My first memory of ginger beer is of three-quart apothecary jars set out on the front stoop to steep on the scorching cement on hot summer days. Ginger beer was brewed only on blisteringly hot summer days, when the New York City heat was so brutal it could rival Trinidad’s. It was a cloudy, pale yellow liquid swirling with a mass of shredded ginger and protruding vanilla beans that looked to me like big black worms. Dad described this concoction to me by saying that it was “something like ginger ale.” My five-year-old mind immediately delighted at the thought that I could drink ginger ale—just like Schweppes—whenever I wanted, because my dad had the secret recipe.
I eagerly took my first sip and was thrown for a loop by the throat-scorching heat of the ginger. And a bigger shock: no bubbles. Like many older Trinidadians, my father grew up in the Depression era, a time during which expensive, bubble-giving yeast was reserved for baking bread. I didn’t understand that nuance then, though. My disappointment at the lack of carbonation was so great that, for years after that first taste, I rarely drank his brew at all.
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