When “ginger” is mentioned in drinks, it’s often in reference to the topper that’s sweetened, bottled and fizzy enough to let out a satisfying swoosh with the turn of a twist-off cap.
But ginger performs just as well taken out of bottle, infused into syrups or even shaken, raw. And when it comes to using it properly, the trick is to let the root take center stage. Ginger is best known for its lack of subtlety and distinct spiciness—qualities that have made it a longstanding bartender favorite.
Ginger & Juice
“When a guest asks for ginger, I love it,” declares Sweet Liberty’s co-owner John Lermayer. “It has always been one of my favorite flavors to play with in the development of drinks.” For the bar’s Ginger Spice, Lermayer and bartender Chris Hopkins opt to shake it up as-is, adding a whole, peeled cube of ginger root to a tiki-inspired blend of rum, yellow Chartreuse and lime, which is then strained over a bed of crushed ice.
It’s not unlike the La Chunga, a number from beverage directors Lynnette Marrero and Jessica Gonzalez of Brooklyn’s Llama Inn, who likewise take ginger on a tour through foreign climes—in this case, South America, and in syrup form. Pairing ginger syrup with a complex Peruvian chicha morada—a blend of boiled purple corn, pineapple rind, cinnamon, clove and apple—the drink is shaken with white rum and lime for a new-age spin on the classic Rum Buck.
Meanwhile, Toby Cecchini’s pan-seasonal riff on the Gin Sour—a companion to his ginger-infused Gimlet—calls on ginger to add a refreshing twist to the classic. Created when a customer who was on his way to a sushi dinner asked for something Japanese to prime his palate, the Bergamot Sour builds on an already unconventional base of housemade bergamot cordial, gin and shiso—with an added backbone of spicy ginger syrup.
Last November, Cecchini himself cited the root as the buzzword ingredient of the year—and with its versatility and bold flavor allowing it to both pair well and stand up to a variety of spirits and modifiers, it’s no wonder that ginger’s moved well beyond the bottle.