There are the niche sodas that you drink because they're old and familiar, or new and unusual, and you like that. Then there are the small-time sodas that you drink because you actually like the flavor. And if they were to expand beyond their little production plantsif everyone on Earth had a case in the kitchen and your allegiance no longer made any statement except that you were just like everyone else, you'd still drink them. For me, South Carolina's Blenheim Ginger Ale is one of those sodas.
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When I'm not making homebrew and writing about it, my other life is training to become a pediatrician. One of the hazards of this career is exposure to tons of infectious viruses and bacteria. Good hand hygiene, diet, and exercise can ward off most infections, but last week one got through—and it was a nasty gastroenteritis. As I lay in bed contemplating my impending death I dreamed of an elixir that could ease the pain and wet my lips without causing a crisis. I dreamed of ginger beer.
Ginger beer is ginger ale's sinister cousin: much or ginger and a little less sweet, but still (mostly) non-alcoholic. It can be made easily at home with simple ingredients and materials.
Back in November, I wrote a short post about Vernor's ginger ale, one of the oldest soft drinks in the country (if not the the oldest). It's a great, golden-style ginger ale with some nice vanilla-cream flavors and a reasonably punch of spicy ginger. Tasty, for sure, but there are times when what you really want is a blow-your-head-off, destroy-your-nose, no-question-this-is-curing-my-cold ginger ale.
I've been a fan of Vernors Ginger Ale for a little over a year now since discovering the stuff at Motz's Burger in Detroit. It's popular around those parts, something like the official drink of Detroit, and with good reason. Golden in color and hyper-effervescent, it's only mildly sweet with a mellow ginger flavor coupled with a distinct vanilla aroma. It falls somewhere between a cream soda and a dry-style ginger ale and goes amazingly well with hamburgers and hangovers alike.
Not quite a traditional recipe, but with very traditional flavors, Ryan Gannon's version is "firmed up" with Cointreau.
Some find the earthy flavor and slow-burn heat of ginger ale a bit harder to appreciate than, say, cola. Some ginger ales are definitely more intense than others, with brewers pushing the ginger-tolerance envelope to the limit. But the good ones balance vanilla and caramel notes with the spicy flavor of ginger, and lighten it with hints of citrus. We tried 13 brands in a blind taste test in order to pick our favorites.
The Operator is a spin on a white wine spritzer, but it's a bit more flavorful (though still refreshing and low in alcohol.) We used subpar Sauvignon Blanc, but any dry white wine will do.
Our first Cook the Book column of 2011 is going to feature Amanda Hesser's newly released The Essential New York Times Cookbook, a compilation favorite recipes spanning the paper's 160 years. As an intro to the feature we thought we'd bring you a sneak peak: a Bourbon Slush perfect for New Year's Eve.
I suppose that while paging through Alton Brown's Good Eats 2: The Middle Years, I was looking for a glazed carrot recipe that had a little more oomph than the standard combo of butter and brown sugar. This recipe subs in ginger ale as a sweetener, and depending on which brand you choose it can lend a significant kick. I chose a super strong ginger beer, which reduced to a lovely glaze and left the carrots plenty spicy and gingery enough to wake you up. The sprinkling of chili powder adds a bit more warmth and spice, taking these carrots out of the realm of sleepy side and into the side dish spotlight.
Short of simply popping open a beer or a straight slug of whiskey, there are few drinks that are less labor-intensive than the venerable highball. With Labor Day this weekend, we figured this was the perfect drink to share. You could reasonably ask the question, "Do we really need a recipe for something so easy?" but while this simple (and flexible) mix of booze, bubbles and ice can be prepared with almost zero thought, a little care in the execution can make all the difference between a watery glass of meh and a damn refreshing drink.