I have this old family ginger wine recipe, but some of the ingredients are hard to find or may not exist any more...

  • Essence of Ginger 12mls
  • Tincture of Capsicum 9mls
  • Essence of Lemon 5mls
  • Solution of Burnt Sugar 25mls
  • 2 1/2 lb sugar
  • 1 oz Tartaric Acid
  • 5 quarts boiling water

Add mixture and sugar to boiling water.

WHEN COLD add tartaric acid.

I expect I can find the sugar and the water(!), but the rest I'm less sure about. Can anyone give some ideas as to how I could make tincture of capsicum, essence of ginger & lemon, and a solution of burnt sugar? Just in case it's different in other parts of the world, this recipe is British.

  • Do you ferment it after? Sep 25, 2010 at 16:27

6 Answers 6


How archaic and fun!

I whipped out some Google-fu and found the following for you:

Tincture of Capsicum

You can actually buy this on Amazon: Cayenne Capsicum Tincture 2 Ounces. It's available other places, but I saw prices as high as 2x this. (9 ml ~ 0.3 oz)

Essence of Ginger

This is from a late 19th century Jamaican cookbook (Classic Jamaican Cooking: Traditional Recipes and Herbal Remedies).

  • Three ounces of freshly grated ginger
  • Two ounces of thinly cut lemon-peel
  • Two pints of brandy or proof spirit (white rum)

Just combine and let sit for 10 days, shaking well.

Essence of Lemon

This can also be purchased. You can likely find some lemon extract in your grocery store, if not here is some on Amazon: Flavorganics Organic Lemon Extract, 2-Ounce Glass Bottles (Pack of 3) - note that it's 3 bottles.

Solution of Burnt Sugar

This isn't just typical caramelized sugar, it's burnt sugar. Sugar that has been heated to the dark caramel stage of 370 F to 400 F (188 C to 204 C). The sugar at this point has lost most of it's sweetness, smells burnt, and tastes kind of bitter. It's commonly called caramel color these days. This is what is gives Cola's their dark color. In the small amount of 25ml and in the presence of 2.5 lbs of sugar (wow!) you won't taste it.

My amazon-fu fails here, but have found it available on this site: http://www.spiceplace.com/mccormick_caramel_color.php

It might be simpler to buy this than attempt making your own. Caramel coloring can be a little hazardous to make, it's easy to go too far and burn your sugar, and dumping any quantity of water into 400 F sugar is a sketchy experience. Here is a how-to if you desire though:


Tartaric Acid

This too can be purchased - Tartaric Acid 2 oz. (56 gr.)

Please note that tartaric acid is not the same as cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is an acid-salt in which the tartaric acid is partially neutralized. This site suggests you can use a 2:1 substitution ratio of cream of tartar to tartaric acid. I'm not sure if this will make a difference in your drink because I've never used cream of tartar in such a way or quantity before.

There is also the possibility that a recipe of this age simply used the term tartaric acid to refer to cream of tartar. Who knows?

  • Thanks - I'm afraid I won't be able to order any of these products as I'm based in the UK, but I will still accept your answer! :)
    – Rich
    Aug 8, 2010 at 10:20
  • 4
    Did you check amazon.co.uk?
    – hobodave
    Aug 8, 2010 at 18:01
  • Ironically, UK amazon carries a product called "Riddles Ginger Compound" which looks just like a concentrate of the recipe given. Sep 28, 2017 at 15:53

I live in France now but my mother used almost the same recipe for ginger wine. Boots the Chemist supplied the essences of capsicum, ginger, lemon and solution of burnt sugar etc. The tartaric acid also came from Boots winemaker section. The basic mix keeps for ages and is then added to the sugar and boiling water. Tartaric acid (not cream of tartar) is added when the solution is cold.

Then, to give it a kick, you add cognac to taste!

These ingredients are still available to order online or from a chemist locally.

Goog luck!


My dad made this for years, and I used his recipe 20 or so years ago without a hitch. The nearest commercial ginger wine to this is a dark ginger wine (sold in Holland and Barrett health food shops) which comes close but still hasn't got the full body of this one.

But the last time I tried to make it, it wasn't as straight forward as popping into the chemist and I couldn't get burnt sugar anywhere. (I will point out that this was still before my Google life and involved the yellow pages and a zillion phone calls to chemists and home brew shops.) I did work out that I probably could leave out the burnt sugar as it seemed to be only added for colour.

Here is my dad's recipe as written many years ago:

Take a bottle to chemist and ask them to put in:

  • 1/2 oz essence of ginger
  • 1/2 oz capsicum
  • 1/2 oz burnt sugar

Also buy 1/2 oz tartaric acid to add later. Put 3 lbs sugar and tartaric acid in a bowl (I think he used a bucket) and pour 7 pints boiling water over it. Let it stand until cold, add other ingredients and then bottle.

I presume there must have been some stirring involved but I don't remember any long waiting times before we drank it.

  • 1
    BTW, "Chemist" in Britain means the same thing as pharmacy and pharmacist in the US. It's not as common now as it used to be (at least in the US), but pharmacies that compound medicines do often have ingredients like the ones discussed here.
    – Jolenealaska
    Feb 6, 2016 at 21:17

just like you I am in the uk and I bought all the ingredient from Amazon uk hope this helps, my gran use to make this ginger wine when I was a child so I am going to attempt to make it for Christmas as I am not allowed alcohol, good luck,


Because these are extracts, it's impossible to know how strong each flavour should be, so it will end up coming down to personal preference.

I would use fresh shaved ginger and extract it with alcohol (e.g. a clean tasting vodka) or hot water until you reach the desired strength of flavour. Do the same thing with lemon peel (but don't use the white underneath part of the peel).

Capsicum is chili oil, so you will need to extract the oil in alcohol or another oil. I would take a bunch of habañero or other hot peppers, chop them and add them to alcohol, then wait for the oil to infuse the alcohol.

Tartaric acid could maybe be substituted with cream of tarter, which is derived from tartaric acid. Probably the tartaric acid in this recipe is designed to lower the pH so that certain bacteria do not develop, thus it would make sense to substitute citric or other acids to get the same effect.

For the "solution of burnt sugar" I would just caramelize some sugar and add water.


I would try to look for the capsicum tincture at a local health food store. Capsicum tablets are used to improve blood flow and sometimes cure colds, so perhaps a tincture could be found somewhere like that. As for the essence of lemon and ginger, maybe this could be found there too? All of these ingredients are used in natural health products, to be honest this sounds like it would be a great thing to drink during cold and flu season! The burnt sugar though, I don't know about that! All I know for sure is that when you are making candies and syrup you need a reliable recipe and thermometer to tell you when you have achieved the right temperature, so maybe a burnt sugar recipe is required? Good luck!

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