January 23, 2023 by Karl Tessendorf
If you’ve ever fermented anything, then you’ll know just how magical the process is. Millions of invisible microorganisms work in unison to rise bread, ferment kimchi, turn grapes into wine, and barley into beer. It’s an age-old process, and it’s never been more popular than it is right now. Fermented cocktails have popped up in the last few years, with bartenders falling in love with the fermented funk and tang. Join us as we stick a toe into the fermentation pool and discover fermented cocktails.
What is Fermentation?
Humans have been using fermentation for thousands of years. It was the ideal way to preserve food before refrigeration was invented, but it was only recently that we understood how it works. In 1857, Louis Pasteur peered into a microscope and discovered the multiplying world of yeast and bacteria. After careful observation, he concluded that yeast and bacteria were responsible for fermentation.
Fermentation is a complex beast, but at its core, it’s a process of metabolic transformation. Living organisms like yeast, bacteria, and fungi feed on carbohydrates like starches or sugars. As they feed, alcohol and acids are produced. Fermentation is responsible for many of the planet’s favorite food and drinks, like wine, beer, cheese, yogurt, and bread.
How Fermentation Works
Different food and drinks require different fermentations to get the best results. The three main types of fermentation are lactic acid fermentation, ethanol alcohol fermentation, and acetic acid fermentation.
Lactic acid fermentation
If you’ve ever eaten yogurt, kimchi, or sauerkraut, you’ve tasted the fruits of lactic acid fermentation. Lactobacillus bacteria is the star of the show, and as it munches its way through your sauerkraut, it produces lactic acid. The lactic acid helps preserve food and gives it that signature tang.
Ethanol alcohol fermentation
We may be biased here, but this is our favorite form of fermentation. It’s the one responsible for all fermented alcoholic drinks, as well as bread and pastries—basically all the good things in life! Ethanol alcohol fermentation has two stages. Primary and secondary fermentation. Alcohol is produced in the primary stage, and flavor and character in the secondary one.
Acetic acid fermentation
Acetic acid fermentation is how vinegar is made. You can think of it as the next stage of fermentation after you’ve made alcohol. Acetic acid bacteria oxidize the sugars and alcohol to produce vinegar. Apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar are all examples of this fermentation.
How to use fermented drinks in cocktails
Using fermented drinks in your cocktails is as easy as mixing them in. Kombucha is a great place to start because there is just about every flavor on the market. It’s packed with fermented funk and acidity, which you’ll need to balance with sweetness. Ginger beer, cider, tepache, beer, and even wine can all be used to create fermented cocktails. So, get crazy, go wild, and explore the fermented side of cocktails.
Popular fermented drinks
Ginger beer is a great mixer for fermented cocktails that adds a refreshing and fiery bite of ginger. Make sure you buy a proper fermented ginger beer and not ginger ale.
Best of Ginger: All the Tangy Ginger Beer Cocktails You’ll Ever Need.
A good apple cider will give any fermented cocktail a crisp apple flavor and a touch of fermented funk.
You also might like: Sparkling Apple Cider Cocktail.
Tepache is a Mexican pineapple beer and it’s delicious in cocktails. Expect bright punchy notes of pineapple with a fermented beery tang.