Seriously wicked pickled ginger syrup

So, we’re a little obsessed with infused simple syrups right now in the Good Booze kitchen. We acknowledge that an intervention may need to be staged at some point, but until then, just look the other way. A little sugar and water never hurt anybody.

You can walk into pretty much any restaurant these days and find a list of fancy cocktails of which at least one will, inevitably, feature a ginger simple syrup. So, we set out to make a standard ginger syrup until suddenly inspired by the giant bowl of fruit and vinegar currently marinating on the kitchen counter (keep an eye out for that recipe soon), which sent us running to the Asian foods section of the local grocery store in search of a jar of pickled sushi ginger.

The resulting syrup is luscious and peppery, with a distinct tang of vinegar. It will take a star turn in The Friday Tipple this week, but, more importantly, it would be amazing drizzled over creamy vanilla ice cream, as a spicy counterpoint to a rich flourless chocolate torte, or added to club soda for a homemade pickled ginger beer. And we’re pretty sure a spoonful of it might just cure the common cold.

Wicked Pickled Ginger Syrup

We used a raw sugar/cane sugar combination with this recipe, to help deepen the flavor and color. For the pickled sushi ginger, we used a piquant organic variety by The Ginger People, not the dyed-pink stuff that you usually see piled up next to the wasabi on your sushi plate. And don’t throw out the ginger pieces after you’ve strained the syrup — it’s candied pickled ginger gold! We put ours in the fridge and think they make a delicious addition to Greek yogurt and ice cream.

1 cup raw turbinado sugar

1 cup cane sugar

2 cups water

1 jar (6.7 ounces) pickled sushi ginger in vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a rolling simmer, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to low and allow to reduce for about 30 minutes, until you get a slightly thickened syrup. Cool in saucepan, then strain into a jar or squeeze bottle. Kept refrigerated, it should last at least three months.

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The Friday Tipple: Beachy Beer Sangria

Today’s Tipple is a day at the beach in a glass. Beer cocktails have been popping up on menus everywhere lately; in the old days, a beer cocktail was a bottle of Corona with a wedge of lime stuffed in the neck, but a recent article in Imbibe Magazine about a Spanish summer red wine called a tempranillo (think raspberries and sunshine) inspired us to consider a beer sangria. For the beer, we first tested a summery pale ale, but finally settled on Port City Brewing Company‘s Porter — you may think of a porter as a cold-weather beer, but this porter is rich without being syrupy and has a refreshing hoppiness which contrasts perfectly with the fruitiness of the wine.

The Beachy Beer Sangria calls for layering the flavors, which will create that beach experience no matter where you are today. At the top is a cold foam that leads you into the crisp porter, sort of like that moment when you first dive through the waves and your warm skin tingles like peppermint from the chill of the water. As you continue to drink, you’ll begin to encounter the cool smoothness of the wine, reminiscent of that mellow mid-afternoon drowsiness as you lay back in your chair at the water’s edge, the tide gently lapping across your feet. The very last sip is both sweet and spicy, the sunset stretching across a perfect summer day. Life is good.

Beachy Beer Sangria

fresh fruit (berries, cherries, grapefruit, limes, lemons, oranges, etc.)

Blackberry-Lavender Simple Syrup (a good quality honey will also work)

Black peppercorns

Chilled fruity red wine, such as a Spanish tempranillo or a garnacha

Chilled porter (we like our local Port City Brewing Company‘s brew, but experiment to your heart’s delight)

Foam topping (optional) with a smidge of Grand Marnier

Make the simple syrup (our recipe is here). To make the foam topping, pour about a 1/4 cup of the porter in a small mixing bowl, add a splash of Grand Marnier, and whisk until foamy. Place in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

To assemble the drink, place a few peppercorns and some chunks of different fruits at the bottom of the glass. Drizzle with about a teaspoon of the simple syrup, then muddle lightly to crack the peppercorns and release the fruit juices. Pour 2/3 of a cup of wine over the fruit, then tip the glass slightly and slowly pour 1/2 cup of porter into the glass. Top with a spoonful of the chilled foam and garnish with fresh fruit. Awesome, dude!

The complex simple syrup

You’ll find a lot of cocktail recipes often call for a “simple syrup” — basically a 1:1 mix of sugar and water cooked on the stove to boiling, then allowed to cool for a variety of uses when you need a liquid sweetener as opposed to granulated sugar.

The beauty of a really good cocktail is the layering of flavors, just as in any well-composed entrée or dessert. A really interesting cocktail may have some kind of a fruit element, a sweetener (honey, agave nectar, simple syrup, etc.), an alcohol (or two, or three…), a textural element (this could be anything from carbonated water to slices of fruit to muddled herbs), and some kind of finishing contrast, like bitters.

A simple syrup, like a good bitters, can be complex, thereby adding more depth to your drink. They are quick to make and can be kept on hand indefinitely in a jar or squeeze bottle; experiment with different flavors — a fennel-infused simple syrup could offer an interesting contrast to a throat-burning grappa, or a caramelized grapefruit simple syrup could help deepen the flavor of a whiskey sour. All it takes is a little sugar and water and your imagination.

Blackberry Lavender Simple Syrup

This nod to summer’s bounty bears the addition of black peppercorns and a pinch of salt — a bit unusual, perhaps, but it helps to bring the flavors together and adds to the overall complexity of the syrup. You’ll also find this to be an important element in our next Friday’s Tipple!

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup blackberries

3 stems dried lavender

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

pinch of salt

Place sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture is simmering briskly. Lower heat slightly, then add blackberries, smashing them gently with the back of a spoon to release the juices. Add lavender stems, peppercorns, and salt, and let simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, then strain liquid and store in a jar for future use.