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Jun15

How to Not Make Ginger Syrup

Firebiter

What I’m about to say may surprise some people.

> Don’t make ginger syrup.

My caravan of spirit-loving Fremen embarked upon a journey last night. Confidence was high, the winds were right – it would surely be a brief quest, and one that ended in caches of water a tasty cocktail. We began our trek with 8oz of ginger syrup, and ended with big mess of frumpiness.

My batch of ginger syrup was about 3 weeks old. When first made, it was punch-you-in-the-jugular spicy – not too far from the likes of Goya ginger beer. But after aging in the icebox for a few weeks it lost its wit and tasted like a bad joke. Several attempts at cocktails later, I was bereft of hope. Would my first Mixology Monday post in months end up a failure? Would RumDood.com, our piratical host, stop filling my barrels with rum?

Failed Attempts

Here’s what I tried: Cachaça, lime, ginger syrup and a float of dark rum muddled with strawberries and Peychaud bitters. Rye whiskey, lemon juice, ginger syrup, and ginger beer. Both sound good? Well they weren’t. Thinking it was the ginger syrup at fault, I gave it a taste. It no longer had its tongue-searing potency, but instead a muted caramelized taste that reminded me of a commercial syrup. Why would my ginger syrup be so hot and bothered when first made but degrade so quickly? I wonder if my non-alcoholic falernum attempts could offer any clues.

In my non-alcoholic falernum trials, I skipped the soaking in overproof rum in favor of just simmering the ingredients in the sugar and water as you would a cinnamon syrup. The results were phenomenal, and several boozegeeks even liked it better than my traditional recipe using the JWray extraction. After a few weeks however, the ginger flavor had decreased significantly; though in the case of the falernum, it was actually a good thing as I wanted a rich, sultry flavor rather than an bright one. Like pimento dram, the ingredients mellow with age, but why did the ginger lose its flavor so quickly?

Why Does Ginger Lose its Flavor?

Though a bit out-of-date – 121 years to be exact – Charles Herman Sulz offers some possibilities to explain ginger’s quick flavor loss in his book, A Treatise On Beverages or The Complete Practical Bottler. A quick summary of the reading reveals that natural ginger extract loses its flavor quickly, while a syrup make with essence of ginger oil would last much longer. Though searching for “ginger oil” on Google returns results for every hippie remedy on the planet and little useful advice.

Could the type of sugar I’m using be the problem? Sulz recommends utilizing invert sugar to preserve the flavor of the ginger. Making invert syrup is fairly easy; simply add citric acid, cream of tartar, or even lemon juice to the syrup and boil for twenty minutes to remove any sour taste. Invert sugar has a lower water activity, therefore increasing its preservative qualities. Boiling a syrup for 20 minutes sounds like a recipe for hard candy; perhaps it can be done in a shorter time?

This whole ginger mess deserves further exploration, but for now, I suggest you make your ginger syrup fresh each time. It takes 10 extra seconds of effort, and the results are bitingly good.

Fresh Ginger “Syrup”

  • 1T chopped ginger (cut off two 1/4″ slices, skin on, and cut into a few pieces)
  • 1/2oz simple syrup

Muddle in the glass you’re using to make the cocktail.

Firebiter

  • 1T chopped ginger, skin on if you like
  • 2 pieces pineapple, each about 1″x1″x1/2″
  • 1/2oz simple syrup
  • 1 1/2oz Wray and Nephew overproof rum
  • 1t grenadine
  • 2oz ginger beer, to top

Muddle the ginger, pineapple, and syrup. Add rum and shake with ice. Double-strain into a tall glass and fill with crushed ice. Top with ginger beer.

Rick from Kaiser Penguin

KP Question

  1. Has anyone else experienced this drastic flavor loss with ginger? How have you made up for it?

15 Responses to “How to Not Make Ginger Syrup”

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15 Comments to “ How to Not Make Ginger Syrup”
  1. JacNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve read a bit about ginger fail… I’m actually going to try freezing some of the syrup for Morgenthaler’s ginger beer and then thaw it out in a few weeks and add water and yeast. Since it only ferments for 2 days, it would be nice to make a bunch of “concentrate” at once, then thaw and ferment as needed.

  2. AndrewNo Gravatar says:

    My last batch of ginger syrup molded pretty quick, but I see what you mean about flavor loss, in retrospect. Wrt invert sugar, my wife mentions that corn syrup (*shudder*) counts as an invert sugar, so maybe adding some Karo to the ginger syrup might help?

    That said, I’ve recently begun to sub Domaine de Canton for ginger syrup and not been disappointed, but I like your approach to making it fresh each time, especially as ginger syrup is one of those things that isn’t in enough drinks to warrant keeping around in large quantities.

  3. TiareNo Gravatar says:

    What an interesting post! yes i know about the flavor loss..and therefore i do very small, in fact really small amounts of ginger syrup when i need it because its as you say – easy to remake.

    And now you reminded me that i have an unfinished blog post about making ginger syrup with the cold and the hot methods – to get the best fresh ginger flavor in the syrup – but my method is slightly different from yours but very similar still.

    T

  4. TiareNo Gravatar says:

    BTW..what a stunning garnish, its dramatic.

  5. Tony HarionNo Gravatar says:

    I hardly ever make ginger syrup and also got surprised by this flavor change on the last batch.
    One thing that I started doing is using a tincture for the ginger syrup base. I prepared a pretty strong ginger tincture (didn’t remove the solids). Now all I need to do is add a bit of the tincture to Simple syrup when I need it in a drink. Results might not be 100% the same, but it´s much easier that making the syrup every time.
    I´m sure the tincture will eventually go bad or loose it´s spicyness sooner or later, but I’m hoping it stays for longer than the syrup. Since the tincture is pretty new (and very concentrated) I haven´t noticed anything changing.
    Let me know what you think about this solution if you try it.
    Oh! And keep us posted on the inverted sugar method. I often add acidity (and alcohol) to my syrup, but only to prevent it from the growth of mold. I never thought about it as a flavor preservative.
    Cheers,
    Tony

  6. Didn’t you’re 8th grade English teacher tell you to not split your infinitives?

    My advice: juice a bunch of ginger and freeze the juice in ice cube trays, filling the cube-holes only half full. Break the cubes into smaller chunks in a jar iin the freezer. Melt as much as you want in some 2:1 syrup when needed.

  7. Drink it quickly. Throw a party. Drink some more. Yum.

  8. sylvanNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve also gone to muddling fresh ginger per cocktail. (Just make sure to double strain…) This also gives you the freedom to use honey or agave syrup as the sweetener. Penicillin and Penicilina – I’m looking at you.

    I also have my eye on a ginger liqueur recipe that involves soaking the ginger in brandy for a week and then sweetening.

  9. ChinanobNo Gravatar says:

    I add some whole peppercorns along with the ginger to the syrup while boiling it. Peppercorns seem to help it hold that bite.

  10. The ConciergeNo Gravatar says:

    I wonder how Bob’s Ginger Bitters fair over time? I think Tiare was raving about them, so maybe she has some input.

  11. Tom GurneyNo Gravatar says:

    Good to follow your cocktail, seems quite fun to try new alcoholic drinks. You went to alot of effort too, i normally stick to something simple and boring, but just overdo the booze measurements to maybe sure its popular!

  12. [...] NOT to make ginger syrup – followed quickly by a recipe for ginger syrup and a recipe for a Firebiter cocktail which then uses said syrup.  If you find yourself not certain whether you should or [...]

  13. Chris W.No Gravatar says:

    I just wound up getting linked back here while searching for a formula for recreating Jamaica Ginger (without the Jake Leg inducing ingredient, natch.) Anyone have any ideas? I’d think it’d almost be a challenge to put to Boudreau or Morgenthaler…

  14. BeerNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, nice read man. Thanks for sharing! However I’m having trouble with ur rss feed. Does anyone else have problems with the rss?

  15. RusselNo Gravatar says:

    Wow its a great recipe, I would like to try with other beverages.
    let’s see what will come up.

    Russel,
    Rowing Machine Reviews

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About

Kaiser Penguin is a cocktail blog featuring original recipes, homemade ingredients, classic cocktails, and tiki drinks.

Why on Earth did you name your blog “Kaiser Penguin?”

It is a well-known fact that penguins are members of high society and enjoy fine cocktails. Our very own kaiser penguin would like me to mention that he also enjoys various treats from the sea.

Contact: rick@kaiserpenguin.com