Papa’s Homemade Hooch: Homemade Ginger Ale.

For a multitude of reasons I don’t buy soda.   Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not going all judgy-judgerton on soda.  It’s just that over the years, I have gotten to where I don’t really like most of it.  It’s just too derned sweet for me.  Once a year or so I’ll grab a Pepsi when I’m out on the town (Hmmm… Perhaps I only get Pepsi once a year because I only get out on the town once a year or so.  Please excuse me for a moment or two while I go mourn my lost ability to go where I want when I want…) but that’s about the extent of it.  I am, however, a big fan of ginger ale.

A few years back, my Dad found a recipe online and started making his own ginger ale so, naturally, we started teasing him.

(*This is a side note to give you a very important piece of information about interacting with people to whom I am related. We are a teasing family.  It’s how we show you we love you.  If we tease you we care. What that says about us I cannot tell you.  Perhaps someone with a bent for psychology could tell you weird and horrible things about our collective psyche based on that, but, eh… We is what we is.)

“Ah,” said us, “You’re home-brewing, eh Dad?” (My Dad does not drink alcohol.) “Sooooo, Papa, you’re moonshining? Making hooch?”  And thus was born the name of Dad’s ginger ale, “Papa’s Hooch”.  When Dad came to visit, he brought four bottles of “Papa’s Hooch” with him. I had ignored my Dad’s recommendation to open it over the sink and found myself wearing the top third of the contents of a very pressurized bottle.

Wow!   It was REAL ginger ale.  You could taste the ginger, lemon juice and lime juice that he had used, and boy howdy it was fizzy.  There was actual citrus pulp and ginger in the bottle.

Have you ever had a real, honest-to-goodness homemade soda?  As in one that was made from scratch?   I have to tell you that if the sum of your soda experience is contained in the fizzy-drinks aisle at the local grocery store that you are missing out.  Big time. I feel obliged to warn you that homemade ginger ale is worlds different than  Canada Dry, Schweppe’s or fill-in-the-blank brand.  It tastes closer to what most folks would consider a ginger beer (like a Reed’s Ginger Beer) and is somewhat similar to Vernor’s, which is about the only bottled ginger ale worth buying and drinking.  (Uh oh.  Look out!  My native Michigander is showing…)

*Science Content Warning!

Papa’s Hooch is a home fermented product.  That means that there will be a little sediment in the bottle.  And since it’s brewed with real, grated ginger and fresh squeezed citrus juice, there will be a small amount of pulp in the finished product.  If you pour carefully, the sediment should remain in the bottle.  If you find pulp objectionable (I personally find it really tasty and will fight anyone for their pulp) you can pour the hooch through a fine mesh strainer into your glass.

Since this is a fermented product, there is a miniscule amount of alcohol produced as a by-product of the yeast.  The original recipe called for a full cup of sugar, but Dad reduced that to a half cup.  Since there is less sugar to be eaten by the yeast, there will be less alcohol in the finished product than there was in the original recipe. To give you an idea of how much (or rather, how little) alcohol there really is let me share with you a quote from the page where Dad originally got the recipe (and if it sounds like it’s written by a scientist, that’s because it is.)

“We have tested in our lab the alcoholic content which results from the fermentation of this (ginger ale) and found it to be between 0.35 and 0.5 %. Comparing this to the 6% in many beers, it would require a person to drink about a gallon and a half of this (ginger ale) to be equivalent to one 12 ounce beer. I would call this amount of alcohol negligible, but for persons with metabolic problems who cannot metabolize alcohol properly, or religious prohibition against any alcohol,  consumption should be limited or avoided.”

This means, that the final alcohol content of Papa’s Hooch is going to be roughly half of what the original recipe’s alcohol content was.  Translation: You’d need to drink 3 gallons of Papa’s Hooch to get the alcohol that is in the average 12 ounce beer.

Also.  You’ll want to keep in mind that the bottle in which you ferment the hooch will be under a great deal of pressure.  It’s best to use an empty plastic two-liter seltzer or soda bottle with a tight fitting screw top for the process.  You wouldn’t want to use an empty milk jug, glass bottle or mason jar for this project.  If you use glass you run a very real risk of explosion.  Heck, there’s bit of a risk of explosion with the plastic bottle, too.  But you’re a lot less likely to incur injury or property damage from an exploding plastic bottle than an exploding glass one.  And using a plastic bottle along with the safety precautions laid out in the recipe makes it a pretty safe bet that you’ll be fine.  But, really… I’m not asking you to fillet and eat your own fugu.  It’s just ginger ale.  As long as you use a plastic bottle, the biggest risk you’re flirting with is that you’ll have a puddle to clean up and you might have to wipe down a wall or two.  I’d say that’s worth it!

Onto the ginger ale.  If you make this tonight, it should be ready to drink by Sunday morning.

For a photo-free, printer friendly version of this recipe, click here!

Papa’s Homemade Hooch

Ingredients:

papashooch1

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • One lemon or one lime (or half of each)
  • 2 inches of fresh gingerroot
  • 1/4 teaspoon of yeast

Fit the top of a clean, dry, empty 2-liter soda bottle with a funnel.  Pour the sugar and yeast into the bottle.

papashooch2

Swirl gently to distribute the yeast through the sugar.  Leave the funnel in the bottle and set aside.

Grate the ginger into a measuring cup.

papashooch3Juice the lemon and/or lime.  I prefer to use half each of a lemon and a lime.

Freaky claw hand juices citrus.  Stay tuned for more...

Freaky claw hand juices citrus. Stay tuned for more...

Combine the citrus juice and the grated gingerroot in a measuring cup and swirl to mix.

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Pour through the funnel into the bottle.

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There will be some ginger and citrus pulp left in the funnel and measuring cup.

Can't waste all that ginger you grated!

Can't waste all that ginger you grated!

We’ll take care of that right now!  To rinse the additional pulp out of the measuring cup and into the bottle add clean drinking water to the measuring cup and swirl.

papashooch8

Pour this through the funnel.  That should have cleaned out the measuring cup and the funnel.

No ginger left behind! Not in THIS kitchen!

No ginger left behind! Not in THIS kitchen!

Remove the funnel and screw the cap on tightly.  Shake the bottle vigorously to mix.  Remove the cap and fill the bottle to within an inch of the top (that should be just about where the bottle starts to narrow at the neck), cap tightly and invert repeatedly to dissolve sugar.

This is a good part of the process to get the kids involved.  They love shaking things vigorously.  It comes naturally.

This is a good part of the process to get the kids involved. They love shaking things vigorously. It comes naturally.

Use your thumb to press in the side of the bottle and take note of how far it gives under the pressure.

See how far in the bottle goes when I press it with my thumb?  That means this is not done yet!

See how far in the bottle goes when I press it with my thumb? That means this is not done yet!

Place bottle in a warm (but not hot) place for about 24-48 hours, or until the bottle is very firm.  When the bottle does not yield to firm pressure it is time to refrigerate!

Freaky claw hand is back to show you a bottle of finished hooch.  See how the bottle doesn't indent at all when pressed really, REALLY hard?  This needs to go into the fridge.  And now.

Freaky claw hand is back to show you a bottle of finished hooch. See how the bottle doesn't indent at all when pressed really, REALLY hard? This needs to go into the fridge. And now.

Do not leave the bottle out for more than 48 hours as you run the risk of it bursting after that point.  Chill completely, preferably overnight.  When it is completely chilled, caaaaaarefully loosen the lid…

Do this over your sink or over a surface that is easy to clean.  Trust me.

Do this over your sink or over a surface that is easy to clean. Trust me.

and pour over ice.

papashooch-14papashooch-15

This is pure refreshment.

This is pure refreshment.

If you find pulp and small bits of ginger objectionable, strain your soda into the glass.

This last bit of advice comes straight from my Dad. Heed him well.  “Rinse the bottle out with water immediately after pouring your last glass.  Otherwise you’ll never get the dad-burned stuff out of there.”  He’s right.  I tried washing out an empty hooch bottle after it had sat out, capped- I might add, overnight.  I ended up recycling the blasted thing.  When will I learn to listen to my Dad the first time?

Comments

  1. Got a question : how long can you keep in the fridge if you don’t drink all of it at once. I am single and there is no way I’m gonna drink 2 litres ginger ale in a day, no matter how good :)

  2. Rebecca says:

    Hi Simran- Good question! Once opened it’ll be good for about three days. Unopened it’s good for a couple weeks as long as it’s kept refrigerated. If you wish, you can divide the ingredients between two empty 1-liter soda bottles. That way you would have a smaller amount to go through when opened. We’ve also done that and had it work beautifully.

  3. I just saw this post on Foodgawker this morning and my first batch is in the laundry room. I can’t wait until the bottle’s firm, chilled and I get to try it! I love specialty ginger ales I’ve had that are extra hot so I upped the ginger amount a bit. Thanks for posting!

  4. Rebecca says:

    Amy- I’m so glad you’re giving it a go! I generally put in quite a lot of ginger for my own batches (nearly double the given amount) but for the boys I use the 2″ of ginger. Please let me know how you like it.

  5. wow, this actually sounds very simple (well minus the risk of explosion) ;)
    now i have to find an empty soda bottle somewhere…
    I wonder if you could make your own kombucha like this. hmm.. maybe not.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Janel- May I recommend hitting up your friends who drink a lot of soda? That’s what I did. The same bottles have served my ginger ale making needs for a little over a year. As long as you rinse them out immediately they’ll keep on going.

  7. My 3rd and 4th batches are in the laundry room now, and I’m sipping my 2nd. I LOVE this stuff! I’m using only lemon-first batch was half lime, but 2nd was lemon only and we like it better. I’m using about 1/3 to 1/2 cup grated ginger and it definitely warms you going down. I think this has become a household staple now- thanks so much!

  8. Love this post–this hootch sounds YUMMY!

    Let your Michigan show every chance you get! I slip as many gratuitous plugs for my home state in as I can. Long Live Vernor’s!!

  9. I’m just making a batch of this now…and there is a lot of sediment at the bottom already (its been a few hours). Should I be shaking this up or just leave it be? Thanks!

  10. Thanks for the great recipe…sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to try this like tomorrow…….Wondering if anyone has tried it with spleda, i have to watch my sugar intake! I might give it a try and just see what happens, i will post results. Thanks again!

  11. I use a similar process to make homemade wine and hooch. I find that 2-liter soda bottles work perfectly and can withstand A LOT of pressure from the fermentation process.

    I would consider for a better flavor (and to remove the ginger pieces) to move the beverage out of the original bottle through a strainer (leaving the yeast sediment on the bottom) after the first few days of fermentation into another 2-liter. Then store the 2-liter in the fridge for at least a week to increase the carbonation again. Less yeast means more flavor from the other ingredients.

    As I said, I speak from doing this particular fermentation process a great deal in wine & hooch making. I find that filtering out the yeast and moving to a new container increases the flavor of every beverage that I’ve made exponentially.

    • hi. I’m taking your advice, as the initial tasting (after 2 days fermenting in a warm spot and one night in the fridge) was neither as carbonated or as strong as I wanted.. So – you are instructing to do this second fermentation in the fridge? I’m confused by that. Won’t the cold slow it / prevent it? And, by straining the sediment, did i strain out the yeasties that are doing the fermenting? Thanks for your advice and explanations. This is fun.

      • Yes, straining takes out the yeasties and whatnot. If after 2 days it wasn’t as carbonated or strong as I wanted, I would leave it out a bit longer! The cold will slow or prevent fermentation. It’s just when the bottle gets rock hard that you want to be sure it’s refrigerated!

  12. “Remove the cap and fill the bottle to within an inch of the top…” I’m probably being very stupid but with what to I fill the bottle to within an inch of the top with? Water?? Thanks in advance!

  13. This looks awesome!! I can’t wait to try it! I think to avoid getting the pulp in my glass I will just rubber-band some cheesecloth around the top, that should keep it all in ^_^, should be thin enough to just screw the cap back over it too. Thanks for the awesome how-to and pics!

  14. amy
    July 17th, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    “Wondering if anyone has tried it with spleda, i have to watch my sugar intake! I might give it a try and just see what happens, i will post results.”

    I know this post is almost a year old, but just F.Y.I. to others wanting to go sugar-free. The yeast eat the sugar, so you can replace SOME of it with splenda no problem, but leave some, otherwise your yeasties will starve!

    • Tara- I don’t know if any of the readers have tried it with Splenda. If anyone has, please post your results here. I’d love to know!

  15. Burrito Bandito says:

    If you want to reduce the amount of sediment in your ginger ale you can boil the grated ginger in water until you have a decent infusion, then strain the pulp out before adding the yeast, sugar, and lemon/lime juices. Champagne yeast is much finer and more readily dissolved into a solution.

    By adding a bit more sugar and increasing the amount of time that the bottle remains capped you can increase the amount of alcohol present in the end product. You’ll probably need to “burp” the bottle periodically to prevent explosion, or you can use the old swing top beer bottles (grolsch bottles). They have a small rubber gasket that allows excess carbonation to escape.

    But most of all…
    TAKE POPEMICHAELS ADVICE AND STRAIN YOUR SEDIMENT AND THEN ALLOW FOR A SECOND FERMENTATION. This will dramatically improve the flavor of your soda, beer, kombucha, or any other fermented beverages.

  16. If that is the level of alcohol how can you bring up the content of the alcohol, how long should I continue to ferment?

  17. Is it fizzy?

  18. Thanks for writing this up. My family has made Ginger Beer like this for many years.
    We’ve had the odd accident but nothing serious. I have however seen in the newspaper a report about a child making it in a glass soda bottle, dropping it and being badly cut by flying glass, bleeding to death. So use a plastic bottle folks, it can’t shatter.

  19. What kind of yeast did you use in the recipe? I’m assuming it’s not just bread yeast, but yeast that’s designed for beer. Someone mentioned champagne yeast, is that what you used?

  20. Stephanie says:

    My husband does his own homebrew beer and I think I’m going to have his try this one for me with the stuff he has. Just an idea, he orders stuff from Mr.Beer and you could buy new bottle caps with the plastic ring still attached that would make the cap stay on better and you could bottle in 1 liter bottles instead of larger 2 liter bottles. Then you wouldn’t have to drink it as fast and could avoid any kind of flat ginger ale (especially after all that work). My husband uses glass bottles now for his beer, but it sounds like this is way too carbonated for the glass bottles! We usually put the beer keg into a big cooler as well while it’s fermenting. It keeps the temperature more even and has saved us for big messes when things bubble over.

  21. Would using glass bottle be more dangerous or would it be fine?

    • I think it would be supertyduper dangerous… I’d avoid it. I say this only because I accidentally forgot a plastic bottle of the stuff in the back of the refrigerator after Thanksgiving. I didn’t find it until late December. We won’t discuss my refrigerator cleaning abilities here… I’m just going to say the thing was so distended I was scared to take it out to the barn where we keep our garbage. My hubby decided it was safer to put it on a stump and shoot it than take a chance of it blowing in the garbage bag (because we’re sophisticated like that.) It took one shot and the lid flew 20 feet into the air and the bottle flew sideways with a geyser of super fermented ginger beer trailing it. That’s why. :D

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