Friday, 17 January 2014

Ginger Ale (No Brewing Required)

TADA!! Homemade ginger ale! And they said I couldn't do it.... they didn't actually, but I wanted some drama in that sentence.

 Ginger ale: one of my life's longest abiding pleasures. Many a time has a glass of ginger ale accompanied me on a winter night, a Christmas celebration, or sat beside me on the bedside table when I was ill or tired. Ever since I was very little, I can remember my dad buying me a bottle of Schwepps ginger ale whenever I asked for one as one of his little indulgences for me, and he still does even though I'm all grown up.

In my teens, Tesco made a Tesco Finest Jamaican Ginger Root Ale, that was the most beautiful version of the drink I've ever tasted: it was really full of flavour, not too sweet, and was so spicy that the edges of my lips with burn and tingle a bit. I only was it one Christmas when I was around 14, and never since; the closest I've come to tasting it again was when my friend from Roscommon bought a four-pack of Australian Bundaburg ginger ales in brown bottles.

I find it hard nowadays to find a ginger ale that's not sticky sweet, but has freshness and depth of flavour. The Schwepps stuff is nice and chuggable, but it's not the most fulfilling of ginger ale experiences one could have.

So, about three years ago I tried making ginger ale by brewing and it was horrible. I remember for the laugh my boyfriend at the time shaking it up until it was rock solid from the pressure of the bubbles and lamping it against a wall: the explosion was quite spectacular!

It was only when I saw a video of 'How to Make Ginger Ale' online that I considered making it as a cordial to be diluted with sparkling water... which is a genius idea. I thank the man on Youtube who inspired me to take his recipe and fiddle with it to my taste.

Makes 1 pint (560 millilitres) of cordial, which can ideally make about 5 pints (2.8 litres) of finished ginger ale
  • 8 ounces (225 grammes) ginger root, peeled and sliced into thin pieces
  • 10 ounces (300 grammes) sugar or 7½ ounces (210 grammes) clear honey
  • 1 medium lemon, washed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 3/4 pints water
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Optional: 1 cinnamon stick

  • Using a paring knife, carefully peel the rind off the lemon in strips, making sure to peel off only the yellow part and not the white part.
  • Place the peeled rind, along with the ginger root, sugar (or honey) and salt into a large saucepan. If you want even more spice and aromatic goodness, add the chilli flakes and cinnamon stick; I like my ginger ale so spicy it tingles my lips.
  • Pour in the water, stir it all up until it's evenly combined, then heat over medium-high heat until the sugar has dissolved and it comes to boil.
  • Once boiling, reduce the heat to simmer and cover with a lid. Simmer for an hour to allow the spices to release their goodness into the syrup.
  • Uncover and boil rapidly for 10 to 15 minutes to reduce and thicken. You should end up with about a pint (560 millilitres) of cordial.
  • Strain the mixture into a jug through a large sieve. To catch every single bit of chilli flake, sediment and whatever, you can line the sieve with a clean handkerchief. 
  • You can keep the ginger pieces and lemon peel if you like to crystallise later, or you can compost them. If the cinnamon stick has any bit of aroma left, you can wash it, dry it, and reuse it.
  • Allow the cordial to cool to room temperature. Once cool, squeeze the lemon juice into the jug through a sieve to catch all the seeds and bits. Give it a mix, then chill until cold.
  • Serve diluted with fizzy water (and ice cubes, if you like). The best ratio is 1 part cordial to 4 parts water. You could also serve diluted with hot water for a warming treat when you're feeling under the weather.

This ginger ale is very fiery and fresh! If you don't want it as spicy, you can adjust the simmering while covered time.

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