrigerate immediately, where it will hold up for about a week or so.
Photo credit: Raul Zelaya