Spiced Ginger Ale

Spiced Ginger Ale Two Ways

So now that I have two active ginger bugs – one from fresh, grated ginger and one made from store-bought ground ginger – I want to compare how they do as starters for homemade, lacto-fermented soda. I like a nice, flavorful, spicy beverage, so I came up with this experimental recipe for Spiced Ginger Ale.

I see plenty of people online describe these types of drinks as “probiotic sodas,” but I’ll admit that I’ve been unable to find any categorization of the microbes in a ginger bug. I assume there’s yeast and lactic acid producing bacteria, but because this is a genuinely wild ferment, there could be a lot of other things going on as well. Is a ginger bug made of microbes that are active in the body and promote immune system signaling? Not a clue. How many ginger bugs can dance on the head of a pin?

Making soda, however, is pretty straightforward. Various starters can be used, including whey from yogurt or milk kefir (liquid from non-dairy versions of yogurt or kefir should work too), water kefir, or, in my case, a ginger bug. Or two.

The soda itself is made like a strong tea. My two-quart batch of ginger ale has the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken up a bit
  • dash of cayenne powder
Spiced Ginger Ale

Spiced Ginger Ale – grated ginger, grated nutmeg, smashed cinnamon stick, dash of cayenne pepper.

I heated two quarts of water on the stove, added these, brought it to a boil, then let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Then I turned the heat off and left it alone to cool.

When the temp had come down, I strained the solids out and stirred in half a cup of sugar. I think a quarter cup per quart should be more than enough to allow for plenty of fermentation.

Strained Spiced Ginger Ale solids

Strained Spiced Ginger Ale solids

I let the tea cool further while I prepped the two jars with ginger bug, about a quarter of a cup for each.

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Fresh and Ground Ginger Bugs

Fresh and Ground Ginger Bugs

Then, once the tea had cooled to around body temperature, I added it to the jars.

Spiced Ginger Ale

Spiced Ginger Ale at the beginning of fermentation.

This will sit out for a few days to ferment, at which point they can be consumed, or put into bottles to carbonate. Fizz isn’t an abiding concern for me, but I am curious to see how the different starter types affect the flavor.

Update: I just tasted both of these after about a week. I have to say, the difference was really clear. The ground ginger version had a flavor I can only say is reminiscent of cheap store bought ginger ale. The fresh is robust and well-rounded. The aftertaste is radically different between the two. So there you go, you can make ginger ale from ground ginger, but you may lose some flavor notes!

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Stacie is a freelance writer living in Atlanta. She’s been fermenting for most of a decade, and is an enthusiastic maker of beer, wine, kraut, tempeh, and natto, as well as an avid keeper of bees. And dogs and cats.