I have always enjoyed ginger ale. Even when I was a kid, I loved the taste of Seagram's Ginger Ale. Then, when I was in high school, I discovered this stuff called Blenheim's Ginger Ale, and I was blown away. It was spicy and hot and hard to drink. Man, did it taste good. Mind you, I didn't touch alcohol until I was 21, so this stuff wasn't like that. It was sweet but different enough to be intriguing to an alternakid from South Carolina, which is where this stuff is made.
In the past few years, I have tried making highballs with ginger ale, but I have always been disappointed because I have always bought the regular supermarket stuff, which is good by itself, but it doesn't hold up to alcohol. The alcohol demands something more than merely the slightly different Sprite taste of regular ginger ales.
But I can't bring myself to buy specialty ginger ales. First of all, I have to go to specialty stores to do it, for my local Kroger doesn't sell it, and second of all, it costs as much as a good beer! I will spend $9 for a six-pack. I will spend $40 on a fifth. But I can't stomach spending $6 for a four-pack of non-alcoholic ginger beer to try to make my Moscow Mule taste decent.
The solution: make my own.
So I came across this recipe in Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined, and it looked good because it made a syrup that you combine with club soda to make the final product. Whenever you want a drink, you get one of the ginger beer and three of club soda, and you have your own fizzy ginger ale! Genius.
So I started by peeling a lot of ginger. Scraping with a spoon is the best way to do it. And I do mean a lot. I was tired of it by the end. Two pounds is a lot of ginger. Did I already say that? Then chop a cucumber. Get a lot of mint. Chop a jalapeno. Throw all of that into a food processor and get it ground. It isn't a very pretty sight, but that what it called for.
Once that's chopped, throw in a pan with water, honey, turbinado sugar, lime juice, and peppercorns and simmer it for a while. Then let it sit, refrigerate it overnight, and pour it through a cheese cloth to get you own spice mix.
Even while I was cooking it, I knew it wasn't right. The smell was horrible. Horrible. Smelled too savory and not sweet enough. The ginger smelled off, as if it was more like bathwater than ginger ale.
I was immediately disappointed.
But I pressed on and finished it. Then I made a Moscow Mule, and it was, well, okay. Not spicy enough, though. Not sweet enough. Not a lot of taste at all, really.
So I made a Tropical Highball with rum and ginger ale, and for this one, I did the syrup to club soda ratio at 1:2. It was better.
Another Moscow Mule, this time at 1:1 syrup to club soda. Better still. In fact, it was pretty damn good. Still with a strange savory smell, and without lots of flavor. Sure, it has a slight spiciness in the back, but it isn't enough to make it a good, flavorful ginger ale.
After a few days, this actually got a lot better. The ginger flavor is more pronounced. It definitely works best with a 1:1 proportion. Something still weird about the smell, but I have grown to appreciate it.
I'm not giving up, though. I will find a good ginger ale recipe yet. Or maybe I should just order some Blenheims.