There comes a point toward the end of every great meal when the table is covered with dirty plates, rumpled napkins, and the tablecloth has turned into a Rorschach inkblot of wine and sauce stains. When belts are loosened and eyelids begin to droop, it’s time for sujeonggwa. Sujeonggwa is a non-alcoholic Korean digestif made by simmering ginger, cinnamon, sugar, and water to make a warm, spiced, aromatic cross between a tea and punch. Traditionally, it's finished with dried persimmons and pine nuts for peak fall vibes. The restorative, warm heat of fresh ginger balanced by the molasses sweetness of brown sugar makes the perfect pre-dessert pick-me-up after a big meal.
For this version, dried apple chips replace hard-to-find dried persimmons, which gives this sujeonggwa a mulled apple cider feel, and to compensate for the loss of the gingerbread and dried apricot notes persimmons typically provide, cinnamon sticks are lightly charred over an open flame and then combined with water, brown sugar, sliced ginger, cloves, and star anise to form the base for the drink. The mixture is simmered until intensely aromatic, removed from the heat, and a heaping handful of dried apple chips are added to the pot. The sujeonggwa is then set aside to steep for twenty minutes, strained, gently reheated, and served in mugs with a sprinkling of pine nuts—it's like an apple pie in tea form.
Why It Works
- Lightly charring the cinnamon sticks lends them a pleasant, warm bitterness that balances the sweetness of the punch.
- Steeping the apple chips in the punch off heat prevents them from breaking down and muddying the punch's ginger aroma.
- Yield:Serves 4 to 6
- Active time: 5 minutes
- Total time:45 minutes
- 5 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cups (1.4L) water
- 7 ounces dark brown sugar (about 1 cup, packed; 200g)
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 star anise pods
- 6 ounces fresh ginger (about three 3-inch pieces; 170g), peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 ounces dried apple chips (about 1 1/2 cups; 85g)
- 3 tablespoons (30g) pine nuts
Using tongs and working one at a time, lightly char cinnamon sticks by holding them over open flame of a gas burner or kitchen torch until lightly singed on both sides, 15 to 30 seconds each. Alternatively, if you don't have a gas burner, char cinnamon sticks in a dry cast iron skillet over high heat, about 10 minutes.
In a 3-quart saucepan, combine charred cinnamon sticks, water, brown sugar, cloves, star anise, and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula to help brown sugar dissolve, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is intensely aromatic and sugar is fully dissolved, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in apple chips, cover, and set aside to steep for 20 minutes.
Strain punch through a fine-mesh strainer, gently pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. If serving right away, return punch to saucepan and reheat over low heat until warmed through. Divide punch between individual mugs, sprinkle with pine nuts, and serve. If making tea in advance, allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days; reheat over low heat before serving.