Ever since visiting Bermuda five years ago I’ve been in love with ginger beer. Having both a freshness and a heat all its own, this soda stands well apart from any of the typical American drinks.
Ginger beer, for those of you who haven’t experienced it, is akin to ginger ale but more complex, and flavor-wise it’s quite potent. The heat of the ginger spice flows up and through your nose just as a hot mustard might. One could–and rightly so–ask why I would discover ginger beer in Bermuda and comment that ginger is a Chinese spice. It is, it’s the root of the Zingiber officinale plant, which is indigenous to southern China [*], so what is the connect. Bermuda’s claim to ginger is not through the spice itself per se, but through the drink they make with it. The Dark and Stormy is the Bermudan national drink  which is simply ginger beer mixed with Bermudian rum. This cocktail is a wonderful mashup of refreshing, soothing rum with the spice and heat of the ginger beer.
Recently I discovered that this exotic beverage can be made at home with only the simplest ingredients. The recipe I used was from epicurous and comprised of a surprisingly simple set of directions and ingredients:
- About 1/4 pound ginger, peeled
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- About 2 quarts water
- a Microplane grater; a funnel; a clean 2-liter plastic bottle with cap
Grate enough ginger using Microplane to measure 3 1/2 tablespoons, then put in a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl to collect juice, pressing on solids and then discarding.
Place funnel in neck of bottle and pour in 3 tablespoons ginger juice (reserve any remaining for another use). Add sugar, lemon juice, yeast, and a pinch of salt.
Fill bottle with water, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space at top. Remove funnel and screw cap on tightly. Gently shake bottle to dissolve sugar.
Let stand at room temperature until plastic feels hard and no longer indents when squeezed, 24 to 36 hours.
Chill ginger beer until very cold.
— via epicurious
Just as most of my culinary adventures end up, I used this recipe as a guiding principle and ultimately didn’t measure anything but the cup of sugar. I figure that the amounts of the different ingredients are far less important than their ratio anyway.
While the concoction is still brewing, and I want to let it mature for a day or two in the fridge, my initial impressions are positive. The taste is spot on, and the lack of carbonation that accompanies any homemade product is far from a detriment. The only draw-back from this round of testing will be the relative lack of heat compared to what I was hoping for, but even that is encouraging. With a simple adjustment in quantity of ginger used, the method of ginger preparation, or the amount of water added can all remedy this simple failing. Overall the brew is a nice alternative to the commercial varieties that I’ve tried, and the testing is just getting started.