I’ve liked Ginger Ale ever since I was a kid. I remember a stand off of Truro Beach, on Cape Cod, that had fabulous Ginger Ale and Birch Beer. To my recollection, they tasted like something other than sugary water.
Segue forward about four decades, and stuff that good is a bit hard to find. Check the labels of famous brands, and you’ll see water, high fructose corn syrup, a bunch of other crap, with ‘natural flavors’ last in line. They taste exactly like what they’re made of, too.
There certainly are good ginger ales out there still. We found Reed’s Ginger Beer at the store, made with cane sugar, pineapple juice, honey, fresh ginger, and lemon and lime juice. 25% of the stuff is juice, and when you take a sip, you taste ginger, first and foremost. It’s great, but it’s also a buck fifty a bottle, which is a bit rich for my taste. Ginger beer, by the way, is a fermented product, like root or birch beers. They’re certainly makable at home, but do require a significant amount of time and effort to produce.
Naturally, we decided to build our own, and opted for ginger ale, the non-fermented cousin of those beers mentioned above.
This recipe made 4.5 cups of syrup, enough for 22 glasses. The ginger cost us about $5, same for the honey, for the lion’s share of the cost. All told, we had about $15 into the recipe, or roughly 65¢ a glass, a much more palatable cost, and a delicious treat.
1 Pound fresh Ginger Root
5 Cups Water
1 Cup local Honey or Agave Nectar
NOTE: There is not a thing wrong with using good cane sugar either; any of these beat the hell out of High Fructose Corn Syrup.
2 Liter bottle of Club Soda
1 small Lime
1 small Lemon
Pinch Sea Salt
Option: 3-4 Keffir Lime Leaves
Rinse, peel, and dice ginger root.
Zest and juice lemon and lime.
In a large sauce pan over medium high heat, bring water to a simmer. Add ginger and citrus zest; when water simmers again, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and let the mixture steep, covered, for 30 minutes.
Run the mixture through a single mesh strainer, pressing gently on the ginger. Discard the root.
Return strained liquid to the pan over medium heat. Add honey or agave, and 1 tablespoon each of lemon and lime juice, and a pinch of salt.
Stir gently until sweetener is completely dissolved. Taste and adjust sweetener and citrus as desired.
Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool. Transfer to a glass bottle or jar and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Mix drinks in a tall glass with plenty of ice. Start with 1/4 cup syrup to 1 cup club soda; stir, taste and adjust blend to your liking. A fresh sprig of mint goes very nicely.
Refrigerated and sealed air tight, the syrup will last for a good two weeks, though it’s not likely to survive that long.
NOTE: Some folks prefer to mix fresh citrus in to the final blend, rather than incorporating it into the syrup.