5 Ingredients or Fewer

Homemade Alcoholic Ginger Beer

March 11, 2014
4.8 Stars
Author Notes

Homemade ginger beer can be a thing of wonder. Whether you're a Moscow Mule fan or just enjoy sipping it in a tall glass with ice, making ginger beer at home might mean the end of your store-bought ginger beer days. The fermentation process is easier than you might think: You'll just need brewer's yeast and more than 48 hours (it takes up to a week!). But don't worry; this ginger beer recipe below doesn't ask much of you. Just get it started and you'll be on your way to the best ginger beer you've ever had.

There are two types of people in this world: people who like their ginger beer sweet, subtle, and unassuming, and people who like their ginger beer to kick them hard in the back of the throat. (I guess there are also people out there who don't like ginger beer, but for now I'm going to pretend they don't exist.)

You know real ginger beer if you've tasted it. The second you take a sip, it stomps on your tongue with steel-toed boots, taking glee in reminding you how spicy raw ginger truly is.

My version of ginger beer is like the unfiltered, uncensored, hardcore stuff, but with a teensy little bonus: alcohol. While England has been sipping on alcoholic ginger beer for hundreds of years, America has just begun to discover this gem. Well, Brits, your secret's out.

In addition to its spicy, addictive taste and its boozy bonus, alcoholic ginger beer is also plain-old fun to make. If you dream of being a full-fledged brewmaster but lack the time, equipment, and beard, ginger beer is the perfect starting point. With only a jar, some pantry staples, and a few clean soda bottles, you can have a solidly delicious brew in only three weeks. It might take some experimenting to get it right, but the journey is half the fun. This recipe is really more like a set of guidelines—you must follow your instincts. —Catherine Lamb

Test Kitchen Notes

Ginger Beer FAQ

Q. Is ginger beer alcoholic?
A. Most commercial ginger beers nowadays are not and merely have carbon dioxide added to them, which is why fermenting your own at home (and making an alcoholic ginger beer) can be a new, exciting way to enjoy the beverage.

Q. What's the difference between ginger beer and ginger ale?
A. Where ginger ale is just a carbonated soda, ginger beer has been naturally fermented with yeast and usually has a more pronounced gingery flavor because it's been made with real ginger root.

Q: What does ginger beer taste like?
A. Like ginger ale and, well, ginger root. But with a more pronounced note of the latter.

Q: Can you drink ginger beer by itself?
A. Definitely. It tastes great over ice with lime slices, but you can also add it as a mixer to cocktails like the Moscow Mule and Dark 'n' Stormy. Here's a "twist" on the latter from Senior Editor (and ginger beer devotee) Eric Kim. —The Editors

  • Prep time 504 hours
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Makes 1 liter
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups warm, filtered water (not too hot or you'll kill the yeast)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons champagne yeast
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, more to taste
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced (optional)
  • 1 large glass jar
  • 2 clean soda bottles
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. First off, make a "plant" for your ginger beer. Stir the yeast into the warm water until dissolved. Add in 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, 1 tablespoon sugar, the lemon juice, sliced jalapeno and stir to combine. The jalapeno will give your ginger beer that kick you can feel in the back of your throat -- if you don't roll like that, omit it. Pour into a glass jar -- one that's large enough for the liquid to fit comfortably, with a bit of extra space. Cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel and secure it over the jar with a rubber band. Place jar in the warmest place in your house. Next to your heater, near the refrigerator, or by a heat vent.
  2. Every day for the next week you'll have to "feed" your ginger beer. First off, feel the bottle -- it should be slightly warm. If it's too cold your yeast will go into hibernation, and if it's too hot it could kill your yeast. Take off the towel and add another tablespoon of grated ginger, and another tablespoon of sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, then replace the towel and put your plant back in a warm place. Do this every day for a week -- think of it as your neighbor's dog you've promised to dog sit.
  3. After about a week, you should see small bubbles floating to the surface of your plant. You can certainly keep your plant at this stage longer; the more you feed it, the more concentrated the ginger flavor will become. You can adjust flavors later!
  4. Now it's time to bottle. Think ahead to how many bottles of ginger beer you'll want to make. Make sure to use PLASTIC soda bottles -- glass bottles could explode from carbonation, which would not be pretty. Estimate how much water you'll need to fill these bottles 3/4 of the way full, then boil it to purify. Dissolve enough sugar into the water that it tastes very sweet -- as sweet as soda. You can adjust this later as well.
  5. Using a cheesecloth, strain the plant out into a large measuring cup, or a bowl. Using a funnel, add about a cup of the plant liquid to each clean, dry soda bottle -- more if you want it stronger, less if you want it less intense. Add sweet water to the bottles until they are 3/4 of the way full, then stir with a chopstick to combine. you can dip your finger in and taste here to see if the mixture needs more ginger. If so, add more plant liquid. Don't worry if it seems too sweet: the yeast will eat the sugar and turn it to alcohol, so most of it will disappear. You can add it back later.
  6. Seal the bottles tightly with their caps and place them back in the warm place you had your plant. Squeeze the bottles once a day to test how they're carbonating. After a few days they should be hard to compress; when they are impossible to compress at all, slowly start to unscrew the cap just until the carbonation begins to release -- do not open it all the way! Do this whenever you can't compress the bottle at all.
  7. After a week and a half to two weeks, the yeast should have eaten up most of the sugar in the bottle. This means your ginger beer is ready to open up and taste! If you have multiple bottles, open one up and taste test. Add more sugar or lemon juice if you think your ginger beer needs it. Serve ice cold with citrus, and a rum float if you're feeling dangerous. Make sure to consume the whole bottle within 24 hours once you've opened it -- feel free it enlist a friend here. It's impossible to gauge the alcohol content of your ginger beer, but it should be a bit less than a light beer. Enjoy!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Denis Thompson
    Denis Thompson
  • Natalie Ferrell
    Natalie Ferrell
  • Trever J. Knie
    Trever J. Knie
  • Dobbie Rodds
    Dobbie Rodds
  • Dave Pendlebury
    Dave Pendlebury

37 Reviews

Denis T. January 27, 2021
Can you save the ginger beer plant and divide in half to start again? Just made my first batch, so cantcomentfully on it yet, but so far so good. I remember this was a favourite back in my young days.
 
Natalie F. October 29, 2020
I have been making this ginger beer now for the last two years! It is an excellent recipe and I do things a little different on first keeping my ginger beer starter on a seat warmer on top of the refrigerator wrapped with a towel. During the second fermentation process when you add the sugar water, it only takes about one more day for it to fully ferment well relieving some of the carbonation in the bottles every four hours or so.
 
Biguglygremlin September 3, 2020
Sorry about the duplication. Still learning. :)
 
Biguglygremlin September 3, 2020
I think these instructions are quite good.
I started a plant a week ago and batched a bottle last night. The first bottle I have made in many decades. I tried to go off old memories but they escaped me so I resorted to a soft version, more like lemonade, but a safe starting parameter, then I adapted it in the direction I wanted to go. Today I found this site and I intend to use it as the outer parameter.
I have started with just one 2 litre bottle to give the plant time to settle down and then I intend to switch to frequent batches in small bottles to give more scope for experimentation.
What I liked about Ginger Beer when I was a child and later when I had children was the complexity and the perpetual need to balance and adapt. It allows endless scope for initiative and creativity and I wondered where it might lead in today's world with new tastes and new products and, in the middle of this pandemic, different focuses and more time.
What I like about the above instructions is that they simplify the concepts without trying to merge them. I see it as two distinct processes. Starting and maintaining a plant, a living thing that grows fast when it is warm, slows down when it gets cold and dies if it gets too hot. Something that needs to grow in yeast population and flavour at the rate that it is being depleted by batching. Then there is batching and managing the end product which can be done largely by repetition and formula but begs for creativity and experimentation.
 
Biguglygremlin September 3, 2020
I think these instructions are quite good. Notice I don't call it a recipe, because I really don't follow recipes, in fact I really really don't follow recipes, which is not always a good thing but it is why I am drawn to making Ginger Beer. I started a plant a week ago and batched a bottle last night. The first bottle I have made in many decades. I tried to go off old memories but they escaped me so I resorted to a soft version, more like lemonade, but a safe starting parameter, then I adapted it in the direction I wanted to go. Today I found this site and I intend to use it as the outer parameter.
What I liked about Ginger Beer when I was a child and later when I had children was the complexity and the perpetual need to balance and adapt. It allows endless scope for initiative and creativity and I wondered where it might lead in today's world with new tastes and new products and, in the middle of this pandemic, different focuses and more time. What I like about the above instructions is that they simplify the concepts without trying to merge them. I see it as two distinct processes. 1) Starting and maintaining a plant, a living thing that grows fast when it is warm, slows down when it gets cold and dies if it gets too hot. Something that needs to grow in yeast population and flavour at the rate that it is being deplenished by batching. Then there is batching and managing the end product which can be done largely by repetition and formula but begs for creativity and experimentation.
I have started with just one 2 litre bottle to give the plant time to settle down and then I intend to switch to frequent batches in small bottles to give more scope for experimentation.
 
Jennifer N. June 19, 2020
I made this and it came out to 4 liters of pretty strong ginger beer. Great recipe. Be sure to keep things sterile.
 
Deb June 6, 2020
Does anyone know if I can substitute de-bittered brewers yeast for the champagne yeast? If so would the amounts be the same? I’ve gone ahead and made the ginger starter this way yesterday but the yeast doesn’t look like it’s dissolved and the jar certainly isn’t warm to the touch. Perhaps my warm water wasn’t at the right temperature? Just wondering if I should scrap it now? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks
 
Jsizzle May 26, 2020
I think this recipe terrible. Why do you need to make a ginger bug if you're already adding yeast?? "Enough sugar so it's very sweet"??? Mine first batch turned out to be waaaaaay to sugary and no alcohol. Going to try another recipe
 
Mark April 14, 2020
All that work for 1 litre of Ginger Beer?
 
brianf December 18, 2020
I was just thinking the exact same thing. I've done something where I've peeled and grated potatoes. I've then grated ginger and added raisins and various fruits for flavor. Obviously with the obligatory sugar and yeast, baker's yeast suffices. 5 days and it kicks like a mule and taste mostly like ginger
 
Pisanella May 15, 2021
This recipe made 6 litres
 
Trever J. November 24, 2019
“ It's impossible to gauge the alcohol content of your ginger beer...”
Get a hydrometer off amazon for less than $10 and you will become a mad scientist with the very possible ability to gauge the alcohol content of your ginger beer.
 
Renée August 8, 2019
I made the ginger bug and it seemed to be going great: The ginger had all floated to the top and I was seeing bubbles. I did not have time to bottle it after a week so I simply kept feeding it and keeping it warm. Now it smells like something fermented (definitely not unpleasant or foul) and it has an alcoholic taste to it with a nice bite. My question is, should I bother bottling it, or does it have to be bottled while it still has bubbles? I even added a pinch more yeast to see if it would reboot but it still looks flat. Is it dead?
 
Dobbie R. February 23, 2019
Thanks for sharing this. Can I ask what is the capacity of the soda bottles?
 
Dave P. August 7, 2016
Bottled mine yesterday and it already tasted great. I added a red chilli which has given it a lovely kick. Measurements are all a bit "guessy", but I used a hydrometer and think it could end up being around 4.5-5.5% abv (If all the sugar is converted). My thinking is that as soon as it is carbonated it's ready to drink, depending on how sweet you like it and how much alcohol you want it to have? Remember that at this early stage, your kids will love it too!
 
Dave P. August 7, 2016
Early stage meaning " a day or two". I don't let my kids drink alcohol, apart from very tiny samples!
 
Linda R. January 12, 2016
I made this, so spicy and delicious! I sweetened with Agave and added lime juice. Perfection! Jalepenos add a nice kick.
 
Patrick B. November 12, 2015
This recipe drove me nuts because the details got a little fuzzy towards the end of the steps.

I haven't sampled the final results but I made this recipe with one 2-Liter and one 1-Liter bottle and had some additional left over to keep the plant going.

I used 1 cup of the strained ginger liquid and 1 cup of sugar for each liter.
 
Sorley B. January 21, 2015
I made this recipe as written and opened the first bottle today. It's fantastic! Served it to four friends and they loved it and plan to make it themselves. Perfect, simple, and really fun to make my first home brew.
 
monica_m August 29, 2015
I've got the plant going right now and am a couple of days away from bottling it. Does it take the entire plant to make 1 liter? Or is it potent enough for 2L or more?
 
avzdean January 20, 2015
Most other recipes ive seen there is some sort of heating process, but yours doesnt have any heating directions. am i correct in this interpretation? or does the plant start on the stove or something that im missing?
 
Glenda D. October 17, 2018
I read at the start to warm water with sugar But only warm not hot
 
Rebecca July 3, 2014
Can I use a glass carboy instead of plastic bottle, if I have a 1-way airlock, or do you just say plastic so that I don't have to make an equipment investment? Also, if I wanted to make this an alcoholic beverage, would I just need to add more sugar? Thanks!
 
Jacob May 29, 2014
Hey Catherine and People who have made this recipe before! Just wondering if there is any advice from you guys about doubling the batch or if there is anyway to keep the plant going on the counter? thx
 
Bonnie April 19, 2014
I made this and it turned out pretty good. It was overpoweringly gingery- so string that if you inhaled while drinking your eyes would water. I ended up mixing equal parts of ginger beer with sugar water to make it more palatable. I am about to start a second batch and I'm going to skip adding more ginger each day to see if that makes a difference. A suggestion I'd make is having more specifics on measurements. Originally I was going to bottle in two liter bottles, then ended up doing one liter bottles. I believe the author was intending even smaller bottles like 20 oz soda bottles. I had made too much sugar water (trying to best guess) so I decided to put the rest of the sugar water back in the "plant" and see if it woukd continue to ferment since a lot of yeast got left in the ginger mixture. I've now bottled this second generation stuff and waiting to see how it turns out. It's definitely taking longer yo carbonate (only releasing the air every 3-4 days so far). It's almost like having a yeast starter for friendship bread. All in all, it was a fairly easy thing to make and really fun to share the end results. Thanks for the recipe!
 
KarensKuisine October 30, 2014
There is measurements.....Did you use the 1Tbl of ginger and 1 Tbl of sugar ? Maybe that was the problem.
 
KarensKuisine October 30, 2014
Easiest way to figure your water would to be to fill the bottles with water minus head room and ginger bug water...
 
KarensKuisine October 30, 2014
Sorry, they call it a plant some call it a bug. You can also make it with wild yeast like natural sour dough is made.
 
Neil M. September 8, 2015
I've done this in glass beer bottles with no ill-effects. I've used the Grolsh, (or similar flip top resealable bottles). If you have previous brew experience, you'll be fine. If you're worried about exploding bottles, put the batch in an out of the way place. I've been brewing for 30 years, and have never had a bottle explode. If you're REALLY worries about exploding bottles, us champagne bottles.
 
Dave P. August 7, 2016
Surely, by far the simplest way to work out how much water you'll need is by measuring the ginger solution, dividing it by the number of bottles you're using and working out the remaining capacity?! That's what i did! However, the amount of sugar to make it sweet enough, is purely guesswork from this recipe.
 
Dave P. August 7, 2016
I think mine was about 100-150 grams to 750 ml. ( I'll know if it's right or not when I drink it in a couple of weeks?)