Ginger Liqueur

Lemon Ginger Margaritas For Taco Night

3 April 2013

Lemon Ginger MargaritaAs much as I enjoy drinking unusual wines, spirits and cocktails, sometimes I drink them out of simple necessity. Last Saturday evening, for example, I just wanted to make myself a simple margarita to drink with the tacos we prepared for dinner (see my favorite traditional margarita recipe here). Unfortunately, Whole Foods was under Easter siege during our shopping trip, and in my haste to escape, I neglected to buy any limes. All we had was a solitary lemon. If I wanted a margarita, it would have to be an unusual one.

As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make Lemon Ginger Margaritas. I had lemon and ginger on my mind in the wake of my experimentation with Koval Ginger Liqueur. Produced in a distillery just down the street, this liqueur worked well with vodka, bourbon, and cognac, so why not tequila? And fortunately, it tasted delicious with lemon as well.

The recipe of tequila, lemon juice, and ginger liqueur followed a classic mixology trinity: One Spirit, One Liqueur, One Juice. That gave me some hope. But lemon with tequila? Surely it’s been tried before, and surely it’s failed. After all, it’s not that hard to find strawberry, raspberry, mango, and even banana margaritas, but when is the last time you saw lemon? I felt less than optimistic, and I prayed this wouldn’t be a repeat of the Chimayó debacle.

I juiced the lemon, combined the ingredients in the shaker, and shook with fingers crossed. The result looked appealing, and it had a pleasantly citrusy smell. I took a sip, and it actually tasted quite good! The cocktail started off sweet, then moved to juicy citrus, a tight tartness, some smoke from the tequila, and finally an aftertaste of ginger. Paired with the tacos (actually tostadas topped with beans, beef, cheese, onions, guacamole, salsa and cilantro), the cocktail gained some zesty spiciness.

It’s a very fun drink, with a very easy recipe:

LEMON GINGER MARGARITA

–2 parts Tequila (I used El Jimador Reposado, but any decent reposado or gold tequila should do the trick.)

–1.5 parts Ginger Liqueur (If you can’t find Koval‘s organic ginger liqueur, Stirrings makes a perfectly fine substitute.)

–1 part Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice (There’s no substitute for this. Use bottled juice or sour mix at your peril.)

–Splash of Simple Syrup (Available bottled, or make it yourself: simmer a cup of water, dissolve a cup of sugar in it, and let cool.)

Juice a whole lemon, and use the amount of juice you get as the measure of one part. Combine the lemon juice, tequila and ginger liqueur in a shaker with ice. I recommend adding the splash of simple syrup as well. The sugar enhances the flavors and rounds them out. You can make this cocktail without the simple syrup and it will taste fine, but a small splash really does wake it up. Shake vigorously, and strain into a large martini glass. Garnish, if you’re feeling fancy, with a slice of lemon or a strip of fresh ginger.

Cheers!

Share

The Joys Of Ginger Liqueur

20 March 2013

Koval Ginger LiqueurOne of the great benefits of living in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood is the easy walk to both a brilliant brewery and a distinctive distillery. I’ve written before about the carefully crafted spirits produced by Koval Distillery, and I was recently fortunate enough to receive a tall, slender bottle of its Organic Ginger Liqueur as a gift from a friend.

Each 10-gallon batch of Koval’s Ginger Liqueur requires 60 pounds of fresh ginger, which explains both the deliciously rich ginger flavor as well as the periodic e-mails I receive encouraging me to come to Koval’s ginger peeling parties. The effort pays off — the liqueur (with 20% alcohol) has a seductively warm aroma of ginger and caramel, and it tastes lusciously smooth with a spicy bite at the end. It tastes so smooth, in fact, that my friend exclaimed, “It’s smooth enough, even a child could drink it!” This friend, reassuringly, has no children of his own.

As delicious as this liqueur was served neat, I had a feeling it could do wonders in a cocktail. My friend and I got to work. We kept things simple for our first attempt, a basic martini that  allowed the ginger flavor to shine. It’s strong but smooth, with a citrusy start, a ginger midsection and an alcoholic punch on the finish:

GINGER MARTINI

–2 parts vodka (For the money, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better vodka than Sobieski.)

–1 part Koval Organic Ginger Liqueur (or Stirrings Ginger Liqueur, should Koval be unavailable)

–1/2 part fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Squeeze half a lemon first, and use the amount of juice as the measure of half a part. Depending on the amount of juice you squeeze, you should be able to make one large drink or two small ones. Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. If you’re so inclined, garnish with a twist of lemon peel or a thin slice of fresh ginger.

GINGER MANHATTAN

–1 part bourbon (I used Rowan’s Creek, because life is short.)

–1 part Koval Organic Ginger Liqueur

–2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters (or similar)

Combine all of the above in large cocktail shaker with ice, and if you’re not in too big of a hurry, stir it for 60 seconds or more for maximum smoothness. Or just give it a good shake and strain into a martini glass. If you’d like to garnish, I recommend a twist of orange zest. This combination makes a wonderfully bright and spicy Manhattan, but it has a surprising creamy quality to it. It’s not as sharp as you might expect.

And finally, my favorite:

GINGER SIDECAR

–1 part Cognac (I used XO in this tasting, but if you’re not lucky enough to have a free sample bottle of that lying around, VS or VSOP will work just fine.)

–1 part Koval Organic Ginger Liqueur

–1/2 part fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Combine all of the above in a cocktail shaker with ice, stir or shake as is your preference, and strain into a martini glass. It’s traditional to rim the glass with sugar, but I can’t be bothered with that sort of thing. Garnish with a lemon twist if you like. This cocktail moved from flavors of molasses to citrus to ginger — it was stellar.

I’m sure this is only the beginning of the cocktail possibilities. A bottle of Ginger Liqueur belongs right next to the Triple Sec in your liquor cabinet. Happy mixing!

Share