Sunday, June 23, 2013

homemade ginger ale

For a long time I didn't think I liked ginger. I liked ginger ale (which, let's be honest, often tastes nothing like actual ginger), but at our house we never ate anything with ginger in it so I stayed away from it until I went to college. I only found out I liked the "real" taste of ginger when I tried it pickled along with sushi, another food I didn't try until college. (Shockingly, sushi wasn't readily available in Bamberg, South Carolina.)

After discovering I actually liked the taste of ginger I continued to drink, say, Canada Dry, but I also wanted to find a more gingery ginger ale. I tried Blenheim and it certainly tastes like real ginger, but it also has a cough-inducing kick to it that doesn't exactly scream "refreshment." So I went back to the standard supermarket varieties until recently, when I realized I could make my own.

For my birthday this year my sister, who is pretty much the best gift giver on earth, sent me a SodaStream along with a very thoughtful Pinterest board of soda and cocktail recipes to go along with it. For the past few months I've just been making seltzer water, but I'm a big cocktail fan during the summer, and since I'm not in school I have the time to make things like homemade soda. I gave it a shot and the results were well worth the minimal effort.

This recipe for ginger syrup also comes with a nice perk--you end up with candied ginger along with the syrup! Once you've strained the ginger and spices out of the syrup, toss the candied ginger (it's just been boiled in syrup, after all) with sugar and let it sit out for a few hours to dry. Voila--crystallized ginger!

ginger syrup for ginger ale
adapted from FormerChef
makes about 3 cups of syrup, enough for about 9 liters of ginger ale (don't worry, it keeps for awhile!)

1 c brown sugar
1 c white sugar (or raw sugar, if you prefer)
2 c water
2 tsp cardamom pods
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp peppercorns
3 star anise pods
4 oz peeled and sliced ginger, about 3/4 c

Stir together the brown and white sugars and water in a small pot. Toast the whole spices in a skillet until they begin to brown; remove from heat. Add the spices and ginger to the sugar-water mixture and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the mixture boils, turn it down to a simmer and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep until mixture cools. Pour into jars and refrigerate.

To make ginger ale, use about 1.5 tbsp syrup per cup of seltzer. The syrup will keep in the fridge for at least a month, and I've read that if you add a bit of vodka to it it will keep indefinitely.

This will vastly improve any ginger ale-based drink you want to make. The buck, your basic ginger + spirit (e.g., gin buck, whiskey buck, tequila buck) is a good place to start. Here are a few other cocktails to try your new concoction in:

- bourbon & ginger: bourbon + ginger
   ale + peach
- pear haymaker: vodka + ginger ale +
   lemon juice + pear
- the operator: white wine + ginger ale +
   lime juice
- tequila grapefruit splash: grapefruit
   juice + ginger ale + tequila +
   Campari + triple sec

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