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My go-to cocktail is a dark and stormy, but, to be honest, most days I could take or leave the rum. It's the ginger beer that I'm really after. I can't get enough of the root's fizzy, spicy kick. Good ginger beer burns a little at the back of your throat like a freshly cracked can of Coke, but with cleaner, more bracing punch. And unlike most other soft drinks, it doesn't leave behind a slick, syrupy film in your mouth. The really spicy versions pack all the mouth-tingling sparkle of Listerine, but taste way better.
That said, I rarely buy the stuff. Maybe it's my frugal side, but I have yet to find a bottled ginger beer that knocks my socks off so much that I'm compelled to keep it in my fridge. But I can't help but crave the stuff bartender Scott Holliday brews at Cambridge's Rendezvous in Central Square.
His ginger base consists of two components, raw and cooked. For the former he combines fresh lime juice, lemon juice, ginger juice (yes, he actually puts the ginger root through a juicer), and commercial pineapple juice; for the latter, he simmers ginger pulp extracted from the juicing step, cinnamon, clove, and cardamom for half an hour and strains the mixture. Then he combines the two parts, dilutes the mixture with water to the proper concentration, and carbonates it by putting it into a soda siphon.
It's a tall drink that arrives beautifully separated in the glass, with the concentrated ginger base settled at the bottom. I imagine it's meant to be stirred well before sipping, though anyone who appreciates a wallop of ginger should refrain from mixing it up for at least a few sips. That way, you'll get the full effect, with the lime, cinnamon, and pineapple coming through in tangy, sweet-hot bursts.