I have a weakness for ginger drinks, especially those with muddled fresh ginger root, brown spirits, and plenty of lemon or lime. Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur has become ubiquitous in cocktails all over the country, but it's a tricky ingredient to mix with—it often nudges a cocktail into dessert territory. So I'm intrigued by a more recent addition to the ginger liqueur category, The King's Ginger.
Or perhaps I shouldn't say "recent addition"—The King's Ginger may have only reappeared on bar shelves last year, but it technically has been in production (in much smaller quantities) since the early 1900s, when it was supposedly prescribed as a warming medicinal tonic for King Edward VII. The brand was rebooted in 2011 by Berry Bros. & Rudd of London with partners at Anchor Distilling in California, and David King of Anchor directed the reformulation of the recipe. To make the spicy concoction, ginger root and lemon are distilled with neutral grain spirits, then single malt whisky is added. It clocks in at 41% ABV. (Canton, by contrast, is cognac-based, and 28% ABV.)
Tasting it head to head with Domaine de Canton emphasizes the earthiness of The King's Ginger. It has a rich, full body (thanks in part to the high proof) that's more brown-spirit than fresh ginger, and the taste develops in your mouth to mirror that of a spicy ginger chew. Canton is a bit more floral and straightforwardly gingery up front, but has a lingering sweetness that's much more candied.
For me, Domaine de Canton is too sweet to drink on the rocks, while The King's Ginger has enough boozy spice to make it feel more like a cocktail on its own. The ginger flavor of The King's Ginger is more subtle, but it also seems more natural-tasting to me.
But once you've got a bottle, what should you do with it? Some suggest mixing it half and half with Scotch, but we didn't love that option; the smokiness of the Scotch masked the ginger flavor, and when we increased the amount of King's Ginger, the whole thing just called out for acid to balance it out.
Instead, mix up one of these delicious drinks:
Prince Harry Cocktail
Dark rum and ginger are happy together, but this cocktail comes alive with the addition of a good dose of freshly squeezed lime, a dash of Angostura, and King's Ginger in addition to an ounce of ginger beer.
We got the recipe from Michael Neff of NYC's Ward III and The Rum House. "I don't have a name for it," he said, "but if I had to come up with one, I'd pick a red-headed royal (King's ginger...right?) and name it for him. Prince Harry comes to mind."
We couldn't stop drinking the sample we shook up in our office for the photo; it's dangerously tasty.
The No. 8
The King's Ginger helps emphasize the delicately earthy flavor of unsmoked Fidencio mezcal in this refreshing spin on the Paloma from John McCarthy of Whitehall and Mary Queen of Scots in NYC. It's tart and fragrant from a triple punch of grapefruit, lime, and orange—perfect for sipping alongside some tacos, or for a complex, boozy brunch drink.
The King's Waes Hail
The award-winning original version of this drink, from Michael Jack Pazdon of SolBar in Calistoga, California, is made with calvados and shaken with egg white—plus a dash of grenadine, a dash of Maraschino, 5 drops of gingersnap spice tincture, and 5 drops of genever. We simplified it a bit and subbed in apple brandy for the calvados. Our version is tart, lemony, refreshing, and strong—mellow it out with the egg white if you prefer. The lemon accentuates the fresh-apple flavor of the apple brandy, and ginger brings it all together.
Have you tried The King's Ginger? Got gingery cocktail recipes to share? Chime in in the comments.
Disclosure: Sample provided for review consideration.