Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ginger Ale #2

A couple weeks ago, I visited the new pizzeria in my neighborhood, Pi Bar. I spied in their cooler a tiny bottle of Fentiman's Ginger Beer, and asked for a bottle on the way out. I'd intended to savor it at home, but the bartender opened it for me. It was 125ml of delight, sharply gingery, but with strong herbal fragrances. The label keeps nothing secret: it lists ginger, speedwell, juniper, and yarrow extracts, rather than the usual, coy 'natural flavors.' Although it contains carbonated water, this British company seems to actually brew with yeast at some step of their production. So I promptly went to Rainbow and bought juniper berries and yarrow flowers. (They didn't have 'speedwell.') These, I hoped, would add a better complexity to the ginger-sugar combination than the fruit juice of my last batch.

3 oz young ginger (no skinning needed)
4 cardamom pods, broken
2 Tbsp yarrow flowers
1 Tbsp dry juniper berries
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp citric acid
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/8 tsp ale yeast
1 gal water

I opened a bottle after six cool days, and it was drinkably fizzy, though I'll give it another day before chilling. It's very satisfying, with a hint of herbal scent. I think the cream of tartar gives it a smooth mouth-feel. It definitely can use a good bit more of the juniper and especially the yarrow, which smells lovely raw. It might, at some point, be worth trying to extract the essence with alcohol, rather than just boiling, though that opens up a whole new line of experimentation...

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