Kombucha’s identity has long been entangled with the gut biome, forever synonymous with its health benefits. But, much like Italian bitter soda, kombucha’s flavor profile makes it a versatile ingredient beyond the nonalcoholic realm. Effervescent and lightly acidic, the fermented tea shines as a stand-in topper for sparkling cocktails. In particular, funky, subtly spicy ginger kombucha offers a refreshing kick that, unlike homemade ginger syrup, requires no assembly and brings an inherent tannic quality to the mix.
Ginger kombucha can also work in place of sweeter ginger ale, adding complexity to templates like the El Diablo. In the Dr. Diablo from Portland, Oregon’s Takibi, for example, Brew Dr.’s ginger lemon kombucha brings the spice; its tanginess is complemented by umeboshi plum vinegar for a craveable cocktail with layers of fruit and tart flavor.
When batching cocktails, which tends to amplify aromatic ingredients, using kombucha makes scaling up the ginger component a breeze. New York bartender Natasha David’s Jam Session is built around a bottle of ginger kombucha—she favors the GT’s Synergy and Health-Ade brands—plus fino sherry and watermelon juice. Though it’s made up of just three ingredients, the low-proof cocktail retains complexity thanks to ginger kombucha’s layered profile.
To start integrating kombucha into your cocktails, simply swap it into any recipe that calls for soda water (or split the quotient between the two), from easy highballs to bubbly, bitter aperitivo drinks. The ingredient is especially suited to sessionable cocktails, bringing a certain tanginess to the mix that demands another sip. As David explains of her Jam Session, it “has the sort of bracing acidity you can’t quite get enough of.”