This refreshing, aromatic, soft drink was first invented in England in the 1700s by fermenting alcohol that was made from sugar, water, and ginger. Today, however, most ginger beers do not contain any alcohol at all. Some companies do make alcoholic ginger beer, but your average supermarket ginger beer is most likely okay for under-21 consumption.
One of the main uses for ginger beer is cocktail mixing. Just google ‘ginger beer cocktails’ and you’ll be impressed with the dozens, if not hundreds of cocktails that people have come up with using ginger beer.
If you want to learn how to make your own ginger beer at home, then keep reading. There are two main ways of making homemade ginger beer, and I’m going to walk you through each of them.
The Seltzer Method
Don’t let its name fool you! — ginger beer is basically just ginger soda. The easiest way to make soda is through something that I call the Seltzer Method. All you have to do is create a syrup that has the flavor you want — in this case, ginger — and combine it with plain seltzer. It’s that easy. Of course, this doesn’t give you a real, genuine ginger beer, but if you want a ginger beer-esque drink (or something closer to ginger ale), then this is the method for you.
For this method, you will need…
Step 1 – Make your seltzer if you are making it yourself.
Step 2 – Make your ginger syrup. If you bought ginger syrup, then this step is easy. Taste it to see how sweet it is already, then pour it into your seltzer. Then, add in sugar if you think it’s necessary. Remember to keep tasting to make sure you don’t oversweeten it. You can add in your essential oil now if you want to.
(Scroll down to learn how to make homemade ginger syrup!)
Step 3 – Let the syrup, sugar, and seltzer combine.
That’s about it for the seltzer method. This method is great if you want to add in your own flavors and experiment without having to worry about yeast or fermentation. You can add in mint, peppermint, honey, (or their essential oil counterparts) or any other flavor you can think of that would go with ginger.
To make your own seltzer at home, think about investing in a seltzer maker. There are countless flavors of soda to try, and once you can make seltzers at home, you won’t ever have to think about lugging those giant seltzer bottles from the store anymore. Check out our article on the Best Soda Makers.
How to Make Homemade Ginger Syrup
Trust me, it’s easier to make than it may sound. While ginger syrup might not seem like it has a lot of purposes except for making ginger beer, pay attention when I tell you that you can use this syrup in all sorts of drinks, such as cocktails, sodas, and teas. Plus, ginger is a great health food that helps digestion and builds up your immune system. And most importantly, it tastes great.
You Will Need…
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup fresh sliced ginger
- Lemon juice to taste
Step 1 – Combine the sugar and water. Mix them in a saucepan over medium heat and let the sugar dissolve completely. Stir every few seconds.
Step 2 – Add in the ginger. Pour the sliced ginger into the pan and let the mixture come to a boil and simmer for about 10-20 minutes. The longer you let it simmer, the stronger the syrup’s flavor will be.
Step 3 – Let it sit and cool. Again, the longer you let this sit, the stronger the flavor will be.
Step 4 – Strain and store. Strain out the ginger chunks and bottle your syrup.
If you want to spice things up a bit, when adding in the ginger chunks to the pan, why not add in some other spices too, like a cinnamon stick or nutmeg? You can also replace the sugar with honey if you want a warmer flavor.
The Yeast Method
This method of making homemade ginger beer sounds complicated since it uses yeast, but really, it is super simple! Yes, using yeast to carbonate your drink does take patience and a few days, but the results will be amazing; you’ll be happy you put in the effort. While the seltzer method does make a pretty refreshing soda-like drink, the yeast method is the real deal.
You Will Need…
- A 1-liter plastic bottle
- About 1½ cups ginger syrup
- ⅛ tsp active dry yeast
- 1 gram of cream of tartar
Step 1 – Make your ginger syrup. If you bought premade ginger syrup, then skip this step.
Step 2 – Combine all ingredients. In a mixing cup or bowl, combine your syrup, yeast, and cream of tartar. Then, pour in enough water so that you will have enough to fill your plastic bottle. Mix well.
Step 3 – Pour into the bottle. Pour the mixture into your plastic bottle and close the cap tightly. Over time, the drink will build up pressure as it gets carbonated by the yeast. This will expand your bottle. That’s why glass bottles are definitely not recommended for this process.
Step 4 – Store your bottle in the dark. Find a dark place in your house to hide your bottle from the sun for at least 24 hours. Make sure that you check on the bottle every few hours to make sure that it is not about to (or has not already) burst. I recommend wrapping towels around it, or keeping it in a closed container so that if the bottle does break, your soda doesn’t spill everywhere.
When you check on the bottle, if it feels extremely firm when you squeeze it, twist the cap only slightly to let out a bit of the built-up pressure. Don’t open the top completely, or you’ll let out too much of the pressure.
Step 5 – Put your bottle in the fridge. The longer you let your drink ferment in the dark, the more dry the flavor will be. So, if you want your soda to be on the sweeter side, only let it ferment for about 24-30 hours. If you want something drier, keep it in the dark for 48-60 hours.
After it has fermented to your liking, twist the cap again to take out some of the pressure, then put it in your fridge to stop the fermentation process from going any further. As the soda is cooling, the pressure will continue building, so make sure to continue checking on it and loosening the bottle cap every once in a while.
Once your drink is cool, it’s ready to drink!
Cream of Tartar – an Overlooked Ingredient
One of the ingredients from the recipe above might have caught your attention — cream of tartar. It’s a very overlooked ingredient, hence the title of this section, and most people these days have never even heard of it. Yet, cream of tartar is a staple when making ginger beer. All traditional ginger beer recipes call for it, but what is it exactly?
Cream of tartar is a powder, similar to baking powder or baking soda, that makes things like angel food cake and meringues light and fluffy. When added to whipped cream, it helps keep its whipped texture for longer.
It doesn’t have a real flavor, but when added to things like cookies, it gives off a bit of a tangy flavor, which is great for making snickerdoodles. Another cool thing about cream of tartar is that, when boiling vegetables in water, you can sprinkle in a little of this powder to keep the vegetables bright and colorful.
In the case of ginger beer, adding in a bit of cream of tartar will help the yeast and fermentation process thrive, while also giving it a bit of a tangy, lemony undertone. If you don’t want to use cream of tartar, or don’t feel like purchasing any, you can use a few tablespoons of lemon juice instead. Cream of tartar never goes bad, however, so purchasing a small container of it wouldn’t hurt.
Like many ingredients that we have in our baking cabinets, such as baking soda and flour especially, cream of tartar can be used for cleaning things around the house. It can be used to polish things like stainless steel, aluminum, and copper, and can also be used to clean tiles and porcelain in your kitchen and bathroom.