As we are sure you are aware, it’s been pretty hot outside recently. And when it’s hot, it calls for big pitchers of ice cool, refreshing drinks. Cocktails are an obvious choice as they are often paired with zingy flavours like ginger or mint and citrusy flavours like lemon and lime. Shandys are also loved for their refreshing qualities and low alcohol content. Well what if we told you we had a recipe for a shandy cocktail that has both ginger, lime and beer!? Sounds almost too good to be true. Make a big jug of this with lots of ice for a fantastically refreshing antidote to this heat!
Ginger beer plant
“Real” ginger beer is made using the ginger beer plant (GBP). Don’t be fooled by the name though, it is actually not a plant, but a living organism discovered by naturist Harry Marshall Ward. BGP is actually a group of tiny grains, that take the form of a creamy jelly-like substance.
Marshall Ward described the GBP as being "a composite organism consisting of a fungus, the yeast Saccharomyces florentinus (formerly Saccharomyces pyriformis) and the bacterium Lactobacillus hilgardii (formerly Brevibacterium vermiforme)." Here is the technical part, the bacteria form a gelatinous cluster in which the yeast cells reside. A symbiotic relationship is formed where the yeast expels alcohol and the bacterium eats it. This allows the yeast to thrive.
And why is this method interesting to us? Because it involves fermentation of the naturally occurring yeast and sugars, and we love fermentation. The fermentation process can be amazing to watch, as with many good home brews. The little jelly “crystals” float up and down in the jug. If looked after properly it will produce a lifetime supply of naturally fizzy ginger beer with this method. Although this is the authentic ginger beer it can be tricky to make, and your GBP will require a lot of attention. In recent years popularity of using Saccharomyces florentinus has died out and ease of using brewer's yeast has replaced it. Using this yeast will still produce a gingery beer, but it’s not a “true” ginger beer plant.
Ginger beer recipe
Don’t worry we have an alternative. We have a way of making zingy ginger beer that’s super simple, no fuss and can be whipped up in seconds. Use your favourite light beer, a lager or pilsner will work best. Pair this with ginger ale and stem ginger for a punchy, refreshing shandy.
3 tbsp crystallized stem ginger chopped
3 tbsp lime juice
4/5 bottles or cans of beer
1 litre ginger ale
For this you’ll need a big jug or pitcher
Optional: 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar, fresh mint, lime slice
In a small bowl, add lime juice and the chopped ginger. Break up the ginger as much as you can and mash it up into the juice. Next you have two options. Either you can add this lime-ginger mix directly into your jug or you can strain the mixture to remove any of the bits. A tea or cocktail strainer will work fine. Make sure to press the pieces against the strainer to release all the juices and gingery goodness. Add the juice to the pitcher and discard anything that remains in the strainer. Now you can pour the beer and the ginger ale into the jug. Add a load of ice and give the drink a stir.
If you want to spruce up your drinks a little bit you can prepare glasses by pre-freezing or adding a flavoured rim. For the latter, roll the rim of your glass in lime juice and then roll in either salt or sugar or even very small bits of crystallized ginger. You can also add mint or lime slice for a little extra kick!
Non-alcoholic ginger beer
The great thing about this method of making ginger beer is that you can make a non-alcoholic version that will taste almost exactly the same. Same beery, gingery taste but with less of the alcohol. We have so many great non-alcoholic lagers that will taste amazing.