Homemade Ginger Beer: A Simple Recipe for a Spicy, Refreshing Summer Drink

Ginger is a superfood that has been enjoying a great deal of popularity recently. It is a close relative of turmeric, which is another food superstar. The two are often combined in recipes for healthy drinks like golden milk or smoothies. Ginger tea is a classic way to enjoy the health benefits of ginger, and I do enjoy a hot cup on a cold winter’s night. But in summer, my ginger drink is ginger beer.



When I was a young student, many of my classmates were adult learners who came from the Caribbean. I was fortunate to have been taken under the wing of a couple of these lovely ladies when it came to their delicious cuisine. One lady from Jamaica taught me how to make an authentic ginger beer, and I’ve followed her method ever since.

What is Ginger Beer?

If you’ve never had ginger beer, it’s tough to describe it to you. It’s a sweet, spicy, pungent drink – much hotter than any ginger tea you’ve probably had. You can buy it bottled from a West Indian grocery or similar import shop if you want to try it. We recently discovered that President’s Choice also has a carbonated ginger beer. You can get it in Loblaws, Extra Foods, and related stores in a 2-liter bottle. It’s not quite as good as the West Indian stuff that comes in the little brown bottles. But it has a nice bite to it, and it’s great for a sore throat! I nursed my last case of the flu with a big bottle of PC ginger beer.

Although the word “beer” is used in the name of this beverage, it’s usually non-alcoholic. It’s like a strongly flavoured ginger ale. It’s sweet but spicy. The heat of ginger beer comes from the gingerols in the fresh ginger root. These chemicals are related to the capsaicin that makes chili pepper hot and the piperine that gives black pepper its pungency.

Why is Ginger Beer Spicy?

Gingerols are transformed when ginger is cooked and the gingerol content is lowered when fresh ginger root is dried. So using fresh ginger that is only infused in hot water briefly gives ginger beer a different taste from gingerbread or foods that are cooked with ginger. It retains its bite and you’ll definitely feel the warmth in your mouth. But served cool in the summer, ginger beer is cool and soothing like lemonade.

Homemade ginger beer made with fresh ginger root is a real treat, but very simple to make. Ginger is easy to find in any market; you won’t have to find a speciality store to try this wonderful Caribbean drink! Serve ginger beer warm or cold in winter. In summertime, refrigerate and serve it in a chilled glass with a lemon or lime wedge and a little ice.

Non-Alcoholic (or “Soft”) Ginger Beer Recipe

Ingredients:

8-10 inches of fresh ginger root, peeled
juice of 2 limes
1 cup sugar, or to taste
about 4-6 cups boiling water
cool water to make 1 gallon

Directions:

  1. A lot of recipes for ginger beer start with the grated root. Others use a juicer or blender to extract the juice from the fresh ginger root. But I was taught to mash the ginger roots with a heavy kitchen implement. It’s a good outlet for your frustrations! I like to use a marble pestle. A meat tenderizing hammer or a heavy rolling pin would work too. This step is just for the purpose of exposing the inside of the root, so you can extract more of its zippy flavour. This way, you don’t have to boil the root. Boiling would begin that transformation I mentioned above. It also tends to extract more of the bitter compounds than if you infuse your ingredients in got water. Infusing the mashed root gives you a sweeter taste, and it’s less work than a lot of the other methods.
  2. Put the mashed up ginger root in the bottom of a large heat resistant jug or a teapot. Pour the boiling water over the ginger root. Cover with the lid or a clean dish towel, and let the brew steep in a warm place for about an hour.
  3. Strain the liquid through a tea strainer or a few layers of cheesecloth. Pour it into a gallon jug or divide it evenly between a couple of pitchers. Squeeze the mashed root to get all the flavour and liquid out of it. (I was actually told to leave the ginger in the jug if it’s not for a fancy occasion. That works just fine for me!)
  4. Stir in the lime juice. If you prefer, you can use lemon instead. I even found a recipe that suggested pineapple or even grapefruit juice for a slightly different taste. Use what you have on hand.
  5. Add the sugar a little at a time, stirring well to dissolve it. Taste a bit of the ginger beer after each addition. You can use more or less than the 1 cup, according to your tastes. Stir lots to be sure it’s well dissolved before you cool it down.
  6. Add cool water to make up one gallon total. Refrigerate, covered, overnight or a few hours until the ginger beer is cold. Serve chilled, over ice. Garnish with a wedge of lemon or lime.

Variations on Traditional Ginger Beer:

    • To make a milder drink for children or adults who are sensitive to the spiciness of fresh ginger, reduce the amount of ginger root you use. You can also reduce the brewing time by up to half or add a little more water when you dilute the ginger infusion. This recipe was taught to me as more of a method. Everything is eyeballed and then confirmed by taste. So feel free to tweak!
    • To serve the ginger beer hot, top up the ginger infusion with boiling water. Serve in a mug with a cinnamon stick.
    • Apple ginger beer is wonderful around the holidays. Heat the water in a saucepan with a few cloves and a piece of star anise. Boil gently for five minutes with a lid on the pan, before pouring the water over the prepared ginger root. Substitute soft apple cider for up to 8 cups of the additional water. Serve cold or hot, with a splash of vanilla or rum and a pinch of nutmeg.
    • If you like bubbles in your ginger beer, you can cut it with club soda and serve it chilled with ice. Make it stronger than you would normally if you plan to have a lot of bubbles in it.
    • You can produce a carbonated ginger beer or a probiotic version using recipes that include instructions for fermentation. Both these types of ginger beer produce a bubbly soft drink over the course of several days or weeks, rather than a flat drink made in a few hours. Because fermentation can also produce a hard ginger beer that contains alcohol (and because some nasty microbes can get into your beverage if you don’t follow the right steps for fermentation and storage) it’s best to get a recipe specifically for these purposes. Follow the instructions to the letter to avoid unpleasant results.

 

Do you love ginger? You can read more about it in “Health Benefits of Ginger: How Much Do You Have to Take?

 

The recipe and method used in this video are slightly different, but you can see the principle is very similar. Each cook has her own recipe for ginger beer. And I’m sure once you’ve made it, you’ll be making it your own way too!

 

How to make refreshing Jamaican ginger beer in your own kitchen


Jamaican ginger beer is a simple, non-alcoholic drink
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Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne
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  • Comments

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        No beer needed! It’s just the name of the recipe. It’s really like a ginger and lime version of lemonade. You can sweeten it however you like, too 🙂

      2. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Jyothi, there is no alcoholic beer in the recipe. Sometimes when you see “beer” in a beverage name like “root beer” or “spruce beer” or “ginger beer,” it just means “drink,” It’s from a Latin root word that gave us the word “imbibe.”

    1. Profile photo of
      Peter Streep

      I love ginger and really like ginger beer but find the readymade drinks often to sweet. A great recipe and I will definitly give it a try.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I also find readymade drinks too sweet. This recipe is great because you can make it more or less sweet as you like.

    2. Profile photo of Gil Camporazo
      Gil Camporazo

      There are plenty of ginger and turmeric in our place. They grow abundantly in the mountain area. We could buy them in the market. We ordinary make a ginger tea anytime we want. We sweeten it with a brown sugar after we boil it.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        It’s pretty common to see fresh ginger root here, but usually not turmeric. We can get it powdered, but not fresh.

    3. Profile photo of Treathyl FOX
      Treathyl FOX

      Oh wonderful! I have a drinks recipe collection on Pinterest. It used to be called Virgin Drinks because I was particularly searching for non-alcoholic beverages. But then I just changed the name to Drinks because it’s more generic. The last recipe I added was a carrot, mango and ginger smoothie. This one is going right next to it. I love ginger! Also, this is my first share using the social media buttons below each post. Just want you to know it worked perfectly. It picked up the pinnable image, a description, and the URL with my referral id. Cool huh?? 🙂

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Awesome, @cmoneyspinner! I’m glad it worked so well for you. And thanks for the share! I actually saw it on Pinterest last night before I came back here to read comments. I love that you gave it the tag #islanddrinks – it seems so exotic! And ginger beer really will transport you to the islands if you let it 🙂

    4. Savannah

      I have never heard of ginger beer before, but we LOVE ginger in our house. It truly is such a great superfood, and I imagine you get all the stomach-settling benefits that ginger has to offer with this beer as well? I could definitely see how this would be a helpful little tool when battling illness. I’m totally intrigued, so I’m going to give it a try!! Thanks for sharing <3

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        It’s very much like drinking a stronger, sweeter version of ginger tea. So yes, ginger beer ought to provide the same tummy settling benefits. Plus the anti-inflammatory benefits and others too!

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I had never had ginger beer before my classmates brought it in for a potluck at school. So I guess as long as I’ve known about the drink, I also knew it was something people made at home 🙂

        Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        It’s great for winter too, Pamela! If you find it’s too chilly outside for a cold drink, simply serve your ginger beer warm as you would mulled cider 🙂

    5. Brittany Giles

      Ginger beer is one of my faves! I cannot wait to try this out when I get some down time!

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        It sounds like you might want to ask Mrs. Kasman to make your ginger beer a bit sweeter than usual, Bill 🙂

    6. Profile photo of Linda Jenkinson
      Linda Jenkinson

      My husband is from Northern Ireland and his mom used to make this- I will try this recipe as I love ginger for it’s stomach-soothing qualities! So will give this a try- not too sure what I’ll use as a masher but may try a tenderizer mallet!

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        @mmarg You can grate the ginger with your box grater or run it through a juicer or your blender if you like. But don’t worry too much about making it fine. As long as you expose the flesh of the root and break up the fibers a bit, you can extract all the good flavour 😀

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I’m so glad I shared the recipe! Around here, there aren’t too many people who like ginger beer. So it’s fun for me to see so much enthusiasm about it 😀

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I think we can get ginger in almost every part of the world. And there is always a way to adapt the recipe for the local sweeteners and fruits. So I think ginger beer is a very versatile recipe 😀

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I’m the same: I’ll sneak ginger into almost anything. I think soon I’ll post about golden milk, which is another great ginger drink for the winter months 🙂

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