As anyone who tends bar knows, the sharp spicy bite fresh ginger brings to cocktails is one the most sought-after flavors of the modern cocktail age. Thus, ginger syrup is amongst the most utilized ingredients in today's cocktail bars. It has endless applications, such as livening up classics that traditionally use ginger ale or beer like the Moscow Mule, Dark & Stormy or Pimm’s Cup.
The problem with ginger syrup is that it’s not terribly easy to make. Well, not hard per se, but unlike most other syrups, some additional equipment is required. The key is getting the juice from the ginger root. Once you have that it’s easy, just add sugar at your desired level of potency/sweetness, dissolve, and presto: ginger syrup.
Most bars use a juice extractor, aka centrifugal juicer, to make ginger juice. If you have one great, you can make ginger syrup in a flash. But most of us don’t. So I’ve devised a workaround, which uses a blender and some water. The result is pretty darn close to perfect. Unfortunately, a food processor doesn't work as well, the spiciness is toned way down, in my experience at least. Below are the two recipes, use whichever one works best for you.
1. With a Blender
2 cups finely chopped ginger root - 2-3 pieces
1 cup water
about 2 cup sugar
Combine the ginger and water in a blender and blend for about a minute until the ginger is a pulp.
Strain, pressing out as much liquid as you can. This is your ginger juice.
For every cup of ginger juice, add 2 cups sugar.
Stir until dissolved. Use the stove or microwave to speed this it up, if necessary. Bottle and refrigerate.
2. With a Juice Extractor
1 cup ginger juice - need 3-4 pieces of ginger root
2 cups sugar
Run the ginger through the juice extractor. Roughly chopping it into smaller pieces will make this a bit easier on the machine.
Strain the juice.
Combine the sugar and ginger juice in a small pot over medium-low heat, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Do not boil. Store in refrigerator
If you want to go for it, These are not terribly expensive and have a wide range of applications, cocktail syrups are really just the icing on the cake. They have a plate inside that’s packed with tiny blades. It spins at high speeds and shreds whatever you put into it, and then separates the liquid from the solids with centrifugal force. So you can make vegetable juices, and other syrups much easily like watermelon and celery syrup. Here's a good one.
Boiling The Ginger Doesn't Work So Well
Not to talk smack, but I don't recommend the many recipes you'll find online which call for the ginger to be sliced and boiled in simple syrup, a la cinnamon syrup. This yields a pleasant, lightly spiced syrup, but for cocktails, it's nowhere near potent enough. I know from experience, I'm ashamed to say there's a video of me on youtube making ginger syrup this way. Disregard!
Don't Worry About Peeling
Many recipes call for peeling the ginger roo first. Personally, I don't think this makes enough of a difference to justify how tedious it is. It may add a touch of earthiness but it's not unpleasant. If you do peel the ginger, try using a common teaspoon to scrape the skin off, it's easier than using a peeler.
On Sugar Ratios
A lot of ginger syrup recipes call for 2 parts sugar to 1 part juice, with no water. I prefer to make it slightly less sweet so you can use more and thus, get more ginger flavor. I add water to makes the syrup is less thick, which I find gives cocktails a better body, particularly those with soda water.
When swapping this ginger syrup into cocktails in place of simple syrup, you may find you’ll want to add a touch more for balance. This may sound counterintuitive since my syrup still has more sugar than simple syrup does, but ginger juice is very strong and a touch bitter, especially compared to water, so it needs more sugar to balance it out. Of course, feel free to use any ratio of sugar to juice you prefer. You could, say, make a super spicy batch with 1 part ginger juice to 1 part sugar. It’s all a question of taste.
As goes with any produce you put into cocktails, the ginger should be as fresh as possible. This will ensure it's at optimal spiciness. Once the syrup is made, it'll keep indefinitely, it won't spoil. However, over time the potency will decrease, so ginger syrup is best when used within the first few weeks of being made. Though it'll still get the job done beyond that, no need to discard it.