Spicy spirits: King’s Ginger Liqueur

I love ginger. I really, really do.

I have long been a vocal fan of Domaine de Canton, that zingy ginger-infused brandy liqueur. And when I had a chance to try a swig of Skyy Infusions Ginger vodka, that made me happy too:  all bright ginger sizzle and aroma, but no sweetness. And of course, the more fiery the ginger beer for my Dark & Stormy’s, the better (Fentimans is still my brand of choice).

And now, add to the ginger landscape The King’s Ginger liqueur. It’s distilled in Holland, and clocks in at 82 proof (rather high for a liqueur). The label says it’s “produced exclusively for Berry Bros & Rudd” in London, supposedly created in 1903 for King Edward VII. The marketing literature plays heavily on the London provenance. I do like that it’s sold in Harvey Nick’s –  very Ab Fab, sweetie darling.

So how does it taste?  The honey-colored liqueur has a good dose of ginger in the aroma, but when you take a sip you get hit by a syrupy sweetness first, and then the spiciness of the ginger only kicks in after a beat or two. The end result is that it seems heavier than it really is.  I suspect it will be best lightened up with carbonation (tonic water? ginger ale) and citrus. Speaking of citrus, there’s an intriguing citrusy note on the finish, though it fades out quickly.

The final verdict:  I prefer ginger to really sing out, so Domaine de Canton still wins for me. But I realize that I’m probably in the minority, and many people will enjoy this sweeter version, especially when mixed into drinks. And perhaps consumed while watching Patsy & Edina in action. Kiss kiss, sweetie darling.

Let’s Get Pickled: Kimchi Cocktails

Kimchi Bloody Mary - Photography by Jessica Boucher

Kimchi Bloody Mary - Photography by Jessica Boucher

Just when you finally got used to crazy ingredients like chile peppers and wasabi in your cocktails, I’m going to throw you a curve ball:  kimchi cockails!

Kimchi is a Korean side dish – usually pickled and fermented Napa cabbage, but I’m told that there are as many kimchi recipes as there are Koreans. In other words, the vegetable can differ, and so can the pickling liquid and technique. But considering the recent spate of nifty books on pickling, not to mention the recent International Pickle Day, which had a fair kimchi representation, and the simple pleasures of the Pickleback cocktail, it seems time to put new meaning behind the words “Let’s Get Pickled.”

So we’re talking kimchi cocktails today, folks. If you’d like something easy to make, I recommend the Spicy Kimchi Bloody Mary, which uses a new product called Mother-In-Law’s Kimchi – one of the kimchis on show at the International Pickle Festival. But if you’re feeling more ambitious, may I suggest…


Gin Kimchi - Photography by Sara Remington

 The Gin Kimchi

 I first heard about this drink two years ago, when Scott Beattie, then of Cyrus, presented drinks from his gorgeous “Artisanal Cocktails” book at Tales of the Cocktail. It’s beautiful, complicated, and features pickled ginger and daikon (a Japanese radish) — but no cabbage.

1 1/2 oz. Sarticious gin

3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz. Ginger-Shiso syrup (recipe follows)

8 pieces Pickled Ginger (recipe follows)

8 pieces Pickled Daikon (recipe follows)

5 small shiso leaves, cut into chiffonade

3/4 oz. Bundaberg or Cock’n Bull ginger beer

Combine the gin, juice, and syrup in a mixing glass and give it a stir. Add the pickled vegetables, the shiso, and enough ice to fill the mixing glass. Cover and shake a few times. Add the ginger beer, and pour it into a stemmed water glass or a tall collins glass to serve.

To make Ginger-Shiso Syrup (makes 1 cup)

1 cup simple syrup, chilled

2 drops essential oil of ginger

2 drops essential oil of galangal

1 drop essential oil of perilla (shiso)

Combine the simple syrup and essential oils in an airtight container. Cover and shake well to mix the oils into the syrup. Keeps for about 2 weeks, refrigerated.

To make Asian Pickling Liquid (for Ginger & Daikon – makes 1 2/3 cups)

1 cup rice wine vinegar

1/3 cup mirin

1/3 cup filtered sake

1/2 cup sugar

Combine the rice wine vinegar, mirin, and sake in a stainless steel saucepan over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the sugar, and stir until it dissolves. Allow the liquid to cool before pouring into an airtight container.

Pickling shorthand: The daikon and ginger each are sliced thinly and (in separate batches) marinated in pickling liquid, which is brought to a boil, poured over the vegetables, and then allowed to cool. A red beet is added to the ginger to create that pretty deep pink color. 

The full recipe is about 3 pages long…not exactly blog friendly. But if you aspire to make the cocktail and want more detail than I’ve provided, I encourage you to buy the book. You’ll want to try the five-spice Waverly Place Echo cocktail anyway, trust me!

3 things to know before doing TV demos

remote_controlLast week, I did my first-ever TV appearance, on San Francisco’s View From The Bay show (click here to watch the  segment, on festive drinks for the holidays). Here are three lessons I learned, which might be helpful for anyone else promoting a book or demonstrating how to make drinks or food on TV for other reasons:

1. Be flexible. VFTB runs on the local ABC affiliate, which is owned by…Disney.  That means family-friendly up the wazoo, which translates into NO BOOZE for the TV host. Yes, showing bottles of tequila is allowed, but I was discouraged from making cocktails for the segment. I’m sure you can see where this would be problematic for someone promoting a book on cocktails.

The solution: mocktails.

“Mocktails?!?”  Can you hear my incredulous, frustrated tone? After all the time creating and testing (and discarding) cockails to fill out the book with the best possible cocktails, I was expected to make no-booze variations? After I passed through the classic stages of grief (denial, anger, acceptance) I set out to create mocktails that would represent the “Spice & Ice” flavor profile and — to be perfectly blunt — that wouldn’t suck. After all, someone was going to be drinking these!

I took some inspiration from Natalie Bovis-Nielsen’s book Preggatinis (literally, an entire book of mocktails that do not suck. Yes, that’s an extreme understatement – I’ve only tried a couple of drinks from the book but they were quite lovely), and created mocktail versions of the Dragonfire, the Sparkling Ginger Daisy (recipe below), and the Jalapeno Mojito.

2. Be creative.  You need some weird stuff for mocktails — white grape juice, bitter lemon soda (surprisingly hard to find in the Bay area!), lots of citrus to approximate the bite of alcohol. Instead of Domaine de Canton in the Sparkling Ginger Daisy, I relied on spicy ginger beer. But sometimes they can be insipid, so when I shopped for ingredients at Whole Foods (4th St & Mission), I asked one of the clerks which one was spiciest.

“I don’t know,” he replied, “let’s try them and find out!”  He fetched a bottle opener and some small plastic cups, and together we sampled four different brands, right off the shelf. People in New York are never that accommodating!

PS, the spicy ginger beer taste-off winner was Fentimans, by a wide margin, trailed by Ginger People and GUS brands.

3. Be fast! Despite all the prep time needed to make drinks on live TV, the air time goes by in a flash. The producer wisely recommended that I prepare one of each drink to completion ahead of time. It was a good thing I did; apparently something went wrong with the “robo-camera” (whatever that is) back at the studio, and that meant the segment wrapped up rather abruptly, and I was rushed through the last two drinks. I give the host, Lisa Quinn, a lot of credit; I don’t think I would have maintained composure with someone yelling “wrap it up! wrap it up!” in my earpiece.

Sparkling Ginger Daisy (Mocktail Version)

Adapted from Spice & Ice – 60 tongue-tingling cocktails, by Kara Newman (Chronicle Books, 2009)

Sparkle sugar, to rim the glass

Lemon slice, to rim the glass

2 coin-sized rounds of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 oz pomegranate juice
2 oz white grape juice
3 oz spicy ginger beer

Moisten the rim of the glass with lemon and rim a champagne flute with sparkle sugar. Set aside.

In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle the fresh ginger. Add pomegranate, white grape juice, and ice. Shake vigorously and strain into champagne flute. Top with ginger ale.