Down Grandma’s way in Clarence Street, they’ve been making their own ginger beer since the small bar’s beginnings. It’s not the alcoholic kind (so technically not ‘brewed’), but its distinctive peppery sweetness makes it a more interesting choice for those off the drink – and if the lack of alcohol doesn’t sound like too much fun, it’s easily remedied with a splash of rum to make a Dark ‘n’ Stormy.
But firstly, why bother making your own ginger beer? “For a lot of places, if they can make something instead of buying it, they will,” says James Bradey of Grandma’s. “We make a lot of our own syrups and so do a lot of other bars, because you know the ingredients that are going in it and you can predetermine the flavours you want.”[fold]
That opportunity to really play with flavours is what gives Grandma’s ginger beer a fiery, fresh taste – a little different to your ordinary out-of-the-bottle beer. “We wanted to make it a little bit spicier, so we added lemongrass. Some people prefer wintery spices – they’ll add cinnamon, allspice, cloves or star anise – but we wanted it to still be fresh but have a nice bite.”
And while you can get away with all iterations of spices in your ginger beer, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy must be made with Gosling’s rum. That’s not a purist’s point of view – it’s a legal one. The Dark ‘n’ Stormy is in fact a trademarked cocktail, a rare thing which dictates the exact ingredients and proportions of the drink, owned by Gosling’s Brothers. Interestingly, there’s no such patent on a Dark and Stormy, or even a Dark & Stormy, so a different orthography lets you get away with different rums. However, Gosling’s Black Seal has a deep, rich profile and its contrast against a zesty ginger beer makes it difficult to willingly stray from the classic recipe.
Legend has it that the Dark ‘n’ Stormy originated just after World War II. “It was around the time that the British navy was in the Caribbean, and they used to [be given] a rum ration,” explains Bradey. It seems that packing rum on long sea journeys was a necessary move as it guaranteed a cleaner drink than packing fresh water. “At the same time, the islanders were making ginger beer and they'd give the sailors a bit of lime as well, for scurvy. So it is good for you,” says Bradey.
However, like all good things, you can have too much. It’s thought that the drink carries its name because it made the sailors feel a little bit dark and stormy the next day.
It’s an all-too-easy easy drink to fix up at home. The homemade ginger beer adds a spice you can’t really buy at your local, so it’s worth making a batch if you’re serious about flavours. But you can always skip on down to Grandma’s for a taste of it too.
Homemade ginger beer:
1kg of fresh ginger
1 lemon peel
1 orange peel
1 stalk of lemon grass, bruised
Blend ginger with 1 litre of water. Strain and lengthen with 3 litres of water. Add 1.2kg of sugar and boil for 20 minutes. Add the lemongrass, orange peel and lemon peel and leave to steep at room temperature for 24 hours. Discard peel and lemongrass. Pour into a 1 litre soda siphon to dispense.
Enjoy alone or with the company of some rum:
Dark ‘n’ Stormy
50ml Gosling’s rum
Homemade ginger beer
Juice of half a lime (optional according to Goslings; mandatory to stave off scurvy)
Combine the rum and limejuice in a tall glass (or enamel mug, for seafaring authenticity) with ice cubes. Top with ginger beer.