• Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Total time: 2 days
  • Servings: 2 quarts
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner to intermediate

Ginger beer dates back hundreds of years and could be considered the ancestor of ginger ale. The American version is lightly carbonated and generally made with yeast. Jamaican ginger beer isn’t fizzy at all and often mixed with soda water, rum and fruit. This recipe is adapted from 2009 Gourmet magazine recipe for basic American ginger beer.

  • 4-ounce piece of fresh gingerroot, peeled 
  • 1 cup fine white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 quarts distilled or purified water, not tap water

The prep time for ginger beer is short and sweet but grating the ginger can be tricky. For best results use a microplane grater, a nifty hand-held rasp that renders even the hardest nuts, fruits and vegetables into fine sand without turning them into mush. It’s definitely the best tool for zesting and works perfectly with stubborn ginger.

Hold the peeled gingerroot by one of its limbs and swiftly rub the other end back and forth over the grater until you have 3 1/2 teaspoons of ginger. Put the ginger in a fine-mesh strainer over a glass bowl or measuring cup and press out the liquid. You need 3 tablespoons of juice for the beer, or more if you like it really spicy.

In a clean plastic 2-liter bottle with tight-fitting cap, combine the ginger juice, sugar, lemon juice, yeast and salt. Pour the water in, swirling it in the bottle as you go to dissolve the sugar. Leave 1 1/2 inches room at the top and screw the cap on tightly. Invert the bottle several times, gently shaking until all the sugar is dissolved.

Let the bottle stand at room temperature for 48 hours. The bottle will become hard and won’t yield to a squeeze. Put it in the fridge to stop the fermentation and to make it the perfect temperature for a refreshing drink.

Most Jamaican ginger beer recipes call for lime juice instead of lemon and often a bit of clove and a shot of rum. Not a fizzy drink, the West Indies version is sometimes not fermented at all, just a combination of lime, sugar, crushed ginger and water.

  1. Dark and Stormy: dark rum and ginger beer
  2. Frazzleberry: ginger beer, lime juice and raspberry vodka
  3. Moscow Mule: ginger beer and vodka