Traditional Jamaican ginger beer is a non-fizzy beverage that is naturally sweetened. Although it is a non-alcoholic drink, its fermentation leaves traces of alcohol. Jamaican ginger beer is produced by the natural fermentation process of ginger, lime juice, sugar, and water. It can be tailored to anyone’s taste by making it extra sweet or extra potent in its gingery spice.
Ginger beer is a popular refreshing beverage in Jamaica. It is often consumed by itself, but it also goes well with a spicy jerk chicken dinner or pork. Here, we will discuss not only the history of Jamaican ginger beer but also how to make it and where to find it.
History of Jamaican Ginger Beer
Ginger beer recipes were some of the first carbonated drink recipes in history. The rich and gingery flavor of ginger beer is still popular today. Homemade Jamaican ginger beer has a pleasant and unique flavor, providing a spicy, yet fresh drink. While some only drink this during the holidays, this beverage in enjoyed in Jamaica all year round.
The origins of ginger beer date back all the way to the colonial spice trade with the Eastern world and the Caribbean, which were sugar-producing islands. During the 13th and 14th centuries, ginger was among the most popular spices for trade, along with black pepper. It was common worldwide during the 18th century and beyond. While ginger is predominately the spice used in this drink, other spices have been added at times throughout the years. Jamaican ginger beer’s alcohol content has had a lifelong limit of 2% due to excise tax laws set in in 1855. Only a few brewers have created a product with more alcohol than 2%.
Although ginger is native to India and China, it is grown worldwide, especially in tropical places such as Jamaica. Ginger was originally consumed for its medicinal purposes, such as its aid in digestion, relief from headaches, and anti-inflammatory properties that helped diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. It has also been known to sooth sore throats, treat nausea, reduce fat, and improve circulation. However, this strong drink how now become a staple beverage of Jamaican culture.
How to Prepare Jamaican Ginger Beer at Home
Preparing this refreshing beverage at home is simple and requires only a few ingredients. Although it takes some time to sit, the end product is worth the wait, as it needs time to ferment.
You will need:
- 1 pound of fresh ginger root
- 10 cups of hot water
- 3-5 cloves (optional)
- 1 tablespoon cream of tartar
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons rum (optional)
To create authentic Jamaican ginger beer at home, start with one pound of ginger, 1/3 cup of lime juice, and ten cups of hot water.
5 Steps to Preparing Ginger Beer:
- Blend the water and ginger together in batches. If you try to blend the entire pound of ginger at once, it will likely distress your blender. Slice the ginger into pieces and keep the blender running as you slowly add in the ginger, piece by piece. You can make this even easier by leaving the skin on the ginger as you add it to the blender, as it will be strained out later.
- Add one heaping tablespoon of cream of tartar. This will help the fermenting process begin.
- Let this mixture sit for at least four hours or overnight in the refrigerator. At this point, to add some more flavor, you can add some cloves to rest in the ginger beer as well if you prefer.
- Strain the beer. Use a fine mesh strainer to strain out the peels and cloves if you have added them. At this point, the ginger beer is strained and ready to be sweetened.
- Add a third of a cup of lime juice and one cup of brown sugar. Mix the ginger beer well so the sugar dissolves and the lime juice is distributed evenly.
This will create a strong ginger beer that is best served over ice to cut down on its potency. Some choose to add two tablespoons of rum to their finished product. Bottle up your finished product in a clear bottle and store it in the fridge.
This traditional Jamaican ginger beer recipe is as potent and sweet as it is made in Jamaica. It is important to know, however, that the intensity of the flavor of the ginger beer increases with time. This means the longer you store it, the most potent it will taste. If you prefer a mild flavor, add some extra water to dilute it. While traditional Jamaican ginger beer is not carbonated, some choose to add it to soda water in order to not only dilute it but to also carbonate it.
Where Can You Try Jamaican Ginger Beer in a Restaurant?
An authentic Jamaican ginger beer is offered at Element 112 in Sylvania, Ohio. Their ginger beer is brewed in Kingston, Jamaica using the finest Jamaican ginger, which is considered to be the best ginger in the world. This ginger beer also uses Jamaican cane sugar and a hint of royal Jamaican new crop rum.
If you are able to take a trip to Jamaica to try their ginger beer locally, 3 Dives Restaurant and Cliff Bar is a great place to do so. Located in Westmoreland, Jamaica, this casual restaurant serves traditional Jamaican food and drinks, providing an authentic taste of the culture.
Jamaican ginger beer is not only used for medicinal purposes, but also as a refreshing drink all year round. It can be easily made at home to your liking, depending on how strong or sweet you prefer your ginger beer. Aside from creating a bit of a mess, this is a simple drink to make with only a few ingredients required. Share your favorite recipe for Jamaican ginger beer and also what you like to serve with it.