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Ginger Beer Is a Jamaican Holiday Tradition—& My Grandmother’s Is the Spiciest

When I was five, I vividly remember shouting, “Lawd, mommy, it’s hot!” The hot referred, not to temperature, but the intensity of my grandma’s home-made ginger beer. That was 1988, and I was spending weeks watching the bottles of ginger beer ferment in…

When I was five, I vividly remember shouting, "Lawd, mommy, it's hot!" The hot referred, not to temperature, but the intensity of my grandma's home-made ginger beer. That was 1988, and I was spending weeks watching the bottles of ginger beer ferment in the pantry, on tenterhooks until I could take my first sips of the cloudy liquid that taunted me every time I went for a biscuit. One night we heard a bang followed by hissing. My dad sprang into action to defend us while I, like a schmuck cast in a horror-comedy, ran towards the commotion. There was ginger beer everywhere, and half of a broken bottle spun like a dreidel on the kitchen floor.

The carbon dioxide in the bottle swelled so much that the lid had flown off, and the glass exploded. There in the small hours of morning two days away from Christmas, my parents decided that since they were up and the smell of ginger beer was so enticing, they might as well "test" the other bottles to ensure they were ok. I had my first sip. Whined. Had some more. I succumbed to ginger beer's beguiling taste. It's now one of my favorite beverages, and I look forward to making a large batch whenever I'm home in Jamaica.

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