Ginger: A triumphant triumvirate

Declaration: Except for citrus, there’s no better ingredient to combine with booze in a cocktail than ginger.

I recognize that taste is subjective, so that manifesto might apply only to me. But the fact that there are so many ginger cocktails out there—so many, many, many, many—leads me to conclude that my affection for the rhizome is, if not universal, at least widely shared. Given its versatility in cooking—from Caribbean cuisine to Asian fare, from savory dishes to sweet ones—it shouldn’t be surprising that ginger serves as a great partner in so many kinds of mixed drinks.

One the other hand, the evidence that ginger has medicinal uses—to combat nausea, lower cholesterol, and prevent heart attacks—is mixed at best

Discovering Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur shortly after its release in 2007 was something of a revelation to me. My exposure to liqueurs to that point consisted of the usual super-sweet sippers (Southern Comfort, Gran Marnier, Bailey’s of course); the idea that a liqueur could be less cloying and carry a kick, not from the alcohol but the flavoring, was a real mind-blower. I haven’t been without a bottle on hand ever since.

The appropriately named Canton Ginger Kick, developed by one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Susan Feniger, and her colleague Kajsa Alger, has been the cocktail I’ve used to introduce others to the wonders of Domaine de Canton. It does require some advance prep in making the ginger simple syrup, but the result is a multi-layered ginger flavor that almost always elicits a “wow.”

And is there anything better than a piece of candied ginger that’s been soaking in a Kick? No, there is not.

Aside from the liqueur, there are lots of possibilities for using ginger in cocktails. Jeffery Morgenthaler, in The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, suggests juicing fresh ginger much as you would a lemon or lime. But store-bought ginger, while still full of flavor, is generally too dry to yield much juice. Morgenthaler says the ginger found in Asian markets is usually fresher and juicier, but there are easier ways to get the ginger in the glass.

For example: Knowing my love of ginger in cocktails, my friends Debbie Dakins and John Regis several years ago surprised me on my birthday with a signature cocktail: the Gin Zuz, which forgoes the liqueur in favor of fresh ginger, muddled with lime and combined with Plymouth Gin (another favorite) and elderflower liqueur. The result is less sweet than the Kick, and the grassy, fruity elderflower liqueur is the perfect mate for the fresh ginger. It’s still one of my all-time favorite cocktails, and not just because it carries my name.

The final entry in this ginger triumvirate is my own creation, the Gin Gin Tin, which is basically a Gin and Tonic with a ginger-lemon shrub. The vinegar in the shrub gives the ginger an added vibrant pop.

If anyone asks why you’re drinking so many ginger cocktails, tell them it’s medicine.

Canton Ginger Kick

Adapted from Susan Feniger and Kajsa Alger 

1 1/2 ounces vodka
1 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
1/2 to 1 ounce ginger syrup (see below)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
Seltzer or club soda, chilled
Candied ginger and lemon wedges for garnish

Stir together vodka, ginger liqueur, ginger syrup, and lemon juice with ice. Pour into Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Top off with seltzer. Spear a few slices candied ginger onto a wooden picks and add to drinks, then garnish with lemon wedges. 

Ginger Syrup

1/4 pound ginger (about 3/4 cup), peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Bring ingredients to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes. Strain through sieve and let cool. Refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Gin Zuz

Courtesy of Debbie Dakins and John Regis

1 1/2 ounces Plymouth Gin
1 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
Fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
Lime, cut into wedges
Tonic water 

Muddle ginger and a lime wedge in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add gin and elderflower liqueur, then ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a lowball glass with ice. Top off with tonic water; garnish with another lime wedge and ginger slice.

Gin Gin Tin

1 1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce ginger-lemon shrub (see below)
Tonic water
Lemon slice for garnish

Combine gin and shrub in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake or stir. Pour into a lowball glass over ice. Top with tonic water. Garnish with lemon slice.

Ginger-Lemon Shrub

½ cup fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice

In a saucepan, combine the ginger slices and vinegar. Heat until it just starts to boil. Remove from heat and let it cool. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Gently strain the liquid into another saucepan (do not press ginger), and add sugar and lemon juice. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer three minutes.

Let cool and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

One thought on “Ginger: A triumphant triumvirate”

  1. Happy birthday, Zuz! This calls for a round of Gin Zuz(es). Although the Gin Gin Tin sounds pretty delectable. Thanks for the shout out … and for rekindling a wonderful memory. OK, I’m off to make my run-to-the-store list now …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.