I have an irrational love of the Olympics. I cannot wait for the opening ceremonies, for the absurdity of sports like the modern pentathlon, human steeplechase, and rhythmic gymnastics. I cannot wait for the pomp and grandeur, for the cheeseball television narratives of scrappy underdogs overcoming adversity, for the stirring hum of “Bugler’s Dream” (otherwise known as the NBC Olympic theme song) to which I have an almost Pavlovian response. I was all ready to share the Caipirinha, basically the national cocktail of Brazil, but then I made one and remembered I don’t quite love them. Still, I wanted to share something that would capture the verve and spice of these games, which brings me to this ginger syrup, which has nothing really to do with Brazil, but is nevertheless complex and refreshing and something I can full throatedly endorse drinking.
It’s so ridiculously easy to make. Just chop some ginger, throw in a few other spices and a vanilla bean, add some sugar and water and simmer. Then top with sparkling water for a homemade ginger ale. Add some fresh lime juice if you’re feeling citrusy, and some booze if you’re in the mood for a Moscow Mule or any of its many variations (though I think this perfectly delightful as a nonalcoholic beverage for children and adults alike).
This is not a ginger syrup for ginger beer, which tends to be spicy with gingery heat. This is, rather, a ginger syrup for ginger ale. One that is smooth, creamy with vanilla bean (what can I say, I’m a Michigan girl who grew up drinking Vernor’s), and complex with a variety of warming spices including cardamom and nutmeg and star anise to round out the flavor.
Too many ginger syrup recipes rely on ginger alone, which, to me at least, makes them one note and flat. Here, the ginger is still front and center but is surrounded by a group of supporting players to give it depth.
This ginger syrup pretty much makes my perfect ginger ale. The kind I can add vanilla ice cream to for floats or mix with smoky mezcal for a Mezcal Mule. But you can feel free to tweak it to your tastes. Bump up the cardamom or skip the star anise or throw in lemon or lime zest if you prefer. If you want it spicier, add more ginger. Feel free to play around with it–it’s flexible.
As for me, I’ll be enjoying my non-Brazilian beverage with my Brazilian Olympics. Let the games begin.
Ginger Syrup for Homemade Ginger Ale
- 100 grams fresh ginger chopped into small pieces (3 3/4 ounces)
- 1 whole nutmeg roughly chopped into 4-6 pieces
- 1 vanilla bean split half lengthwise
- 4-6 green cardamom pods
- 1-2 star anise pods
- 200 grams sugar (1 cup)
- 475 grams water (2 cups)
- Add the ginger, nutmeg, vanilla bean, cardamom and star anise, sugar and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and let simmer for about 45 minutes or up to an hour.
- Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids and transfer the syrup to an airtight bottle or jar. Store in the refrigerator.
Keeps for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Mix 3 parts sparkling water to 1 part syrup for ginger ale.