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Homemade Ginger Ale
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On a Sunday afternoon, lounging around my apartment watching "Terms of Endearment" on HBO, inspiration suddenly strikes and I am compelled to make ginger ale from scratch. It would take a team of behavior specialists and Debra Winger fans to analyze this phenomenon, but suffice it to say: I was hot and I had ginger. I recalled a recipe for homemade Ginger Ale in Jean-George's book "Cooking At Home with a Four-Star Chef", so I tore myself away from Aurora Greenway and studied the recipe. The recipe is pretty specific: it calls for one pound of fresh ginger, two stalks of lemongrass, and two small fresh chiles ("stems removed.") I didn't have much of that: I just had a big knob of ginger leftover from something gingery. There are two types of cooks in this world: those who won't do a recipe unless they have everything the recipe calls for, down to the smallest detail (a pinch of salt measured by approximating the cookbook author's finger size and pinch-grasp) and those who use a recipe as a launching pad, throwing things together willy-nilly* and hoping for the best.
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[* Note: This is the first time I've used the phrase "willy-nilly" on this blog and I wanted to point that out. Thank you!] I used to be in the former category, a recipe purist, until I saw Julia Child say on TV that "anyone who doesn't do a recipe because they're missing an ingredient or two, will never be a cook." The more and more I get into cooking, the more I realize that Julia's right. And such was the case with this ginger ale. For example, in the recipe proper, it tells you to chop the ginger (skin-on), the lemongrass and the chiles and then puree them in a food processor. My food processor hasn't been working lately, so I just grated the ginger into a little pot and when i got tired of grating, I chopped up the rest. I took one dried red chile and crumbled it in:

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I added about 2 cups of water (maybe a little less), 1/2 cup of sugar, and put it on the boil. When it came to the boil, I reduced to a simmer and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Pretty quickly I tasted to make sure I liked the balance and, indeed, I did.

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Once it's syrupy, and 15 minutes have passed, let it cool and then strain it (I strained into a measuring glass to make it easier to pour later):

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Chill it in the fridge until you just can't wait anymore, and then get yourself a glass with some ice in it (we don't have any glasses! Just mugs!) and some soda water and set it all out with the syrup:

Pour 1/4 cup of syrup into the glass then stir in the soda water. Taste! Add more syrup if you think it needs more. Isn't it refreshing? Seriously: this is one refreshing summer drink. And it has a real kick to it with those chiles (or, in my case, that one chile). It's a heat that sneaks up on you, you take a gulp, you smile, and then the back of your throat starts to burn. You'll love it.

For those recipe purists, though, who want to know Jean-George's exact recipe: here it is. Skip the lemongrass if you can't find it, though next time I make this, I'm going to include it. I'm also going to make the full recipe next time because the small amount I made will hardly make three drinks and I have a feeling I'm going to be drinking this a lot this summer. It's a perfect summer drink. Homemade Ginger Ale recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten from "Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef" Ingredients: 1 pound fresh ginger, unpeeled and cut into small dice 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly chopped 2 small fresh chiles, stems removed 1 1/2 cups sugar Soda water Lime wedges 1. Combine the ginger, lemongrass and chiles in food processor and process until minced, stopping the machine periodically and scraping down the sides. 2. Place the puree in a saucepan with the sugar and 1 quart water (that's four cups). Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Cool, then strain and chill. 3. To serve, place 1/4 cup of the syrup in a glass full of ice. Fill with soda water, taste and add more syrup if you like. Garnish with a lime wedge, then serve. Tags: drinks, ginger ale, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, summer drinks Posted by Adam Roberts on June 8, 2009 12:53 PM | Permalink Share on: Del.icio.us Facebook Digg Email to a friend

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Crafternoon said...

Oh, this sounds delicious! What a great idea for a refreshing summer libation.
Reply 06/08/2009 at 02:41 PM

keving said...

add a bit of rum and you got one hell of a dark and stormy
Reply 06/08/2009 at 02:47 PM

edwardkimuk said...

i always loved ginger beer never knew how to make it though definitely going to make some next time (if ever) it gets hot again
Reply 06/08/2009 at 02:59 PM

christa said...

Thank you Thank you Thank you for posting this recipe! I LOVE gingerale and now I no longer have to be afraid of making this at home, all by myself! By the way....Martha Stewart has a wonderful hot ginger tea recipe that is a kicker.
Reply 06/08/2009 at 03:54 PM

Rebecca (Foodie With Family) said...

That looks GOOD! I also make homemade ginger ale, but I use my Dad's recipe. There are differences between his and yours... His is self-carbonating and takes about 24 hours of fermenting on the countertop. It is my favorite ever ginger ale. I'll give yours a whirl one of these days!
Reply 06/08/2009 at 04:00 PM

Stephanie said...

Who knew you could make your own ginger ale!? Who knew it even had real ginger in it!? Not me!
Reply 06/08/2009 at 04:52 PM

Josh Baugher said...

You might also be interested in these ginger ale/beer recipes: Alton Brown http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/gingerale-recipe/index.html Jeffrey Morgenthaler http://www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com/2008/how-to-makeyour-own-ginger-beer/
Reply 06/08/2009 at 09:56 PM

amy said...

I heart gingerale. Thank you!!
Reply 06/09/2009 at 01:28 AM

Hope Mirlis said...

wow, super easy! thanks for sharing.
Reply 06/09/2009 at 01:35 PM

Nanther said...

Never fully understood the difference between "ginger beer" and "ginger ale." Assumed ginger beer had more...ginger....! Also was wondering if there was a viable sugar-free version. Didn't think it was easy since Splenda™ doens't tend to make good syrup ;-)
Reply 06/09/2009 at 02:11 PM

JParker said...

If you want to make this on the cheap skip your regular store and go to the Asian grocery, Ask around to find out which market has the "cheap" produce prices the ginger and lemongrass will be less than half what a regular store would charge and you can stock up on poki while you are there. :)
Reply 06/09/2009 at 03:05 PM

Tracy said...

Totally cool project. I love ginger ale with a kick!
Reply 06/09/2009 at 04:33 PM

Laura [What I Like] said...

This will definitely be making an appearance at my next party!
Reply 06/09/2009 at 05:00 PM

Alex said...

Here is a much easier way to do it. Buy some golden tea and mix it with Sprite. Easy and SO good!
Reply 06/09/2009 at 07:38 PM

Marianne said...

This is *awesome*! Most ginger ales (with the exception of Reed's) don't have anywhere near enough ginger for me - this should be very satisfying :D
Reply 06/09/2009 at 07:48 PM

gluhtzee said...

This is the quick easy Ginger Ale method. Takes me back to my youth when my Father often mused about him helping his uncle make Ginger BEER, with soem alcoholic content. Any have a recipe for the latter ?
Reply 06/09/2009 at 10:59 PM

Mike S said...

So, I've been reading my old favorite, David Eddings, lately and noticed something interesting. He uses the phrase "will he, nil he" in the place of your favorite, "willy nilly" and it makes a lot of sense! I don't know if it's the true source of the phrase, but it seems plausible to me. :o)
Reply 06/10/2009 at 10:24 AM

Lemon Tart said...

Sounds like this will go nicely beside my Vanilla Honey Cream Soda! Love the addition of the chiles in this. I like mine with some lime and lemon zest.
Reply 06/10/2009 at 12:31 PM

Keith said...

I tried this last night, and I was impressed. I didn't have the chiles or any lemongrass on hand, but a splash of lemon juice worked in a pinch. I was using this to help my wife's nausea as she's been under the weather recently, and in the interest of time, I used an ice bath to rapidly chill the syrup. I may play around with this, and actually make more of a concentrated version, using simple syrup as a base. The batch was great, and I actually like using diet lemon soda in place of the club soda. And yes, I can't leave a recipe alone.
Reply 06/11/2009 at 06:54 AM

Bobbi said...

Oh.... I liked this so much, I blogged about it on Bobbisbargains.blogspot.com I can't wait to try it!
Reply 06/11/2009 at 12:12 PM

Hillary said...

How cool! You make it look so simple - can you make other soda flavors with this concept? Make more! :)
Reply 06/11/2009 at 05:34 PM

Kasie Bennett said...

Love it! I am definitely going to give this a shot and post the findings on my blog. Hopefully mine will be as refreshing as yours sounds. :)
Reply 06/11/2009 at 08:14 PM

Katie said...

How cool! I would never think to make homeade ginger ale! I originally come from Michigan...they take Vernor's brand VERY serious up there. Great idea!
Reply 06/12/2009 at 09:35 AM

angus cooney said...

Excellent I know its cheaper to buy the ginger ale, but there is something special about "fresh" ginger and all its health properties. I think iv gassed myself up, should give it a rest for a few days. tasty and addictive, thanks for the recipe. angus cooney
Reply 06/12/2009 at 09:40 PM

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