Ginger ale is a zippy beverage with a long history. It was enjoyed long before commercial production, by gardeners who grew their own ingredients. Today, you can make your own ginger ale by growing the key ingredients. Homemade ginger beer or ale, is far and away better than purchased products, which makes learning how to make homemade ginger ale important to lovers of this drink.
Ginger beer is comprised of just a few ingredients. The old time ginger ale recipe would not have used a carbonated beverage substitute as we can today. It would have been fermented to produce the bubbles, which can still be done in today’s recipes. The benefits of home fermenting include the lacto-bacteria and their properties for the gut. But you can skip that step, which takes up to 10 days, and substitute purchased club soda. The results will still be great, and far better than a canned beverage.
Ingredients for Ginger Beer
All that is required for fermented homemade ginger beer are fresh, organic ginger roots, filtered water, and sugar. Some recipes recommend yeast and possibly lemon juice, but organic ginger should have natural yeast which will make the fermentation starter. The starter is called a ginger bug. Do use yeast if the only ginger on hand is a commercially produced root that is not organic, as it will not have the natural yeast. Alternately, you can simply use purchased club soda to add the carbonation that is characteristic of sodas and brewed beverages. Adding the lemon is based on personal preference. If you like the tang it adds, use fresh squeezed lemon in the preparation.
If you live in a warm region, you can grow your own ginger. Ginger plants are started from pieces of an organic root. The plants need plenty of sun and humidity, in loam that is rich in organic matter. Cut the root into pieces half the length of your little finger and let them callus for a few days prior to planting. Each piece should be plump and include at least 1 growing node or eye. Prepare the soil by tilling deeply and incorporating organic matter such as compost. Plant the pieces 2 inches (5 cm.) deep and at least 6 inches (5 cm.) apart. Keep the roots and eventual plant moist but not soggy. Reduce watering as the weather gets cooler. This will force the plants to form chubbier, larger roots.
How to Make Ginger Beer
A basic homemade ginger ale recipe has just 3-4 ingredients. If you are fermenting yourself, rather than using club soda, you will need:
- 2 cups (372 mL) filtered water
- 1 Tbsp (14.7 mL) grated ginger
- 1 Tbsp (4.7 mL) sugar
Place all the ingredients in a jar covered with a porous cloth or coffee filter. Every day feed the ginger bug with 1 Tablespoon each ginger and sugar and stir. After 3-5 days the mixture should be bubbling and is ready to use. Then dissolve over heat:
- 2 (1.8 L) quarts water
- more thin sliced ginger (however much you like)
- 3/4 cup (177 mL) sugar
- cinnamon stick (by preference)
Steep the warmed liquid for 15 minutes and then strain it. Let it cool and add fresh lemon juice if you like the tang. Finally, add 1/4 of strained ginger bug liquid. Bottle the liquid in clean soda bottles or glass flip top bottles. Leave enough room for expansion from fermentation. You can refrigerate them after a few days and store them for up to a week.
Faster Homemade Ginger Beer Recipe
Boil 2 cups ginger root, 3 strips lemon peel, and 1 1/2 cups (192 g.) sugar in enough water to cover. Let cool for an hour to a week as the ingredients steep. Strain out the solids and add 3 quarts (2.8 l) of club soda. Serve fresh over ice.