Saturday, June 19, 2010

Homemade Ginger Ale

We never had a lot of pop, or “soda” as some people call it, in the house growing up. Some times for parties we’d have a few 2 liters, but really the only carbonated soft drink in regularly our house was ginger ale. There for the rare occasion that a mixed drink was being made or for upset stomachs, a six pack of Canada Dry was usually in the pantry or garage. I think it’s because of this that ginger ale has long been a favorite of mine. It’s crisp, refreshing bite is unlike any other pop on the market science or placebo a bottle always made me feel at least a little better when I was under the weather.

But it wasn’t something I ever really thought about too much—because who really sits around and contemplates their preferred soda for more than a few seconds—until recently. We spent a portion of this past winter warming body and soul with the hearty, refreshing blend of bourbon and ginger ale and now that the weather is nicening up a bit I’ve become enamored with the classic cocktail the Moscow Mule ( While drinking all this ginger ale I started to remember an episode of Good Eats I’d seen a while back entitled “Ginger: Rise of the Rhizome” in which food genius Alton Brown discusses the unique qualities of the ginger root—not really a root, rather an underground portion of the stem from which roots grow—and its application to cuisine. On this episode one of the final recipes Brown shares is for homemade ginger ale. After looking it up ( and remembering how simple it was I decided I would make my own rather than continue to drink mystery chemical water.

The recipe is simple enough and only requires a little time and patience. For this application you will need:

1½ ounces of freshly grated ginger
6 ounces of sugar
7½ ounces of filtered water
1/8 teaspoon of dry active yeast
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice

After grating the ginger add it, the sugar, and ½ cup of the water to a small pot. Place the pot on medium-high heat until the sugar completely dissolves. Then remove from heat and let steep for an hour. After an hour pour syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and press ginger pulp to extract any remaining syrup. If the syrup is still above room temperature place the bowl in the fridge or an ice bath until the temperature is somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees (you don’t want to kill the yeast!). Once cooled pour the syrup, yeast, lemon juice and remaining water into a two-liter bottle, cap, and gently shake to combine the ingredients. Allow the mix to stand for about two days, opening occasionally, once or twice a day, to relieve pressure. Once the desired level of carbonation is achieved place bottle in the fridge, opening once a day to relieve pressure.

So, I put this together this past Tuesday and after two whole days(!) of waiting I finally poured a glass. The results? Excellent! The taste is much different than most commercially sold ginger ales. This yields a much lighter, crisper, true ginger taste with just a hint of acidity from the lemon—it’s kind of like the salt or vanilla in a recipe, it’s not overwhelmingly noticeable but it wouldn’t be the same without it. On its own the ginger ale is clean, refreshing, and delicious with no overly sugary tooth rot feel or gross diet chem after taste, just sparkly, ginger goodness. My only complaint, and it’s minor, is that it’s not strong enough. I think nest round I’m going to up the ginger level a bit, and maybe try lime juice in stead of lemon. The only reason this is an issue is because the ginger-ness of the ale gets lost when mixing it. I think it’ll be a solid base for a Moscow Mule or something subtle like that, but with whisky it’s just tingly mouth feel from the carbonation and a bit of ginger after taste, not bad, but I don’t want it to be drowned out completely.

This recipe was so easy and delicious there’s no reason not to give it a shot and make you own homemade ginger ale!


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