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Monday, April 20, 2009

What goes with cheese? Ginger Ale!

Today I'm making home made ginger ale. Home made soft drinks are quite easy to make, and you get to control what goes in and what stays out. Preservatives? Nope. Food coloring? Well, you can use natural colors. High fructose corn syrup? No way, there are lots of alternatives.

For this experiment, I'm actually making a diet soda. One of the main issues with home made soda is they are still packed with sugar, since the method used to carbonate it requires a little bit of fermentation. This recipe doesn't completely omit the sugar, but it is reduced down to 1 cup for the whole gallon, and the addition of Splenda to make up for the sweetness. This means that while it isn't zero calories, it is still about a quarter the calories of a regular soft drink.

I didn't want to make just a straight ahead ginger flavored beverage, I wanted to make something a little more complex. I love the heat that ginger has, so to accentuate that this recipe has a few dried chiles. I also love the citrusy and floral scent that fresh cut ginger has, so to help bring those out I've added lemon juice, lemon zest, allspice, and lavender.

A simple way to find flavors that go together is by combining their scent. Simple take that aromatics you are thinking about using, bruise them a little bit, then hold all of them up to your nose and smell. For example, I was contemplating a number of herbs for this recipe, but when I bruised the ginger, scraped off a little zest from the lemon, and squeezed the lavender flowers all at the same time, the smell was greater than the sum of it's parts. This is a first go, so next time there might need to be a bit more of one thing and less of another, but that is the fun of making soda.

Another option for making a complex soft drink would be to steep tea bags in the liquid. There are quite a few tea based drinks on the market today, but many of them are horribly expensive. You could probably make your own by tweaking this recipe and save a bit of money.

Recipe for Ginger and Lavender Ale

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 lbs sliced or shredded ginger
  • Juice from four medium to large lemons
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 4 cups Splenda
  • 1 cup table sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or 1 teaspoon regular salt
  • 2 dried chiles
  • 1 dozen lavender flowers
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 packet of Champagne or White Wine yeast
  • Two 2-liter plastic soda jugs, or other sealable bottles, clean and sterilized
Bring 1 gallon of water up to just below a boil, 180F-200F then cut the heat. Add the sugar, splenda, and salt, then stir until they are completely dissolved. After it has cooled for a minute or two, add the ginger, lemon juice, zest, chiles, lavender, and allspice. The reason to add these a little bit later is so the higher temperature of the water that is useful for dissolving the sugar and Splenda will also drive off the aromatics of the lavender and zest.

Let this concoction steep for at least an hour. Taste regularly, and when there is enough ginger flavor in the liquid strain out the solids. It may be a little cloudy, but that's okay. You could strain through some nylon cloth to remove more of the sediment, but that will likely also remove some flavor. Through careful handling, most of that sediment can be managed through refridgeration and careful pouring.

Once the liquid is at room temperature, add the yeast and stir until disolved. This could take about a minute. Funnel the protosoda into the bottles, and keep at room temperature until they feel hard. This could take a couple days, but it is important to check them at least once a day. Do not skip checking your bottles every day, they can explode! Now, since the recipe uses mostly Splenda there is a reduced risk, but this is a very real danger. Exploding glass bottles are no laughing matter.

Once the bottles are hard, place them in the refridgerator vertically. Sediment will come out of suspension and fall to the bottom of the bottle. Leave in the fridge for at least 24 hours, then carefully pour yourself a glass while trying not to disturb the sediment on the bottom. Enjoy with some home make bread and a wedge of home made cheese, as well as your pride at making something so easy and delicious.


  1. stupid question time from the non-homebrewer: What do you mean by the bottles being "hard"?

  2. Not a stupid question--next time you are in the grocery store, pick up a two gallon bottle of Pepsi or Coke and squeeze it. You won't be able to, because of the pressure of carbonation. It literally feels hard/solid. If you can make a dent in the plastic, then it isn't carbonated yet.

  3. I had the same question then had to back track and realized you were using plastic 2 liter bottles. Originally I was thinking "hard glass bottles" WTF?

  4. Do you really mean 1 lb of ginger? thats a lot of ginger.

  5. Yes, 1 lbs. I love a really spicy ginger ale, and about a pound per gallon tastes right to me.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. s there a way to make this without Splenda? My Doctor believes that Splenda is harmful to human health. As he is a world renowned Internist... I tend to trust him on this.

  8. Absolutely, just use regular sugar instead to taste, but just be really careful since they can turn into bombs. Earlier this year I did have a glass bottle explode, and the damage it did was fascinating :)


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