At the now-closed NYC cocktail oasis Pegu Club, proprietor Audrey Saunders’ Gin-Gin Mule rightfully earned a place in the modern-day cocktail canon. Saunders has described this gingery cocktail as a cross between a Moscow Mule (another ginger beer-based drink) and a Mojito (usually a rum drink but here made with gin). If you’ve got sugar, fresh lime juice, fresh mint, gin, and ginger beer (or fresh ginger, which is probably why you’re here), then consider yourself in business.
While this refreshing cocktail certainly can be made with canned ginger fizz, it gets even better when mixed with house-made ginger beer, which is remarkably easy to make at home.
“Store-bought stuff has a peppery, more than gingery, profile,” says Saunders, interviewed in the book “New York Cocktails” (Cider Mill Press, $20) by Amanda Schuster. In addition, many brands can be “insipid,” she says.
And you certainly don't want to confuse ginger beer with ginger ale. The former has a far stronger ginger flavor and spicy kick than the latter, which is gently ginger-flavored soda. Ginger ale can be used in a variety of cocktails—think Highballs, Pimm’s Cups, and Bucks—but there is a significant difference in flavor profile and influence on any given cocktail, so it’s important to note the difference. As an experiment, try making the Gin Buck both ways to see how they differ (the recipe calls for either ginger ale or ginger beer).
While Pegu Club makes ginger beer by the gallon, here’s a smaller-scale version to try at home. It takes a little time—note the one-hour wait for the ingredients to fully integrate—but yields enough for several cocktails, since only an ounce of this intensely gingery elixir is all that’s needed for maximum piquancy. The recipe does not call for carbonation, however. To make it bubbly, add sparkling water, seltzer or club soda to taste. (Note: Some variations on this recipe call for two ounces of ginger beer when canned versions are used.)
- 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger (use a Microplane or a food processor)
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
Makes 1 cup.
Add water to a pot, and bring to a boil.
Stir in the grated ginger. Remove from heat and cover pot. Allow to sit for 1 hour.
Strain through a fine chinois (metal strainer) or cheesecloth. (While straining the ginger, use a spoon or ladle to firmly press down on the ginger to extract more flavor.) The appearance will be cloudy, but don’t worry as this is natural.
Add lime juice and brown sugar, and let cool.
Funnel into a glass bottle. Cap tightly and store in the refrigerator. This ginger beer keeps for two weeks.