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I love having a cocktail at the end of a long day. I also love a good mimosa for a weekend brunch. I don’t want to give you the impression I’m out here drink all the time, but I am a big believer that a drink can complement just about any event or meal.
Having got that out of the way, let’s talk zero waste alcohol. Alcohol, by nature, is fairly low-waste on the consumer end: glass bottles and metal caps make for easy reuse or recycling. That being said, the production of alcohol itself is not particularly low impact. As the site Dramming summarizes:
The resources used (for global alcohol production yearly) could feed a large country;
The resources grown need the entire area of a small to medium country;
The heating energy needed could heat a mega city;
The total energy consumption equals the output of a very large power plant.*
That’s a lot of resources. So what if we bring alcohol closer to home? That’s where my zero waste ginger beer recipe comes in, featuring a ginger bug.
(Oh, did I mention it’s cheap and goes great with zero waste on a budget?!)
No, it’s not a literal bug, but rather a fermented little bit of heaven that give your ginger beer fizz (and a bit of alcohol).
There are tons of recipes which show you how to do it with yeast and cream of tartar (if you’re super impatient, check one out here), but I don’t think the taste is as delicious as when you use a ginger bug. Plus, the fewer the ingredients, the more zero waste. So… forward to a zero waste ginger beer recipe!
But first… let’s talk about the bug.
Ginger bug recipe
1 cup of water
1 tablespoon of sliced/grated ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
To start, mix all ingredients together until sugar is dissolved. Cover the container loosely (I usually use a scrap cloth of some kind) and let it hang out on your counter. Stir the mixture once or twice daily and once a day add another tablespoon of sugar and ginger. After four or five days it should be ready. You’ll know because it’ll have a distinctly yeasty smell under all the ginger smell.
Ginger bugs are maybe not the most practical thing to cultivate as they’ve got limited uses, but they’re easy to maintain and great for ginger beer.
If you’d like to stop tending to your ginger bug on the daily, just stick it in the fridge. You’ll need to add more sugar and ginger about once a week. When you want to reactivate it, simply bring it out of the fridge and start feeding it daily again for a few days.
Now, onto the good stuff…
Ginger beer recipe
2-3 inches of ginger
1/3 cup of sugar
4 cups of water
1/4 cup of ginger bug
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Cut the ginger into thin-ish slices and toss in a large pot with 1 cup of water. (I’d peel it first and then make candied ginger with the ginger after boiling.) Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes. Once the liquid is a dark brown, drain the liquid into a large bowl. Add sugar and mix until dissolved. Add the remaining 3 cups of water to the ginger liquid.
Before adding ginger bug make sure your water is cool. Hot water will kill all the alcohol-creating goodness in your bug. Once water is cool, add bug and lemon juice. Decant into container of choice and let sit for about 48 hours.
Lots of people say not to keep your ginger beer in a glass container, but I like to live on the edge! I’ve never had an issue – you just need to make sure to open the cap briefly to release the pressure once or twice a day.
Your zero waste ginger beer will be ready after about two days – taste to see if you like where it’s at. The longer it sits out, the more alcoholic it will get. Once you’re satisfied, toss it into the fridge and drink within a week.
Are you feeling ready to tackle a zero waste ginger beer? Give it a try – plus, drop your favorite cocktail recipe in the comments below, please and thank you!