By Ash Stevens
We all know that drinking isn’t the healthiest thing in the world. However, those cocktails, parties, and social gatherings have us reaching for another glass and forgetting all about that last time we said “never again.” But if 2016 has you resolved to be healthier and save money, there’s an easy way to help make that happen. There are some cheap, tasty, and bubbly alternatives that can appeal to the tastebuds even more than those hoppy ales and sour wines. And they can even be made at home!
This sweet and bubbly drink gets a bad wrap thanks to the cheap and sugar-heavy options sold by grocery stores. Brew it at home though, and you can cut back the sugar while throwing in all sorts of fun herbs and spices.
All it takes is water, sweetener, and the additions of your choice (ie. molasses, lemon juice, herbs, and extracts). Combine that with ale or champagne yeast for carbonation, and then the mixture is ready to pour into the bottle of your choice. Once the batch of bottles is ready to be sealed, they only need to sit out at room temperature for a day or two to build up carbonation. Then they’re good to be stored in the fridge up to a month. If you want to get details and specifics plus some super simple recipes, check out the homemade soda tutorial from Mother Earth News.
This drink has become quite trendy in America over the last decade, but it’s been enjoyed by the Eastern part of the world for over 2,000 years. This simple brew consists of water, sugar, and tea. Once this combination is cooled and poured into a glass container, a small serving of ready-made kombucha is included to introduce the probiotic bacteria that initiate the fermentation process. Then it’s topped off with a SCOBY — a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. From there, it’s a matter of allowing the bacteria to feed off of the sugar.
Depending on the temperature of the room you brews in, your homemade batch of kombucha should be ready in about a week. Whether you do it one batch at a time or you use a continuous brew process, your kombucha can be poured into glass bottles for storage leaving an inch or two of room for the coming carbonation. After a few days of sitting out at room temperature with caps on, your kombucha should be fizzy and fridge-ready.
Grocery stores are brimming with various brands of this fermented tea thanks to kombucha’s health benefits. It’s no surprise that it comes with big digestive benefits thanks to its high levels of quality probiotic bacteria, but it also comes with a swig of vitamins, acids, and enzymes that offer all sorts of health benefits. It does have a slightly sweet and sour taste that smells of vinegar — the longer it ferments the stronger it gets — but sensitive noses and picky tastebuds can easily be accommodated. With a little juice, a squeeze of lemon, or some chopped fruit, kombucha can instantly be transformed into a fruity fermented mocktail.
Kombucha may be queen when it comes to health benefits, but kefir certainly earns her title as princess. Not only is it easy to make, but the probiotics thriving in water kefir are so helpful that some people actually pack along their kefir “grains” while traveling to protect themselves from new bacteria and foreign microbes.
Making water kefir is as simple as adding water kefir grains/cultures to sugar and water. Then all you have to do is cover the brew with a breathable fabric and let it sit at room temperature for 1-2 days. Now your kefir is ready to drink as is, or it can be left out to carbonate by putting the lid on and leaving it out for a day or two. But don’t stop there! Get deliciously creative by making a water kefir soda. You can also sub sugar water for juice, and you can even make a batch of fermented electrolytes by making coconut water kefir.
Social events and rough days make it easy to reach for a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, but now brew has a whole new definition thanks to these healthy fermented alternatives. It can be hard to cut back on drinking with how it’s a part of everyday life, but if you can cut back on temptation and find things to enjoy with this little lifestyle change, you found the recipe for health and success! Now let’s get to work making our very own fermented brews and mocktails! Happy brewing everyone!
Ash Stevens is a gardener, a writer, and a fan of all things green. Her love for health and sustainability began with her journey into motherhood, and it’s grown exponentially ever since. She’s passionate about living a healthy lifestyle through gardening, cooking, and spending time outdoors. If she isn’t writing or reading up on exciting green trends, she’s probably playing Connect Four or swimming in the river with the kids. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.