If you adore the fragrantly spicy foods of Southeast Asia, you might want to inject a sweet-and-spicy ginger liqueur into your next dish or drink. An integral part of Asian cuisines, ginger has become a popular flavor in cultures around the world.
Only able to grow in tropical and subtropical climes, the gnarled ginger root is peppery and mildly sweet. The French discovered it during their colonization of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and much like the British in India with their Pimm’s No. 1 Cup (traditionally a blend of gin and ginger ale or lemonade), concocted a refreshing combination of ginger and brandy to get through the unfamiliar heat.
That makes a ginger-infused drink perfect for high summer, and there are several brands of ginger liqueur available. One of the most popular is Domaine de Canton, which re-creates the French colonial combination of ginger and brandy. It is produced with fresh baby ginger sourced from small farms throughout Vietnam, which is peeled and cut by hand, and then blended with VSOP and XO Grande Champagne Cognacs, Provencal honey, Tunisian ginseng and fresh vanilla bean.
The result is a smooth drink with the zest of ginger but not the bite, balanced by the sweetness of vanilla and honey and the full-bodied mouthfeel of cognac.
The King’s Ginger Liqueur is an option with a pedigree — it’s made from a recipe dating to 1903 by Berry Bros. and Rudd in London for King Edward VII to “stimulate and revivify” himself. Instead of Cognac, it has Glenrothes Single Malt Scotch as its base, plus ground ginger and lemon peel.
The excitement around ginger-based drinks has even inspired such large spirits makers as DeKuyper — the Dutch brand famous for Schnapps — to add a ginger liqueur to its Mixologist Collection line, blending honey and ginger into a slightly sweeter mixer for Ginger Martinis or the company’s Gingersnap Cocktail.
Smaller distillers such as New Deal Distillery in Portland, Ore., have also been playing around with ginger, infusing fresh, chopped organic ginger root into an unspecified spirit then adding a touch of organic cane sugar and agave nectar. Their recommendation: Mix it with bourbon, or just serve it on the rocks. And Stirrings, which makes all-natural cocktail mixers, has just released a ginger liqueur itself, all the better to mix with its Apple Martini mixer.
2½ parts Domaine de Canton or other ginger liqueur
½ part fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Slice of lemon peel, for a twist
1. Combine liqueur, lemon juice and bitters in a cocktail shaker.
2. Shake vigorously and strain over ice in a rocks glass.
3. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Photo: The Canton Classic cocktail. Credit: Domaine de Canton