Fizzy and spicy, it’s the best base for summer’s most refreshing patio cocktails
With the longer days and hotter weather just around the corner, let’s get a helping hand from nature. We’ll be creating something with some heat, a little bit sweet and bright as the summer: a ginger bug!
A ginger bug isn’t really a bug at all, but a naturally fermented ginger mixture with some sugar, water and a little time and care. For generations, naturally fermented soft drinks have been used as health tonics and as refreshments for everyone from laymen to royalty. Traditional ginger beer and ale used to be produced with the help of a ginger bug, and contained natural medicinal properties to ease cold symptoms and nausea (I’m sure we’ve all heard someone swear by sipping ginger ale for an upset stomach.)
After a few days of your ginger mix resting on your countertop, you’ll start to see little bubbles form near the top of your bug, as the naturally occurring fermentation creates carbonation. The wild yeast on the skin of the ginger root eats away at the sugar and releases a natural carbonation along with uplifting aromas of citrus followed by a spicy heat from the fibres inside the ginger root.
Let’s get in the kitchen and learn how to make this fun fermented wonder as well as your own classic style ginger ale, ginger beer and gingered cocktails.
How to make a ginger bug
You will need
• 2 to 3 pieces of unpeeled organic ginger root (organic tends to have richer amounts of natural yeast on the skins)
• White granulated sugar
• Filtered water (such as chlorine-free tap water filtered through a Brita system)
• 1L Mason jar
• Paper coffee filter or cheesecloth
• Rubber band
• Cheese grater
• Wooden kitchen spoon
• Swing-top bottle
1. Wash and pat dry ginger, then finely grate ¼ cup worth (including the skins) and add it to a clean Mason jar. (Note: Do not use antibacterial soaps to clean anything, including your hands, as it can kill the active natural yeast.)
2. Add ¼ cup of sugar and 3 cups (750 mL) of filtered water to the jar. Stir your ginger mix with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar.
3. Cover the jar with a coffee filter, using a rubber band to keep the filter in place. The filter allows your mix to breathe but restricts anything from getting into your ginger bug. Store on the countertop, out of direct sunlight.
4. Every two days, add 1 Tbsp of grated ginger and 1 Tbsp of sugar to your mix, and stir gently to combine and cover.
5. After three to four days, you should see little white bubbles forming near the top as the fermentation works its magic.
6. Your fermentation will be done in six to seven days. Filter out the ginger, cover the jar and store the ginger bug in the fridge.
7. Keep the ginger bug going by feeding it 1 Tbsp each of grated ginger and sugar once a week. Or transfer to a swing-top bottle and store in the fridge for up to three weeks. The swing-top bottle is designed to contain carbonated beverages; you may “burp” the bottle as needed to release pressure. Just make sure to use a good quality bottle otherwise it may crack or break under the pressure.
Make your own Whisky Ginger or Dark n’ Stormy with the simple soda recipes below.
Add 1 Tbsp molasses, 2 oz fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt to 2 cups of ginger bug.
Add 2 Tbsp molasses, 3 oz fresh lime juice and a pinch of salt to 2 cups of ginger bug.
Make these recipes at home with your new ginger bug:
—by Matthew Benevoli