[by Mike]

One of the more engaging elements of the cocktail movement is participation. An amazing drink can inspire you to pick up a new bottle, cook up a new syrup, or prepare a juice you would never have thought of otherwise.

When house made ginger beer started sweeping across Boston bars last year, however, I didn't succumb. I was intrigued, but hesitant to start pushing syrups through my soda siphon lest the increased viscosity cause premature wear on the valves (when you're a grad student on a budget, these are nontrivial considerations). It wasn't until I watched some old Good Eats episodes that a yeast-fermented ginger beer became obvious.

I started with the basic Good Eats recipe (sadly not available on the website), adding cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom when steeping the syrup, and waited anxiously as the two bottles stood on my counter fermenting over the course of a few days. Once the bottles started hissing I had a pretty good idea that the beer was ready. Releasing the initial pressure proved to be slightly chaotic, but otherwise the process was painless.

Unfortunately the ginger flavor didn't really live up to my expectations; while significantly spicier than most commercially available ginger beers it lacked the strong bite to which I have grown accustomed. The texture, however, was a pleasant surprise. Slower, more delicate carbonation produced smaller, softer bubbles that tempted the tongue instead of smacking it around as injected carbonation is wont to do.

The first application was an attempt to recreate a drink from Tom at Craigie,

Blueberry Cobbler
Muddled blueberries
2 oz reposado tequila
0.5 oz benedictine
Top with ginger beer

While it could have used stronger ginger flavor, the more delicate carbonation added a nice, dare I say, sophistication?

The beauty of fermentation is that its applications are near endless. As the beer was charging I sat out a slurry of flour, water, and sugar next to my window and waited for Cambridge yeast to make a home and do their thing. It didn't take long for the characteristic bubbles to make an appearance and hopefully I'll have a proper starter by next weekend.

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