And we’re not talking about dueling redheads.
No, we’re talking about the rhizome! And we’re talking about infusions again: ginger liqueur, of course! I was looking for a Christmas gift-worthy liqueur I could make in a shorter time frame than that delicious orange curacao I made a couple of months ago and ginger liqueur fit all the bills perfectly.
When researching recipes, I came across several different approaches: lemon zest vs. orange zest, cognac vs. vodka vs. Everclear, cooked vs. raw, and so on. I decided to take two recipes that were similar in some ways (ingredients, aside from the base spirit) and completely different in others (prep and infusion time) and pit them head to head to declare a winner.
I had never tasted Domaine de Canton, which is the most ubiquitous ginger liqueur around now, but midway through the experiment I had the opportunity to sample some. The Canton recipe, made with cognac as the base spirit, leads to a relatively low ABV (alcohol by volume) at 28% and is very sweet, with a flavor much like crystallized or candied ginger. Marcia Simmons’ recipe at Serious Eats tries to match it by simmering ginger slices with sugar, water, and vanilla until the ginger is cooked through, then adding the mixture to cognac and orange zest to infuse.
The other recipe I found was relatively similar in ingredients, but very different in procedure. The well-educated team at 5 Degrees of Preparation reasons that making the liqueur with a neutral spirit like vodka will make it more versatile than cognac versions and opts out of cooking the ginger. Just dice it up and shake the ingredients together until all the sugar dissolves. Also, as no water is added to the vodka, this recipe results in a liqueur that is a higher ABV.
I made half quantities of both recipes and allowed them to infuse for their appointed days. The only modification I made to the recipes was to use some of my homemade vanilla extract in place of a vanilla bean. My feelings on using vanilla beans for infusions has been documented. Once the infusions were complete, I strained them each through coffee filters.
And the winner is…!
Degrees of Prep!
In order to adequately compare the two liqueurs, we (Rob and I) tasted them both on their own and in a Ginger Gin and Tonic. The verdict was clear to both of us and after tasting the Domaine de Canton, it was easy to see why. We both liked the Degrees of Prep recipe much better than the Serious Eats recipe, which tastes very similar to Domaine de Canton…which we didn’t really care for. The ginger flavor is strong, but when paired with that much sugar in a syrup that has been simmered for upwards of twenty minutes…it’s really sweet. Just like the Domaine de Canton.
While the Degrees of Prep recipe is also sweet, the sweetness isn’t as cloying. Additionally, because nothing in the infusion is cooked and the base spirit is a neutral flavor, the infusion tastes fresher and brighter. And, as hypothesized, it works better in a cocktail. Not only is the neutral spirit easier to balance, but the lower sugar content allows the ginger flavor to come through without overpowering the cocktail with sweetness.
Ingredients and Procedure:
- 3.5 oz ginger root, peeled and diced (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 16 oz. vodka
- zest of one medium orange
Combine all of the ingredients in a sealable container and shake until the sugar is completely dissolved. When I made a full batch, I split the ingredients into two quart Mason jars to allow adequate room for shaking.
Allow the combination to infuse for 5-6 days, shaking it up at least once a day. Strain through coffee filters and let sit for one day before using. The flavor mellows a good deal in that one day.
For the future:
I am very interested in experimenting with this infusion and can now completely understand the variety of recipes I found during my initial research. For example, I would love to try different batches using Everclear as the base spirit, lemon zest in place of orange or a mixture of the two, and less sugar.
Also, I’m dying to get a taste of The King’s Ginger, which is made with neutral grain spirits and single malt whisky. It is supposedly spicier and that sounds right up my alley. Now I just have to find a bottle…
A couple of things to consider if you are interested in making your own ginger liqueur:
- What is your intended use? If you want to use it mainly as a cocktail mixer with a variety of liquors, I’d go with the vodka base. If you want a copycat Domaine de Canton, go the cognac/simple syrup route.
- DON’T BUY GINGER FROM THE SUPERMARKET. You can get the same product at an Asian market for at least half the price, if not cheaper. These recipes can get pricey if you don’t take care to shop around. Not as pricey as a bottle of Domaine de Canton, but still…
I made this cocktail with each liqueur and it was worlds better when made with the Degrees of Prep version. Worlds. Very refreshing, but still warming, with a good flavor of ginger. The liqueur turns what is, in my mind, a very summer drink into something perfectly appropriate for a warm or cold winter afternoon.
Although the grapefruit bitters are not required, a couple dashes go a long way toward balancing the sweetness of the liqueur and tonic. I find myself dashing a bit into lots of drinks these days. Orange bitters could probably be substituted without much issue, but I don’t know if the drink would be quite as delectable.
- 1 part gin
- 1 part ginger liqueur
- 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
- Tonic water
Build the drink on ice and top with tonic water to taste. Garnish with a slice of lemon.
Ginger liqueur can also be used as a substitute for simple syrup, although I would suggest swapping it out in lighter flavored drinks so the ginger flavor doesn’t get overpowered. Rob made a bourbon/ginger liqueur/lime drink tonight that was kind of like a gingery whiskey sour. I’ve also seen it suggested for use with champagne, which I think I might just have to try at some point over the coming holidays that just so happen to feature champagne.
The options are endless, so get experimenting! And let us know what happens!