Fresh Berries Ginger Ale
I was recently home one afternoon sweating up a storm watching TV. It was particularly hot during this time period and I was sitting inside a place with horrible insulation meaning if it is hot outside, it’s even hotter inside, and if it’s cold outside, it’s even colder inside. Unfortunately, I don’t have air conditioning so I couldn’t even cool myself off with some A/C, and though my high-powered fan was working overtime, the thermometer in the room kept climbing higher and higher. On TV was Bobby Flay’s bbq show on the Food Network, and in the episode that I saw, he made a really interesting ginger ale, that not only looked delicious, but refreshing. Or perhaps, I was just delirious and overcome with heat by then. But I couldn’t get the ginger ale out of my head, so what did I do? I went out that weekend to the grocery store and picked up the ingredients that I needed to make my own version of the fresh berries ginger ale at home.
Of course, you need ginger, and lots of it. And a lemon, for which you’ll use bot the zest and the juice to help sweeten and mellow out the bite of the spicy ginger.
Start by peeling your fresh ginger and cutting it into small pieces. You’re going to need about 1.5 cups of fresh, peeled and cut ginger.
Into a saucepan filled with 3 cups of cold water, add the rind of a lemon. Cut off all of the outer yellow skin of the lemon and just drop it into the water.
To the saucepan, add in your fresh ginger slices. Squeeze in a bit of the lemon juice into the pot as well. Lemon and ginger make a good combination. Turn the heat on high on your stove top, and bring the saucepan to a boil. You’re basically steeping the flavor of the ginger and the lemon together, much like making fresh tea.
Meanwhile, take some fresh berries – in my case, strawberries and raspberries – and clean and hull them.
Once the berries are cleaned and cut, drop them into a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle a tablespoon of granulated white sugar over the berries. The idea is to macerate the berries. This helps to bring out their natural sweetness and juice. Leave the bowl sitting out on the counter for 30-40 minutes. You’ll see that the sugar is completely dissolved, the berries are soft, and there’s this beautiful, pinkish syrup at the bottom of the bowl.
When the water, ginger and lemon peel mixture on the stovetop has boiled, add in one cup of granulated white sugar into the water. This may seem like a lot of sugar, but you’ve got to remember you’ve got 1.5 cups of fresh, spicy ginger in only 3 cups of water. The sugar almost doesn’t put a dent into the spiciness of the ginger at all. Boil the water until the sugar is full dissolved. Now, just allow the liquid to cook until it’s reduced by about half its volume. This really concentrates the flavors of the ginger and the lemon into a very concentrated ginger syrup.
Once the ginger syrup has reduced by half, take the saucepan off the stove. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a sealable container. What you’re left with is a highly concentrated ginger syrup. Take this container and refrigerate it overnight. This syrup needs to be completely chilled in order to make your ginger ale.
Take some of your macerated berries and fill up a glass about one-third of the way. Use the back of your spoon to muddle the berries a bit. This releases more juices and breaks down the berries.
Fill this glass to about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way with the concentrated ginger syrup. If you don’t like the strong spicy flavor of the ginger and would like a less bubbly, more spicy ginger ale, fill it up 1/3 of the way. If you want a sweeter, more bubbly, less spicy ginger ale, make sure not to fill up the glass more than 1/4 of the way with the concentrated ginger syrup.
Top off the glass with cold club soda. The combination of the ginger syrup and the cold club soda will make the mixture bubble and fizz.
Stick a straw in your drink and you have a refreshing fresh berries ginger ale. Depending on how much ginger syrup vs. club soda you have in your glass the drink will either have a nice bite, or will be a little bit more mellow. However, regardless, you can expect there to be a hint of spice and tang because you did use fresh ginger after all to make a highly concentrated ginger syrup. But the bite of the ginger combined with the club soda makes the drink refreshing, and unique from any other pre-bottled ginger ale you can buy at your local grocery store. And the fresh macerated berries also add another level of flavor and tang. This is a great drink to make for a summer outdoor bbq to help take the edge off of the heat!