Minor British Institutions: Ginger beer

For some reason ginger beer is regarded as a kid's drink, and a particular kind of middle-class 1950s Famous Five type of kid as well – thirsty for "lashings of ginger beer" after catching the smugglers of Kirrin Island, or whatever. (Actually, that phrase more likely comes from an Enid Blyton spoof made by the Comic Strip in the 1980s, but the point stands.)

No child, however, could seriously enjoy the real, hot-peppery, properly fermented nectar of the Chinese ginger plant. It is in fact a very grown-up brew, and should be restricted to the over 18s. It is also a great British invention, dating back to the early 18th century, and probably the best around today is "botanically brewed" by the long-established Fentimans company, complete with a throat-corroding sediment in the bottom, so you're well advised to shake the bottle before consumption. If you're lucky you can find this non-alcoholic treat in a pub or supermarket. It is well worth seeking out.

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