Make Your Own: Ginger Syrup

fresh-ginger-grated-300x225One of the prime ingredients in a lot of great drinks is ginger beer.  When you’re attempting to make these drinks be they the Moscow Mule or the Derailer there are a lot of different brands from which to choose.  As I’ve pointed out previously Cock and Bull ginger beer is about the best ginger forward of the lot.  It’s not as available as some others but I have found that I can buy it in bulk at the local cash and carry which means if I can find a use for 24-48 of them I’m set.

If you’re trying to substitute ginger ale from a standard 2 liter bottle you’re going to be very disappointed.  Brands such as  Canada Dry, Seagrams, and schweppes are all pretty mild.

HopBoxer owns one of those lovely new Sodastream fountains.  They are pretty awesome for making a quick batch of club soda, and the soda mixes that they come with are great for replicating the flavor of some of the major name brands.  Energy drinks in particular are a big cost savings.

With all of my fooling around with custom syrups it occurred to me that there were enough options in just what I had done so far to almost entirely replace much of the options for the machine.  The bottles of concentrated soda are about $10 for enough syrup to make 12 liters.   Which functionally works out to about $0.83 a liter.  Still a bit more expensive than even store brand sodas in 2 liter bottles.  If you’re doing something caffeinated or difficult to replicate that’s not a bad trade-off but if you  include the cost of replacement CO2 canisters it’s still pretty similar.

Lately HopBoxer’s go to drink has been the Derailer, a mix of Jameson, Creme de Cassis, lime juice and ginger beer.  I’ll detail out the drink in another post.  As a present I decided to whip up a batch of ginger syrup and see if we couldn’t put the Sodastream to good use.

I had some ginger which had been frozen and sitting around for a bit and it was time to use it up.  The squeeze bottle I was planning to carry it in was about 2 cups so that decided the quantity.

The same base as a simple syrup applies.  With a ratio of 1:1 we need two cups of water and two cups of sugar.  In this case I wanted something a bit more complex so I used a Turbinado sugar.  That means it was a lot darker and had a tendency to froth but would give the ginger something to play against in the sweetness portion.

I had about 2 1/2 roots of ginger, after paring off the ends and putting it through the shredder I had about 1.5 cups of very wet ginger mash.  How you treat your ginger is going to play a big role in how much ginger taste you get.  Sliced ginger has a lot of surface area but not nearly as much as chopped.  Chopped releases a lot of juice but never as much as shredding.  The down side is that with each adjustment in size you add an extra amount of effort on both the front side in knifework and on the back side in straining.

Start the syrup in a medium saucepan, turbinado has a larger grain than most table sugar and is quite a bit larger than the bakers sugar I normally use so add it slowly and allow it to dissolve totally before you add more.  I started the heat low and brought it up once the sugar was fully dissolved.

Give the syrup a quick boil to get it set, then drop the heat to a simmer and add the ginger.

Your entire house will smell like ginger in a matter of minutes.

Allow the ginger to steep while you simmer off the water to the desired thickness, for me this means about 10-15 minutes.  Since the ginger is pretty loose you want to stir a bit more frequently than you might for a plain syrup.

Once you have it tight you take it off the heat and let it steep for an additional 10-20 minutes.  This is going to put a lot of ginger flavor into the final product so here is where you play with the time to control that flavor.

Once you have the flavor where you want it you’ll need to strain the finished product.  If you shredded or chopped the ginger, do not strain the syrup into the dispenser bottle.  You may need to strain more than once and it’s a pain to get the little bits out of a squeeze bottle.  A strainer is good, cheesecloth is better but not always necessary.  If you’re a fan you can save the leftover ginger and make candied ginger with it.

Chill the bottle for a bit and make sure you give it a good shake before you use it.  1-2 ounces of syrup is good for about 8-12oz of soda, simply add club soda.  If you want to try this in a Sodastream you’ll need to add about 4.5 – 5oz of syrup per liter bottle.  This may seem like a lot if you’re familiar with the Sodastream syrups but keep in mind that their syrups are a concentrate.  You could boil down your own syrups enough to be of the same density but home syrups are cheap enough that you don’t need to worry about quantity.

The result was a very good round flavored ginger syrup that creates a similarly sharp ginger soda.

Basic Drinking: Moscow Mule

moscow muleFollowing up on my post about Core Drinks.

This evening we present the Moscow Mule.  A drink with a fine pedigree and a well known history.  The president and owners of Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer and  G.F. Heublein Brothers, Inc.

Heublein may not sound like a name to remember now but in the 40’s they were famous as the company that brought vodka to the american palate when they acquired all rights to the Smirnoff brand.  They are also responsible for the US distribution of other noteworthy brands like Don Q, Jose Cuervo and Guinness Stout.

In 1941 when Jack Morgan shipped his first train load of Cock ‘n Bull ginger beer to the east coast he celebrated in the bar at the Chatham Hotel.  Alongside him were John G. Martin of Heublein and Rudolph Kunett president of Smirnoff.

We can only credit divine providence (and a large quantity of Kunett’s product) with the resulting cocktail.

1.5 oz vodka
0.5 oz lime juice (half a lime)
8 oz Ginger Beer

Pour into glass, give a shot stir so as not to release all the bubbles and drop the spent half lime into the glass.

For some reason these are traditionally served in a small, handled copper mug.  The reasons for this are unclear and lacking this unique barware I’m forced to rely on my Working Glass for such a large drink.

Flavor wise I think you’re going to see a lot of difference based on the kind of Ginger beer you choose.  Cock n’ Bull, the original brand that started the drink is very much alive.  It’s cloudy, rich and spicy.  You can find it in grocery stores, liquor stores and even online.  You might also want to try Fever Tree or Reeds which comes in an Original and and Extra Ginger version.  Reeds is generally around.  I’ve seen it in a number of grocery stores. Fever tree tends to be a bit more select and while I’ve seen some of their products in stores you can’t count on the full line.

I made this one with a cock n bull and I have to say that it has some serious bite.  It’s not sharp like fresh ginger but it does have the burn and the spice of the true root.  The recipe on the side of the bottle is the one I’ve given above, but as I said this takes a larger glass seeing as you’ve got about 10 oz of drink there compared to the 6-8 you normally have in most cocktails.

Some of the versions of this have the ratio a bit closer to even.  2 parts vodka to 3 parts ginger beer.  Given that mix you’d get.

1 oz vodka
0.5 oz lime juice
1.5 oz ginger beer.

A bit short but if you’re using a smaller mug then a 3-4 oz drink goes a bit quicker and you can refill a bit more often.

Mr. Bartender gives a recipe of:

2 oz Vodka
2 oz Lime Juice
8 oz Ginger beer

I think in this case they’re simply upping the lime juice to compensate for the excess of ginger beer. It’s a similar ratio as above you’re just putting 4 times as much ginger beer and lime.  A much lighter drink that you might otherwise want.

This is not a drink that goes quickly.  The volume of flavor between ginger and lime is enough to give you time to pause between sips.  They don’t mesh but they do blend pretty well and being as a good vodka will disappear once it hits any sort of mixer you’re not tasting anything alcohol related on this one.