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zip and zing

Recipe: fresh ginger beer

I jumped the gun a couple of weeks ago and had my hair cut off, donating the 10-12 inch ponytails to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. My reasoning for keeping it long was for ease of management under my ski helmet, but with a lousy ski season nearing its end and the warming weather, I couldn’t resist!

flowering trees going crazy down on the flats

short hair is super refreshing on sunny trail runs

Despite pledging my allegiance to spring, when it snowed 10 inches this past week we immediately grabbed the skis and headed out for a little backcountry touring. It was very crunchy and knobbly underneath, because the crazy warm days had melted most of the snow which froze the slushy footprints and suncups into icy divots overnight. But the soft fluffy stuff falling from the sky made for fun turns, giggles and whoops echoing through the valley, and a renewed declaration of our love of skiing.

skinning up

skiing out

neva in the moment, in the snow

Whether it’s snowing or sunshining, I’m always up for a refreshing glass of ginger beer. I’ve tasted several brands of store-bought ginger beer over the years, preferring those with a sharper gingery bite and less sugar than their popular cousin, ginger ale. Earlier this year, I was determined to brew my own ginger beer. I tried this authentic alcoholic ginger beer from Food 52 and had to pour the bulk of it down the drain because it tasted so awful. I wondered if perhaps it was the alcohol? The next recipe I tried from Serious Eats only had 2 days of fermentation. Sadly, it didn’t register much higher than my first attempt at ginger beer. Both seemed to have an oddly soapy flavor to the ginger beer. I was so frustrated.

Fast forward a few weeks and Jeremy and I had a lunch date at Oak in Boulder where I sipped on their homemade ginger beer. So fizzy and bright and full of “punch you in the face” ginger flavor. I later emailed the restaurant, relaying my tale of woe and wasted ginger, and asked if they would be willing to give me some tips on making my own ginger beer. These incredibly nice people replied within a few hours and gave me their recipe.

sugar, ginger, lemon, water, topo chico (or any soda water)

Their version isn’t something I can reproduce at home. They combine fresh ginger juice, lemon juice, sugar, and water, and then they carbonate it. My version combines fresh ginger juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, and carbonated water. Why not?

simple syrup: water and sugar

I had no idea how much ginger juice could be extracted from a hunk of fresh ginger. It probably depends on the ginger, too. Some may be juicier than others. For the organic ginger I purchased from Whole Foods, I got 3 ounces of juice from 10 ounces of fresh ginger. Maybe if you use a juicer, you can get a higher yield. I did mine manually by peeling the ginger, grating it, straining the liquid out, then squeezing as much liquid as I could from the remaining pulp. Oddly, if you let the ginger juice sit for a spell, ginger starch will settle to the bottom. It’s similar in consistency to potato starch. I let it settle and don’t really mix it in with my ginger beer.

peel and grate the ginger

strain as much liquid out as possible

squeeze out the remaining pulp

I’ve read that fresh unpasteurized ginger juice can keep sealed in the refrigerator for anywhere from 1 to 5 days. If you don’t finish it by then, pop it into the freezer for up to 6 months. The potency of the ginger juice will likely vary from one batch to the next, so keep that in mind when mixing your ginger beer. I found 2 teaspoons of ginger juice to be a good start, then I built the rest of the ingredients around it to taste using the proportions from Oak as a guide. It’s nice to be able to customize your own ginger beer so that it can be as spicy, sweet, tart, or fizzy as you like.

ready to mix: soda water, ginger juice, simple syrup, lemon juice

adding ginger juice

topping with soda water

Technically, this isn’t really ginger beer because it was never brewed. Maybe you might call it a ginger soda. But it tastes closest to the best ginger beers I’ve had (I don’t know if those are technically ginger beers either) AND it’s so much easier to make than my previous failed ginger beer tests. The fresh ginger is what lends the big spicy bite that clears your nose and jolts you from whatever you may have been thinking prior to that first sip. You can substitute lime for the lemon juice as long as there is some tartness to add dimension to the drink. And of course, you can use this ginger beer to make some lovely cocktails… with a kick.

serve on ice

it’s going to be a great summer

Fresh Ginger Beer
[print recipe]
based on recipe from Oak in Boulder, Colorado

2 tsps fresh ginger juice
2+ tbsps fresh lemon juice
3 tbsps simple syrup*
5+ oz. club soda

* To make simple syrup: combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan over high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Let mixture come to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Let cool.

Mix all ingredients together, adding more of each to taste. Pour over ice and serve. Makes 1 8-ounce drink.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

ginger limeade ginger shrub dark and stormy cocktail pear ginger beer cocktail kombucha (plain, ginger, huckleberry ginger)

10 nibbles at “zip and zing”

  1. Pey-Lih says:

    Oh my gosh! Perfect timing and of all things, you posted this recipe. My hubster buster is coming back from his visit with his family in the U.K. They went out for a long hike yesterday and stopped for lunch at a bona fide pub outside of Surrey, and they drank “ginger beer.” Now I have a recipe to test try, because I love ginger beer! Thank you! Yes, short hair and/or pixie cuts are the best…I love the aerodynamic cut. It’s easy to maintain, because I have better things to do like make ginger beer.

  2. Marissa says:

    If you nurse that ginger juice and treat it like your kombucha you absolutely can make a thriving ginger bug. Also, ginger makes for a wonderful f2 for kombucha due to the high yeast content in ginger. You could make a beautiful brew. I mean huckleberry ginger soda! And really low on the alcohol level. But a good ginger beer is a thing of beauty

  3. Kristin says:

    Well this is exciting! We have some big ginger beer fans in the house! I will definitely give this a try for them! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Monique says:

    I love snow, went for a snowshoe on Baker this past weekend. I also love ginger. When trying to get the juice, I use my garlic press, works well!

  5. Patti says:

    I love punchy ginger brews too! What are your favorite store-bought varieties? I’ve found that Maine Root is my favorite full made soda and Pickett’s #3 hot and spicy syrup is my favorite mixer.

  6. jenyu says:

    Pey-Lih – Long or short hair, I do the minimal maintenance (as you say, because there are better things to do like make ginger beer!). But I just felt the long hair was a real drag for washing and drying (I let it dry naturally which means it stays wet well into the day) and generally getting on my nerves :)

    Marissa – So the first two recipes that I tried involved making ginger bugs and I REALLY wanted them to work, but they tasted so terrible. I tried adding a lot of sugar and citrus to make it more palatable, but both were so off-tasting. I have actually made ginger kombucha, and it’s lovely. That has no problems at all!

    Kristin – You’re welcome!

    Monique – Thanks for the tip.

    Patti – I really like Rachel’s ginger beer out of Seattle, and of course this housemade ginger beer from Oak (the restaurant). As for the ones that you can purchase in stores, I think Bundaberg (Australian), Fever Tree, and Reed’s extra spicy are pretty good. I’ll have to look into the ones you mentioned, I have never heard of them before!

  7. Ariana Sullivan says:

    It’s absolutely great for this summer. Just love it,

  8. Taste of France says:

    I just found your blog, and bravo to you for donating your hair! My daughter did it, in honor of a beloved aunt who had breast cancer (and who is doing well today). She has been growing it out since, and plans to donate it again this summer. Such a simple gesture can make such a difference to someone.

  9. Nora says:

    What do you do with the ginger carcasses after you squeeze out the juice? Can you use them in anything else or are they not worth the effort?

  10. jenyu says:

    Nora – I put it in my compost, but I’m not sure how I would use the pulp because the juice has a lot of the flavor and zip.

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