I love ginger! Let me drink it! Glug glug glug!
November 28, 2013 9:33 AM   Subscribe

I am obsessed with ginger at the moment in terms of drinks. I love the sharpness and the bite of gingery burn from the spiciness. I have a hot ginger tea/drink recipe NAILED but now I want to make my own ginger drink that is akin to ginger beer but not too alcohol-y. I would also like it to be as natural and inexpensive as possible (ie. no "Soda Stream" or nutsy chemicals or adding pop). Help?

In a perfect world I would be able to drink a spicy, gingery, refreshing, effervescent/fizzy ginger drink. I would like the ginger flavour to be strong enough to give your throat a bit of a burn sensation. So strong that chugging a big mouthful of it would be crazy. I'd like to have it be slightly sweet, maybe a little lemony. I would like it to be fizzy, but preferably of natural fermenty origins. (If I can get the taste I'm craving I am willing to add sparkling water if I have to. I'd just prefer not to have to add stuff.) I have purchased every "ginger beer" product that I have come across. Most are little more than slightly stronger gingerale. There was one that was nice and strong, but it tasted like dirt. Woody dirt. Disgusting.

What I have tried:
1. creating a ginger infused simple syrup (like this recipe) and adding it to sparkling water. It was excessively grossly sweet and no where near gingery enough. I think the cooking process cooked off the sharpness that I love so much.
2. putting a bunch of thin slices of fresh ginger in a carbonated beverage (gingerale/sparkling water/sprite/etc). It gave me a bit of ginger aroma but barely any taste, no throat burn.
3. Grating/pulverizing fresh ginger using my gratey plate (which is possibly the best kitchen thing I have ever used) and putting the ginger juice in to a carbonated beverage. It was closer than the others but still not burn-y enough, too bitter/harsh, and it lacked some depth if you know what I mean. It wasn't a deep round flavour.

A big "want" from all this is that I could easily keep a steady supply of this at home. If it is a fermenting/brewing process where I dump a bunch of stuff in a bottle and in a couple days WHAMMO! Perfect ginger drink! Well, that would be perfect. I'm willing to have this be a multi-day process. I'd like the ingredients to be simple, inexpensive, and easily obtained. Low tech.

Final points:
- I don't have access to a "ginger bug" as every "authentic" ginger beer recipe seems to require.
- I'm not interested in ginger beers that I can buy that fit my criteria. I really want this to be something I make at home for myself.
- I have heard of making water kefir ginger beer, which I haven't tried yet. I am going to go on a quest for water kefir grains in the near future, but I'm less than pumped for this option because a recent experiment in drinking milk kefir wasn't exactly awesome. I wanted to see if anyone here had a better suggestion.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Ginger wine?. I've had the bought kind and it's lovely.
posted by idb at 9:37 AM on November 28, 2013

Ginger kombucha?
posted by downing street memo at 9:42 AM on November 28, 2013

Best answer: Jeffrey Morgenthaler's recipe for ginger beer uses champagne yeast and looks like you've got a fair bit of room to experiment; I haven't made any for some time (and should fix that) but remember it as being very good and fairly forgiving of fiddling.
posted by heeeraldo at 9:43 AM on November 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Coming to recommend the recipe heeeeraldo links above. Just fyi, ginger beer isn't really very strong in alcohol. More like 2-3 percent, depending on how long you ferment it. Morgenthaler's recipe is just a few days.
posted by Brittanie at 9:47 AM on November 28, 2013

Best answer: I've made this alton brown ginger ale recipe a bunch of times, and it works out nicely with just ordinary ol' yeast (I'm sure champagne yeast would be delightful too).
posted by ambilevous at 9:49 AM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's my recipe for homemade ginger beer, modified from David B. Fankhauser's recipe. It's deeply spicy and gingery, and there's just a trace amount of alcohol (from the yeast).
posted by Elsa at 9:49 AM on November 28, 2013 [9 favorites]

Boil julienned ginger root in water to make an extremely concentrated ginger tea, then cool it and add simple syrup to taste.

Although I think (without any evidence whatsoever) that part of the throat burn is induced by volatile compounds that can't really be preserved in a cold drink.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:53 AM on November 28, 2013

Suggestion: investigate lemongrass as well if you like ginger and also like a lemony taste and a kick.

In case you change your mind on buying in:

For ginger beers, the best ones out there, IMHO, are Fentimans and Fever Tree, but I'm not sure of availability your side of the pond.

Alcoholic ginger beers are a big thing now too, like Crabbies and Fentimans.

Also: King's Ginger - a rediscovered liqueur.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:00 AM on November 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Sorry, to clarify my second sentence, what I mean is, if ginger tea works like any other tisane, the flavor comes from a combination of compounds, each of which extract into the hot water at different rates and (I think) are destroyed by heat and oxidation at different rates. The usual method of boiling ginger root gives a pleasing proportion of extracted compounds. If I were going about this seriously, I'd try to vary each of these parameters (temperature, time, surface area to volume ratio) independently.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:01 AM on November 28, 2013

Can you give us your recipe for the ginger tea/drink?
posted by arnicae at 10:40 AM on November 28, 2013

The exact recipe is at home and I am visiting family - but I remember a drink I made which consisted of throwing a bulb of ginger and a cup of water into a food processor and chopping the whole thing up, straining it and saving the resultant juice, then dumping the solids back into the processor with more water and doing that again. You did that a couple times and then added lemon and lime juice to the drink. Me mail me to remind me and I'll pull the recipe Saturday.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:59 AM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The Morgenthaler recipe sounds pretty perfect, and I think I could scale it to the ginger strength that I want. I will def. be trying that one.

My hot ginger drink is MAGIC. I call it my 'Healing Tea'. Not that it actually heals anything, but to me it tastes healing and restorative. Plus, it rocks for winter. I swear it burns any bit of cold out of your system. Plus, it is very easy to just keep the ingredients around so I can make it whenever I want.

I grate a inch or so knob of fresh ginger (using my previously mentioned gratey plate, god I love that thing!). I end up with ginger pulp and ginger juice. Depending on how spicy I want it it will be anywhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. A teaspoon or two is usually enough. I put it all in a mug, along with a squeeze of honey (to taste) and a whole cinnamon stick. Pour boiling water into said mug, and then add a splash of lemon juice (again, to taste). It takes a few minutes to cool enough to drink, which I think is when the magic happens. Everything just comes together in an amazing spicy, warming, energizing delicious drink. I never strain it, I have no problem with drinking a bit of ginger pulp, plus it makes sure the end of the drink is really gingery. :) That said, I usually end up taking the cinnamon stick out after 10 minutes or so because the cinnamon starts to take over. Sometimes when I'm feeling really cold or under the weather I will add full thin slices of fresh ginger, and I nibble on the ginger pieces periodically, especially right after I drink the last of the tea. Bonus points for adding a bit of spiced rum to the mix.

God I love ginger...
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:00 AM on November 28, 2013 [34 favorites]

For this recipe you will need a supply of fresh roots , Omega Juicer, syrup of agave , lime and the water of your choice. start with a filter paper in the juicer pulp basket and process about 1/1/2 pounds of ginger you should end up with about a pint of raw filtered ginger juice in a container now juice a whole lime , Now rinse the pulp with one quart water of your choice hot cold or carbonated . sweeten and dilute to taste.
posted by hortense at 11:04 AM on November 28, 2013

I don't have access to a "ginger bug" as every "authentic" ginger beer recipe seems to require.

I think that's what I'd call a "ginger beer plant", and you can definitely try starting one yourself.
posted by holgate at 11:30 AM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What you're looking for sounds like Senegalese ginger juice, though that's made with still water. Basically you mash the fuck out of a ton of ginger, let it steep in water for a few hours, then strain it out and add sugar and possibly other flavorings. (That recipe has vanilla, others I've seen have citrus juice or pineapple juice.) It's possible that doing something similar with a two-liter of soda water rather than still water would get you close to what you're looking for.

Another possibility: make your own ginger liqueur and mix that with soda water. I imagine to get it as sharp as you want you'll have to boost the amount of ginger and/or steep it for longer than that recipe suggests.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 12:40 PM on November 28, 2013

Best answer: The recipe holgate posted isn't for a gingerbeer plant. It's basically a yeast starter, which isn't a bad idea.
A gingerbeer plant is a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and creates a cellulose matrix (similar to kombucha but more like kefir grains).
Getting a real gingerbeer plant is difficult and there seem to be many people willing to sell you counterfeits (plain yeast, etc). I have never found one, but I know some use kombucha or water kefir cultures to make gingerbeer.

That being said . . . it is easy to make carbonated, tasty gingerbeer that meets all of your requirements with simple bread yeast. Bread yeast is actually better than champagne or beer or wine yeast because it has been developed to create more carbon dioxide and less alcohol. Stock up on flip top (Grolsch-style) beer bottles or plastic soda bottles. Either one works well. Personally I like a mixture of dried ginger powder and fresh ginger because they are completely different flavors. And massive amounts of each. Play with recipes. Keep good notes. Make a liter or two at a time. Adjust amounts of ginger and sugar until you find your ideal recipe.
posted by Seamus at 1:40 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had the extremely good fortune to have drinks at an amazing bar in Boston. Said drinks centered around ginger beer, which the bar had made themselves. In the end, one of the staff wrote me their recipe, which is as follows:

- Dice enough ginger to fill 1 quart
- Blend it with 1 quart Demerara sugar
- Strain in fine mesh strainer
- Mix in equal parts with soda water
- Enjoy!

There's a small note saying "Especially with 1/2 oz lime & 2 oz VIDAL :)"

But I can tell you, as made, it's got KICK!
posted by herrdoktor at 1:56 PM on November 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Lemon and ginger in iced water is actually really nice, a Chef gave me this and I hardly like any drinks.
posted by tanktop at 2:17 PM on November 28, 2013

My current go-to ginger drink is made by dumping three or four slices of ginger in a mug and covering them with boiling water (just hot doesn't work as well). In a few minutes it's nicely spicy.

I would think that if you did that large-scale and let it cool, you could strain and mix it with your sparkling water to taste, with a little simple syrup or ginger syrup to make it sweet if you like.

(Honestly, I haven't needed extra sweet. )
posted by leahwrenn at 2:19 PM on November 28, 2013

A yeast starter might not be the echt GBP, but it's the recipe that my parents used when they were kids, with a healthy amount of ground ginger.
posted by holgate at 2:20 PM on November 28, 2013

In case you haven't heard of it, I give you Blenheim.

It is to die for.
posted by 4ster at 5:14 PM on November 28, 2013

Response by poster: Well, I have some things to try now and I'm optimistic that I'll be able to cobble together something close to what I'm looking for. :) I think the first thing I am going to try is a simple quick yeast ferment. Fingers crossed!

I'm still open to more suggestions though.

I also think it is hilarious how many people liked my Healing Tea recipe! I mean, yeah, the stuff is fantastic, but I really didn't think anyone else would be as excited by my healing tea as I am. ha ha
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:11 AM on November 29, 2013

Best answer: I can recommend this delicious recipe which makes up for the fleeting nature of ginger's burn by adding a secondary source of spiciness.
posted by Eater at 2:59 PM on November 29, 2013

(Goya's ginger ale/beer/whatever also has capsaicin, if I remember right.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 3:25 PM on November 29, 2013

It's not ginger beer but apple/ginger/lemon juice is TO DIE FOR. If you have a juicer, just mash a shitload of apples and ginger through it, then add some lemon at the end. Use whatever proportions you like. I personally always go very heavy on the ginger.

Basically all fruit juices are made better with ginger. Even OJ.
posted by molecicco at 10:49 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: UPDATE: I tried the David B. Fankhauser recipe this weekend. That mofo fermented like a sonofabitch in no time flat, all fizzy and insane. I had to watch the (plastic) bottles like a hawk because I was scared they were going to explode, the pressure was building up in them so quickly! Anyway, the taste was good, as is the carbonation, but it isn't gingery enough. Close but no cigar. However, it is such an easy recipe and technique, dirt cheap to do, and super easy to tweak, so I am going to continue with this method in the hopes that I eventually will find the perfect proportions of ingredients to get the flavour I am looking for. I'm taking careful notes of each variation I try, so I think eventually I should be able to nail it.

If I ever master it and come up with the perfect burny spicy refreshing ginger drink recipe I will come back and post it here.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:00 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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