Serious Eats: Drinks
DIY vs. Buy: Should I Make My Own Ginger Liqueur?
Ginger liqueur offers an exciting blend of sweet and spicy flavors. It can turn a basic drink into an intricately layered cocktail experience. Sure, you can use ginger liqueur all year (it's great with sparkling wine, especially when muddled with peaches in the summer) but this potion especially calls to us in winter, when it's just the thing to spice up our drinks.
What's Available to Buy?
Domaine de Canton is the most common ginger liqueur on the market. The ginger kick in Canton is balanced with vanilla, honey, and Cognac—it's elegant, but a bit sweet. Snap is a bolder ginger liqueur featuring nutmeg, cinnamon, and Rooibos tea in its mix of spices. It reminds me of a hearty gingerbread. Both cost about $30 a bottle—though I think Domaine de Canton is a more flexible cocktail ingredient. The King's Ginger is a slightly more expensive high-proof ginger liqueur with an intense bite—smooth but barely sweet.
Stirrings also offers a less complex ginger liqueur for half the price. Though it has lovely flavor, I find that it doesn't add any more dimension to mixed drinks than a well-made ginger simple syrup would.
As easy as it is to buy a bottle of Canton, my recipe for DIY ginger liqueur takes only 20 minutes of work, and tastes just as delicious and refined. The steeping time is very short, so this is a perfect homemade holiday gift. (Hear that, procrastinators?)
It's also fun to play with different flavor combinations in small batches. Add some cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom for an earthier liqueur that's a good match for ciders and warm holiday drinks. A little lemon zest and lemongrass will give you a bright, Asian-inspired flavor. The beauty of homemade liqueur is unleashing your creativity to make something you won't see on the shelf at some liquor store.
Get the Recipe
Your homemade liqueur is perfect for jazzing up all sorts of cocktails. The simple Tom Collins suddenly tastes exotic with a bit of ginger, but you can also get more complicated than that. Add a little to a hot toddy on a cold night. And yes, it's good in eggnog, or shaken up with rosemary and pears.
Ginger pairs well with so many flavors—think about food recipes that you like that include ginger, and then use those flavors in a cocktail. Carrots, oranges, lemons, apples, pumpkin, green tea—these things are natural partners for ginger and could be the basis for a great new drink. If you give your liqueur as a gift, you can include some hand-written recipe cards featuring your favorite ginger liqueur cocktails. That is, if you can bear to part with some of it.
About the Author: Marcia Simmons is the co-author of DIY Cocktails: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Drinks. She also shares cocktail recipes and tips on the DIY Cocktails blog and on Twitter @DIYCocktails.