Homemade ginger ale is spicier and more complex than the commercial stuff, has a low alcohol content, and is super easy to make. Your cocktails will never be the same again.
- 5 inches ginger
- 1 serrano chili, sliced
- 2 bird’s eye chilies, halved
- Juice of 4 kalamansi limes (or one regular lime)
- 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons palm or brown sugar
- 2 cups water
To make ginger ale, you will first need to start a “plant,” which is similar to a sourdough starter. You are creating an environment to attract and grow wild yeast for the fermentation. Grate one inch of the ginger, including the skin. The ginger skin will have naturally occurring yeast on it, so you want to keep this.
Put the grated ginger in a glass jar, along with one tablespoon of sugar, the lime juice, the sliced chilies and the water. Cover the jar with a piece of cloth or a towel and secure it tightly with a couple of rubber bands. Place the jar in a warm place.
Feed your starter for the next five days. Each day, grate another inch of ginger and add it along with a tablespoon of sugar to the jar, and stir to dissolve.
After five days, strain the liquid and discard the old ginger and the chilies. Divide the liquid between two empty, clean plastic soda bottles. Fill the bottles ¾ with water, and add a half cup of brown or palm sugar to each. Screw the caps on and shake to dissolve everything. Place the bottles in a warm place to continue fermenting.
As the ginger ale ferments, it will convert the sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Your bottles will explode if you don’t take precautions. First, always use plastic bottles to prevent a glass bottle explosion. Second, for the first few days of fermentation put a small, thin piece of cloth (a cut up old pillow case works great) over the top of the bottle before screwing the lid over it. This creates enough of a gap to allow the pressure to escape.
Taste the ginger ale daily. You will need to adjust the sugar and ginger level. If it is too weak, grate more ginger and add it to the bottles. If it is too strong for your taste, pour some off into another bottle and dilute with water. The sweetness will decrease as the yeast ferments the sugar, so you may need to add a bit more.
After 3 days, the ginger ale should be mostly fermented. If it is not sweet enough at this point for your taste, add 1/4 cup of sugar, then remove the cloth and tightly screw the lids on. Squeeze the bottles daily from this point on, without opening them. Once they are too hard to compress, gently unscrew the lid to release some pressure, then tighten the lid again. Move the bottles to the fridge, as they are ready for drinking.
The fridge will slow the fermentation process, but not stop it altogether. If you don’t use the ginger ale right away, continue to check it and release pressure occasionally, or you could have an explosion. If you leave the ginger ale too long, most of the sugar will be fermented and it will lose its sweetness. If this happens, just add more sugar and gently agitate to dissolve.