It turns out that soda hasn’t always been the high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavor concoction in an aluminum can that we know today.
For hundreds of years (and probably much longer) cultures around the world have made various forms of naturally fermented “sodas” from sweetened herbal teas or fruit juice mixes. These natural fermented drinks contained beneficial enzymes and probiotics to boost health and were a far cry from the unhealthy versions we have today.
This version uses a fermented ginger culture to create a naturally fizzy soda! Ginger is a delicious herb that has been used in many cultures for its health-boosting properties. From my herb profile of ginger:
Ginger has been used in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years and is said to help:
- Soothe digestive disturbances
- Alleviate nausea (great in early pregnancy)
- Reduce fever
- Calm coughing and respiratory troubles
- Stimulate the circulatory system
- Help relieve muscle aches and pain
- Can help get rid of dandruff
- Emerging evidence shows it helps lower cholesterol
- Japanese research has found ginger is effective in lowering blood pressure and cancer risk
This natural recipe for ginger ale uses fresh ginger and a cultured ginger mixture (called a ginger bug) to create a naturally fermented and naturally fizzy ginger ale. Though this mixture can contain a small amount of alcohol if left to ferment at room temperature for weeks, we use the short brew method to create a fizzy soda without the alcohol.
Delicious Ginger Ale
Homemade ginger ale is soothing for digestive disturbances and contains probiotics and enzymes. As with any fermented product, I’d suggest starting with a small amount (4 ounce or so) and working up, as all the probiotics and enzymes can cause an upset stomach in those who aren’t used to consuming fermented products. I found small amounts of this mixture helpful in early pregnancy and any time one of us has an upset stomach, to ward off nausea. It also just tastes great!
This recipe makes 2 quarts of natural ginger ale, though the recipe can be adjusted up or down by using a ratio of ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup ginger bug starter per 1 quart of water.
Homemade Ginger Ale Recipe
- 8 cups filtered water
- 1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger root minced
- ½ cup organic sugar or rapadura sugar. If using plain sugar add 1 TBSP molasses for flavor and minerals
- ½ tsp sea salt or Himalayan salt
- ½ cup fresh lemon or lime juice
- ½ cup homemade ginger bug or ¼ cup whey for a faster recipe though the flavor won't be quite as good. Here is a tutorial for how to make whey
- Make a "wort" for your ginger ale by placing 3 cups of the water, minced ginger root, sugar, molasses if needed, and salt in a saucepan and bringing to a boil.
- Simmer the mixture for about five minutes until sugar is dissolved and mixture starts to smell like ginger.
- Remove from heat and add additional water. This should cool it but if not, allow it to cool to room temperature before moving to the next step.
- Add fresh lemon or lime juice and ginger bug or whey.
- Transfer to a 2 quart glass mason jar with an air-tight lid. Stir well and put lid on.
- Leave on the counter for 2-3 days until carbonated. Watch this step carefully. Using whey will cause it to ferment more quickly. It should be bubble and should "hiss" like a soda when the lid is removed. This is very temperature dependent and the mixture may need to be burped or stirred during this fermentation time on the counter.
- Transfer to refrigerator where it will last indefinitely.
- Strain before drinking.
Have you ever made a naturally fermented drink like ginger ale, kombucha, or water kefir? What is your favorite? Share below!
Discussion (430 Comments)
Since the ginger bug can be used to make other sodas, does anyone have a good recipe for creme soda, perhaps using the ginger bug?
Working on it 🙂
Thank you for this recipe, as well as the Ginger Bug recipe! I just made 3 batches of this and it is now sitting out for the 2-3 days. If you strain into bottles after leaving on the counter for 2-3 days, will it lose it’s carbonation or will it re-carbonate in the fridge?
Thanks again and I can’t wait to try it!
You typically strain the ginger from the bug before placing the the secondary and just add the liquid, but you should be able to strain and have it keep its carbonation as long as it has been tightly capped the whole time.
Sorry for the reply on an old thread, I’m new here! I’ve made a couple of batches this way and I have a problem with the carbonation as well. It carbonates fine out on the counter, however when I funnel into bottle, it fizzes up and seems to lose it carbonation that way; sort of like when a soda can explodes.
Do you know how to do this transfer into the bottles without the carbonation fizzing out during the process? I’ve tried going slower and still have the same issue. Otherwise I love this recipe, taste great but more carbo would be even better!
Pour slowly and preferably along the side of the bottle. Like a bartender pours a beer.
Or you van use a hose like when bottling vine. Once the mouth of the hose is under the surface it should not fizz as much.
I have poured the wort and the bug into individual bottles and let it ferment in the bottles. Another tactic I want to try is to let the bug ferment in a 1/2 gallon jar, then pour it into individual bottles that have 1/2 t. of sugar in each and try a second fermentation in the bottle.
I’ve just put this recipe in the 2 qt jar, can’t wait to try it! As to carbonation Amanda was asking about in my kombucha making experience you can’t fill the bottles all the way to the top or there’s not enough space for the carbonation to build. If I understood what you were asking.
Waseem El Barb
Will it have traces of Alcohol?!
Traces yes, but not so much you can measure it. Fir that you would need to ferment it for weeks.
I just made my first batch. After I made my ginger bug and poured in my two mason jars I didn’t strain it I guess so there is a lot of ginger sediment in my ginger ale. Can this be added back to my ginger bug and also if I keep the ginger bug in the fridge, when i feed it adding ginger and sugar, do I also add water?
thank you for your help.
Hi Kim, if you are feeding just to maintain your bug I would add one tablespoon sugar, one tablespoon minced ginger and one tablespoon water weekly. I make one quart batches. I use one quarter cup ginger bug per quart then replace it with one quarter cup water and two tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of ginger. Then I return it to the fridge. I wouldn’t add the sediment from the ginger ale back to the bug.
When replenishing the bug, do you add more water along with the sugar and ginger?
Yes, as needed 🙂
A word of caution about ginger in pregnancy: my understanding is that it has abortifacient properties, and should be avoided in any significant quantities in early pregnancy, particularly if you have a history of miscarriage. It is a frequent ingredient in prenatals, too, because of its ability to sooth the stomach, but some may want to avoid it entirely!
I just want to clarify ginger has been shown to be safe in pregnancy, and ACOG’s official statement about it says that ginger is a safe alternative option for the treatment of nausea during pregnancy, although studies have been limited (as with ALL medicinal uses of herbs!).
First, I just finished my first ginger brew. Cheers, Wellness Mama- it’s amazing. I really appreciate the recipes you post!!!
And, in reply to Abby and Miyo,
from personal experience and extensive reading (ie: Hygieia: A WOMAN’S HERBAL, Susun Weed, etc) I’ve found ginger to effectively bring on a mense, as well as to cause miscarriage and/or bleeding in early pregnancy – and I mean the first 8 weeks.
Every woman’s body is different, but it is possible to affect pregnancy with ginger – in large amounts – such as over a pound of crystallized ginger.
So, although it may for some of us cause bleeding or bring on a mense, for others it may not. Start with small amounts and ginger is amazing for pain relief during menstruation, bringing on a stalled mense, and for pain relief in birth.
Ginger is also known to thin blood slightly, part of why it works well with uterus, but also can cause more bleeding in labor if taken within an hour of birthing. Also, it can help to effectively lower blood pressure.
There’s lots of research happening in Japan on the positive effects on the blood and circulation, as well as ginger possibly reducing cancer risks. 🙂
Enjoy! And if pregnant, take cautiously if you’re not familiar with ginger. It can be extremely effective in prevention or management of nausea, but is a strong plant medicine and should be regarded as such.
Ok, then my question is would ginger ale be good for pregnant women? My wife is 3 months into her pregnancy and drinks a cup of water with ginger and lemon every morning for nausea and she has been ok. I just want to make sure the fermented drink is also ok before i make it.
Ok, so is there a significant alcohol content in this? I’m a little leery since it’s been called “beer”. I’m all about healthy probiotics, but how do I know I’m not making an alcoholic drink?! Or would it have to ferment for much longer than just a few days to be of concern? Slight content might be ok, but I’m a bit scared of making fermented drinks, because I won’t know if I’ve made alcohol, which I don’t drink, and I most certainly would not want to give to my kids…
My hubby brews beer at home so we have the equipment to measure alcohol content. According to the reading I took right before it went in the fridge it had no or negligible alcohol (less than an over-ripe banana). As long as it is put in the fridge when it has carbonated, the alcohol content should not increase. Most beers take 4-6 weeks of fermentation to get their alcohol content…
So if you let it ferment for the 4-6 weeks, you can make an actual alcoholic ginger beer? If so do you need to keep burping it? I just made my first batch this morning using organic ginger, lemons and sugar. I didn’t have a glass bottle, I had to use plastic, within 4 hours the plastic was completely expanded and I had to burp it for I was afraid it would explode. Fizzed all the way up to the opening and almost came out. Should it go in the fridge already?
hello, I make root beer drinks etc. im interested in these recipe’s like the root beer
ginger ale dr. pepper. in a 4 gallon mix
to approx. make 50 beer bottle worth.. any thoughts.
so what is the correct amount of ingredients for this quantity.
Study the life cycle of yeast to know about alcohol in these brews. Catch it early, and the alcohol will indeed be minimal, but then the carbon dioxide (fizz) will also be less. The byproducts of the yeast growth are alcohol and carbon dioxide. If you have fizz, you have alcohol.
I drank Ginger root tea 1 inch ginger root cheese graded into like cheese , 2 tea spoons of honey and 1 tea spoon of lemon juice for 1 month an it lowered my Blood pressure an my CHOL. over 40 points i am no longer under doctors care
This is interesting since I am trying to get my BP under control. During that month did you make any other dietary or lifestyle changes?
Could you add keifer whey to the fermenting ginger culture?
I did this recently (actually I skimmed the foam off a drink I made with milk kefir whey) and it looks like there’s much more active microbial activity vs my control in which I just used the ginger and its natural yeast. But I can’t say for sure.
Is all the sugar necessary? Could honey or stevia be used?
Here are my thoughts about the sugar in this recipe. First, the purpose of sugar in a ferment is to feed the good bacteria & allow them to proliferate. Second, there are 24 teaspoons in a half cup of sugar. Putting that into 8 cups of water means there could potentially be a max of 3 teaspoons of sugar/cup of ginger ale. (Obviously that is far less sugar tyan you’ll find in any commercial soda.) Lastly, there won’t be that much sugar in this finished product because the probiotic bacteria are going to consume a lot of the sugar as this mixture ferments.
Honey is not a good alternative because honey has antibacterial properties that will work against the fermentation process. I don’t think that stevia is a good option to feed the good bacteria, which again is the process we are working to foster here.
In my opinion it is best to use sucanat or rapadura as alternatives to refined sugar in fermenting foods. I hope this helps!
Question-Where did you hear about honey killing the good bacteria? I use raw honey all of the time to make fruit mead which is just a fermented fruit drink. I learned how to make it from the book “The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. He has some awesome and interesting stories about native peoples making honey fermented drinks. So for my experience I would think that honey might really work. It would be worth experimenting with anyway. 🙂
BTW-This is a great looking recipe and I am going to try it! 🙂
I was advised not to use honey in ferments when I started making water keifer from the tutorials on the “Cultures for Health” website. I’ll also cite this link with more info about honey as a natural antibiotic… https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100630111037.htm
I make mead on a regular basis, what you are making is a melomel(sp) the natural sugars in the fruit content is what allows the yeast to ferment it. One a culture is going strong then it can handle the honey but if you try to ferment the honey by its self without anything else to feed the bacteria you will seldom be successful in getting it to start. Hope that clears this up a bit.
I make mead too! Just started this year actually. I was just saying yesterday that I would love to make a ginger mead and an anise star mead. I make the quick, cheating, counter top, 1 gallon, balloon style haha. I use regular bread yeast, raisin and fruits, honey and water. I was wondering if the alcohol would be strong enough to pull a significant amount of the medicinal quality out of the herbs/roots. Eventually, I will get carboys and whatnot. I think I might try a ginger root mead.
Once upon a time I did make ginger ale using 50:50 raw sugar:honey (vol:vol). It brewed very quickly (too quickly, explosively) and had an unappealing and bitter taste (it was a strongly flavoured honey). I wouldn’t reccommend it.
I have successfully killed my kombucha culture using honey. Mead is made by ADDing yeast, whereas ferments are made using the natural bacteria found on the ginger or plant you are fermenting. If you are using good, raw honey it will have antibacterial properties that will weaken your culture and learn the probiotic effect. If you cook the honey first you might have a chance but then you will lose any benefit of using honey.
I only know, that honey when added to water, ferments. Difficult and dangerous to bottle in the long term.
I do use its fermentation aspect with various odd brews I , mm, ‘throw together’, but for a good ginger beer, I had issues with taste, changing taste due to continued fermentation, and ! Exploded Grolsch bottle and plastic. Hopeless and downright dangerous.
Honey is a perfectly acceptable substitute for “sugar”. Honey only inhibits microbial growth in it’s natural state, due to it’s hygroscopic nature which is diluted when it is added to water or fruit juice, and some honeys will ferment on their own if the bees haven’t dried it completely.
I’ve been making award winning mead (melomels, hydromels, metheglins) for 20 years, so I have a bit of experience with this particular process.
Honey will give a better flavor, as well.
Honey should work fine. When you make mead, the guys at the home-brew supply shop suggest using double the amount of yeast you’d use for the same amount of beer or wine, in order to ovecome the honey’s bacteriocidal tendencies; I’ve always done that and I’ve never had a bit of trouble. I would imagine the same thing might apply here: if you’re using honey, you might think about using a bit more of the ginger bug, maybe twice as much. It probably isn’t even necessary, but it wouldn’t hurt anything and might help.
What about coconut palm sugar instead of cane sugar for the ginger bug? Or brown sugar?
I would assume that just following the recipe will be your best bet for results. I feel sorry for food bloggers when they get a million questions about all of the possible alternatives to be used and in what ratio – yadda yadda!!! We have made this ginger ale multiple times with great success. JUST FOLLOW THE RECIPE PEOPLE!
@Sarah- I think you need to be a little considerate and understand that not all parts of the world carry the 101 options available to you! Where I’m from, people have not even heard about rapadura let alone it being available in the market. When this the casw anyone who is not a master at making these foods will want alternatives and might not be confident about using it without clearing their doubts.
Thank you, Sarah. 🙂
Agreed!! If people want to explore alternatives just do it..don’t bother the kind person who has shared their recipe.
I am very interested in trying to make this recipe..have some reserve though.. It seems somewhat complicated and I have not been so skilled in the ways of the culinary worlds not the past….
Unfortunately, “just following the recipe” is not always an option for everyone, as Prarthana points out. Additionally, when dealing with air collected cultures, like a ginger bug or a sourdough starter, following the recipe doesn’t give the same results every time, as so much is dependent on the environment. I followed this recipe exactly, and ended up with poor results. Probably because of the type of yeast I collected in my ginger bug was not the ideal type for this recipe. Because of this, trying alternatives is a must until each person finds what works for them in their environment. There is nothing wrong with asking about what other people have tried whether they were successful or not. These discussions help everyone reading. The food bloggers can choose to answer each question if they want, or leave it up to others who are interested to join the discussion (as we can see here, many people jump in to answer the questions). That is the point of the comments section…
Hi, You are so right, If it is not broken why try to fix it.
This ginger ale works well and tastes as I remember it as a young boy.
This recipe is 5 star and my family thanks you for it.
Bob J. Lathim
Some people such as myself are Diabetic and therefore looking fo a safe alternative so your comment was rude to say the least.
That’s really interesting, thanks – I’m type 2 diabetic and wondered about the sugar content in the end product.
The sugar is about the care and feeding of the microbes not about the recipe itself. there really are few options that will work as there is no such thing as diabetic microbes. you can try using less sugar and fermenting longer to lower the sugar content then adding stevia at the end to restore some sweetness but it will not work if you use anything but some form of fermentable sugar. there are many fermentable sugars but the one thing that they all have in common is that they are sugar which of course should be limited with diabetics.
I have not tried this recipe but as a physician have a fair amount of knowledge of biology. I have successfully made kombucha.
I make Water Kefir daily. The kefir bacteria eats the sugar in the solution and so when you go to drink it, there is little to no left in it, that is also why you must add sugar to feed the bug. I use Stevia to sweeten my WK AFTER the second ferment, and not until I put it in my glass to drink. that way, I’m not getting the sugar, not ruining my WK, but am getting the sweet I desire without the calories or empty carbs. I still get all the rest of the benefits of the WK. I’m sure the Ginger bug, or any other fermented product would be the same. Use whatever you want to sweeten or flavor your liquid, but wait until after the second ferment to add it.
i make raw milk kefir,the most probiotics,less time less ingredients
I am working on my 2nd batch right now. My bug has a good fizz to it, but my 1st batch of ale never fizzed after 4 days, I drank it. Real tasty, but more like a ginger-limeade. My 2nd batch is on day 4 now and I added some more bug yesterday, still no fizz. Could the lime maybe kill the bug?
I’m having the same issue. Bug fizzed but ale didn’t. 🙁
Mine is the reverse. Bug didn’t, ale did.
My bug fizzed well and then my ginger ale didn’t really do much after three days. BUT… after putting it in the fridge so that I could add honey and lemon juice later to make it taste better, and putting off doing that for 3 or 4 days, I took it out of the fridge to find that it was fizzy and was just like I had hoped it would be before I put it in the fridge. It was delicious after adding honey and a little more lemon! So somehow it must continue fermenting in the fridge.
Mine took 2-3 weeks to fizz. And we keep it warm in our house during the day, 80F, which should cause it to ferment faster. In fact, i tried for seversl months to make kombuchs, but had vinegar within a few days. Finally gave up. But the ginger ale came out great after 3 weeks. My husband and son disagree, it seems there is some alcohol in it. Maybe next batch will work better since my ginger bug is stronger.
I must disagree with you about the honey, honey is used to ferment in mead and there are things called ferments using honey, the honey HAS to be RAW honey though and not processed honey from the supermarket or the ferment will not work
you may find that certain yeasts are more tolerant. I’ve read up (but am inexperienced at) on Komboucha vs Jun and literature definitely states sugar for Komboucha and water kefir and honey for Jun. Some people say you can ‘train’ your Scoby to be more accepting of one or the other, but they are definitely different types of sugars and other properties.
I’d imagine that it’s a lot more critical when trying to grow the baby for the first time.
SUGAR! YOU USE THE WORD NATURAL HERE, BUT SUGAR IS NOT NATURAL; PEOPLE HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO DID NOT HAVE SUGAR.
Sugar was discovered before 510 BC. Just thought you should know.
They have been using cane for thousands of years. They even found cane sugar in the Pyramids that was still viable.
I have been brewing for 20 years or so, and know that honey ferments just fine. As a matter of fact, one of the oldest fermented beverages known (about 10,000 years) is called mead. Mead is also called honeywine. This is produced by fermenting a mixture of honey and water (I prefer to use apple cider). Add yeast, and wait for everything to settle out and there you have it.
So use honey at about the same proportions that you would use sugar. Your results may vary though.
I would also invest in a small carboy and a conventional fermenter, rather than cheesecloth. These items cost less than ten bucks, and can be had at any homebrew supply shop.
NOt for this… the beneficial cultures feed on the sugar and it ferments out but it is needed for the reaction and to make the carbonation. Honey could work, though some honey, especially raw, is antimicrobial and can slow down the reaction.
Okay, interesting replies. It is all something to sit down and think about. Thank you all for responding. I just like to make sure that I get my thoughts and facts straight. 🙂
I just wanted to verify that although this recipe contains sugar, it’s a-ok for a person who suffers from Candida overgrowth?
I love your blog, btw! Great recipes and I just printed out a TON of them!! 🙂 Thanks! x
The natural probiotics in the ferment are great for candida in your body. Water kefir is really great for people who have candida as well. Read the book. Nourishing traditions. The book is all about how consuming fermented and cultured foods can cure candida. I’m personally experiencing this. I’ve lost 15 pounds in two months just adding these foods. My digestion is perfect now.
mary jine lastila
what are the benefits of this ginger ale???
The same benefits of any other probiotic drink… Gut health.
I would like to report that I am having success using agave syrup. I started my bug using unrefined sugar but then I used agave syrup for the actual ginger beer and it’s working fine.
we drink kombucha almost everyday, no stomach problems here
how do you replenish the ginger bug as you use it? If it can be kept long term, it must need to be fed. Thanks for a great recipe..going to buy ginger root tomorrow!
I will add to the recipe above, but basically, you feed it daily (counter) or weekly (fridge)
Thanks..I would imagine fridge is safest place to keep it..
I know this sounds stupid, but I just want to make sure I get it right. When replenishing. If you take 1/2 cup ginger bug out, you add 1/2 cup fresh water, then feed it daily?
Katie - Wellness Mama
You add water and a couple tablespoons of ginger and sugar
Just an FYI, the ginger bug directions do not say to add more water and only says a teaspoon of ginger and sugar per week to keep it going in the fridge.
When you add the ginger bug, do I just the liquid or both liquid and the ginger solids too?
I add a tablespoon each of sugar, ginger, and water daily on the counter at room temperature. I make ginger ale or root beer weekly and this works well.
When adding the replacement sugar, ginger & water does it need to be brought to a boil first before adding it to the Bug? Or once the bug is made you just keep adding the raw ginger and sugar? Also does it have to sit out for a day or two when fed each time? Thank you so much for all this info that you so freely give!! I pray your are Truly Blessed for all your work.
PS How did the Cream Soda / others turn out???? 😀
Hello, your recipes are very spectacular–my favorite is the homemade rootbeer… However, I noticed that you mentioned “homemade Dr. Pepper and I was curious if you have a recipe for that. I have looked everywhere and could not find any recipes that involved natural fermentation. Thank you.
It’s my understanding that fermented raisins often gives drinks a Dr Pepper flavour, though I haven’t tried it myself.
this is a great recipe, tried it 3 times so far and all turned out well, if I leave it to ferment for 4-5 days even better. Thank you so much