THE GOUDA LIFE · Oct 16, 2013

Hiss & Pop [Thyme Ginger Beer + Dark and Stormy Recipe]

I’ve been experimenting with fermentation lately. It all started with a basket of elderberries from Valley Wild Edibles that turned into a lacto-fermented (using whey from yogurt) Elderberry Soda. It was good, but didn’t have that fizzy sparkle that I was hoping for. I left it at that for a while as I tend to do when food-things don’t go my way.

My second attempt came as I prepared for our 4th annual “Friendsgiving”, where we welcome a hoard of our close friends to our place for a Thanksgiving feast. Allan and I typically provide the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes (this year: sage brown butter turkey from The Piggy Market, Apple/Sausage/Fennel Stuffing as well as a vegan Wild Rice, Mushroom and Apple variety along with Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes) and everyone else provides a dish or wine or dessert. Whatever they feel like bringing along. I wanted to do something special for our friends as they arrived, so I started to toy with the notion of doing a homemade ginger beer that would be used to welcome guests in the form of a Dark and Stormy (a cocktail consisting of ginger beer, lemon or lime, and dark rum).

This attempt at home fermentation was far more successful than my first. The ginger beer was fizzy, sweet and slightly spicy. Waking up in the morning, or anytime I was in the kitchen really, was so thrilling as I got to check in on the ginger beer’s progress. Placing my ear to the bottle and listening for the hiss and pop of carbonation was a new and exciting experience. Sometimes I just sat there and watched it bubble away, completely awed at how sugar, yeast, ginger and water could transform like this. I highly recommend trying to make some at home, even if it’s just to get a better feel for fermentation.

The cocktails were well received but I wanted to alter the recipe a little to jazz it up. Adding some thyme to the simple syrup was a welcome addition. Herbal, spicy, sweet and fizzy. Fantastic on it’s own or as a cocktail. I hope you’ll give this one a go. It’s the perfect foray into home fermentation and might just get you interested enough to experiment further.

Next on my list: honey wine! Stay tuned.

Thyme Ginger Beer ( Dark and Stormy Recipe)
makes 2 liters of ginger beer 4 cocktails (with leftover beer)
ginger beer adapted from Beantown Baker

This ginger beer produces quite a bit of carbonation. You want to make sure you don’t seal the fermenting bottles completely so the carbonation can escape. I made the mistake of screwing them on too tightly and created a ginger-beer geyser in my kitchen. All over the ceiling, walls, floor, dog. EVERYWHERE. You’ve been warned.

2 sprigs of thyme
4-6 heaping tbsp. freshly grated ginger, skin-on (4 will produce a slightly spicy ginger beer, 6 will produce a more pronounced spice)
1 cup raw cane sugar
1/4 tsp dry-active yeast (bakers will work, but champagne yeast* works better)
filtered water

In a sauce pan, bring 2 cups of water, thyme, ginger and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and cool to room temperature.

In two plastic or glass 1 liter (or one 2-liter) bottles/jars, add the room temperature thyme-ginger syrup and the yeast. Fill the bottles with filtered water leaving about 1” of room on top. If you have a screw cap, you can screw it on very loosely – 1 full turn at most. Otherwise, place a few layers of cheesecloth over the opening of the bottle and secure with an elastic. Let sit in a warm, dry spot in your home for 48 hours exactly. After 12 hours, you’ll start to see (and hear!) some bubbles. After 24, it will start becoming fizzy. At 48 hours, it should be very fizzy and delicious. Secure the lids on the bottles and place in the fridge to halt the fermentation. Once cold, you can drink like that but over ice makes it extra delicious.

*You can buy champagne yeast online or in most home brewing shops.

Ginger-Thyme Dark and Stormys
makes 4 cocktails

ice cubes (or crushed)
4 ounces dark, high quality rum (Goslings or The Kraken for something different)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 liter ginger-thyme beer
lemon rounds, to garnish
thyme sprigs, to garnish

Place a few ice cubes in each of the 4 glasses and top each with 1 ounce (or more) of dark rum. Divide the lemon juice amongst the glasses and top each with ginger beer, some lemon slices and thyme sprigs, if using.

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