Ginger Beer, Gingersnaps & A Ginger Cat
I hope when I wrote that my new man was cuddling near my face that you gathered he’s none other than my new cat, Mr. Tibbs. I’ve had him for almost 2 months now and things are great. Mr. Tibbs (nee Marmalade) hails from the East Bay SPCA and we ‘met’ online. I was immediately taken with his orange color and sidekick demeanor that I read about – I just had to meet him in person. I couldn’t believe how comfortable and curious he was! As I confirmed with my friend that day – he’s awesome, life partner awesome. So I brought him home and the rest is history. He loves to play, is a voracious eater (would you expect anything else from my pet?) and after these couple of months, his coat is softer, brighter and more orangey than ever – I love it.
Naturally, I decided to host a Mr. Tibbs Meet & Greet. Of course, based on his coloring I decided that only ginger and orange foods would do. Obviously, I made ginger beer from scratch and mixed it with Pimm’s for Tibbs’ Cups cocktails at the party. Without a doubt, I made home made gingersnaps too. The party, ginger beer and assorted treats were a HUGE success! Mr. Tibbs stayed out the whole time and loved all the attention, people loved the cocktails, and I had a great reason to have a party!
Now I’ll tell you, the ginger beer took a little more time and testing than I originally anticipated spending. There are SO many recipes, tips and tricks online. I wanted something simple, that I didn’t need a juicer or micro plane for; and a recipe that was big enough to quench a crowd’s thirst – who is going to all that effort just tomake 1-2 bottles of ginger beer? I finally had to combine several recipes and came up with my own method that yielded a tasty spicy concoction, which was a hit with everyone. I’m so happy people enjoyed the drinks and I’ve been pressed to blog about this sooner rather than later – so here we go!
Ginger Beer 101:
- Ginger Beer is NOT alcoholic. It’s like ginger ale, but usually stronger in flavor and yeast is used for flavor and carbonation instead of CO2
- You can make it as spicy as you like by adding more ginger, steeping longer – people actually really enjoyed the spicier versions.
- I know those glass bottles look really cute and trendy, but I loved the ease of using plastic! You know exactly when it’s carbonated enough.
- Champagne yeast is the way to go. Some recipes say regular dry active is ok too, but make the effort for the champagne. It makes a difference.
- Add the lemon juice right before bottling. If you add it while the ginger is steeping, the liquid will turn pink.
- When you finally are ready to open your bottles, DO IT SLOWLY, or you’ll have ginger beer all over your kitchen. Yes, this happened to me. Twisting off the top a little bit at a time is the way to go.
Ingredients for Moderately Spicy Ginger Beer:
- 6 oz fresh ginger, cut into large chunks (8oz if you want it really spicy)
- 1 1/5 cups white sugar
- 8 cups water
- juice of 2 lemons
- 1/4 tsp Champagne yeast, you can get by with 1/8 tsp too.
Using a food processor, mini chop or immersion blender chopping attachment to briefly pulse the ginger into a fine chop (see picture).
In a large pot with a lid bring water to a boil. Add sugar and ginger. Stir to dissolve.
Let it cool to ~100 degrees Fahrenheit, so you don’t kill your yeast. Once it’s the appropriate temp, add yeast, stir it up and cover with the lid. Let it sit for 24 hours. NOTE: If you let it sit just overnight ~12hrs you will have a milder flavor, if spicy isn’t your thing.
After 24 hours, strain the mixture through cheesecloth/fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Add lemon juice and stir to distribute.
Fill your vessel. This is what you’ll serve out of, so use what you like. You can see I have a mixture of glass, plastic and mason jars. That’s right, I made A LOT of this stuff. Leave a little space at the top, but too much air will take longer/prevent carbonation.
Let sit 24-48 hours at room temp until the plastic is rock hard, like a soda you buy in the store. THIS is why I like plastic, you know when it’s done! NOTE: If using glass, you can just wait that long, and maybe twist the top a bit to see if pressure comes out. For one batch I used just 1/8 tsp yeast, which worked too, I just had to leave it out closer to 72 hours to carbonate.
Once reached desired carbonation, refrigerate it to stop the yeast, or drink right then! If you refrigerate for a while, you may want to take it out a day or so before serving to make the yeast active again at room temp, to ensure proper carbonation. Also, no harm in giving the caps a little twist every now and then to make sure they don’t explode.
As you may be able to tell, I made quite a few versions, and the above is what worked best for me. Each time is a little different, which is exciting, and makes you feel like the possibilities are endless.
The guys at San Francisco Brewcraft, where I got my yeast, got all technical on me about how over time the yeast might eat the sugar making it dry, so time sitting and quantity are important, etc. I got overwhelmed being an amateur, but it’s actually really easy and I didn’t mess it up. They also got me excited about how this is where the creativity comes in! You can sweeten with whatever you want (white sugar, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, agave nectar), use whichever citrus you want (lemon, lime, grapefruit) – so many options!
Also FYI: We’re talking carbonated, but not CRAZY carbonated – it’s way more bubbly right when you open it, though it doesn’t really make a difference when you’re mixing a Tibbs Cup (see below).
- 1 part Pimm’s
- 3 parts ginger beer
- squeeze of lime
Mix the above over ice and enjoy! Feel free to adjust ratio to your liking. Video for how to make a real Pimm’s Cup here.
This recipe was great! David Lebovitz and Alice Waters didn’t let me down. I added 1/4 tsp each of ground cloves and all spice. Best part is, you can make the dough ahead of time and just slice & bake the day of.