We are heading into the holiday season. Happy Hour. Cocktail Parties. It’s time to make some drinks and desserts, but with a South Asian kick.
This homemade spicy ginger syrup is versatile for both cocktails and non-alcoholic “mocktails” and even desserts. The best part is it’s simple to make.
Where did the inspiration from this Ginger Syrup come from? Chai tea, of course.
Chai is omnipresent with South Asians and beyond. Especially since chai tea lattes and what not (are on almost every coffee and tea house menu. It doesn’t hurt that the “Oprah effect”, (yes, even Oprah has a curated tea line at Starbucks that includes chai tea) has catapulted chai tea even further into the mainstream.
The word, Chai, itself is a generic word for tea or spiced tea. Every South Asian household has their unique blend of chai tea spices and tea leaves.
I have an admission (or two) about chai tea. Firstly, I Don’t Drink Chai Tea! I love the flavours of chai tea, but I’m a strong coffee drinker. Secondly, when I started this blog, I had promised myself not to do a chai tea recipe. I have seen it done so many times, it bores me. Why do something that has been done hundreds of times before?
So began my infatuation with creating this Ginger Syrup. It reinvents delicious chai tea in a new way. It’s heavy on the ginger, cinnamon and black pepper, which I love and slightly kissed with cloves and cardamom. Plus, it helps me dodge drinking anything with milk. This Ginger Syrup has incredible flavour, but with no additives or preservatives (something I highly covet).
For those unbeknownst to the health benefits of ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and cardamom, let me help with a bit of schooling on the topic.
Ginger aids digestion and circulation, decreases arthritic swelling and lowers blood pressure. Cinnamon aids digestion, relieves nausea, vomiting, is beneficial for the heart, lungs, and kidneys and aids insulin’s ability to metabolize blood sugar. Along with tasting delightful, ginger and cinnamon add a depth of warmth to this recipe.
Black pepper aids in digestion and has antioxidant qualities. Plus, it provides this syrup with a nice kick. Cardamom is known to stimulate appetites, aids digestion and relieves asthma and bronchitis. Cloves relieve abdominal pain and have an anti-inflammatory effect on rheumatic diseases. Cardamom and cloves (in small doses) add complexity and a resinous fragrance.
Have I noted how easy this is to make? Not convinced, well the smell of this Ginger Syrup brewing in your kitchen will propel you to start making it.
Did you know that you can peel ginger with a spoon? I didn’t until I ran across this trick in a food related magazine. I thought it was ingenious and modern. Something I could enlighten my Mom with, but that was an epic fail. She reminded me it was “the norm” in India. (Gosh, what does she not know about cooking?)
Ginger’s skin is very thin and just rubbing the tip of a spoon across the ginger removes it easily. Once the ginger is peeled, you can slice it thinly or chop it into matchsticks. If slicing and chopping is not your thing, a microplane (my dream kitchen utensil) works great to finely grate or mince it as well. Ginger will keep well in the refrigerator for at least a couple weeks.
Ginger Syrup is a secret weapon, I love to keep around the kitchen. It is basically an amped up simple syrup. A basic simple syrup is a 2:1 or 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. Basically, you combine the two ingredients in a pot and heat to a simmer to dissolve the sugar. Besides using white sugar, a simple syrup can be made with brown sugar or raw sugar to add a hint of molasses flavour to your drinks. The mixture needs to be heated in order for the infusion to occur. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, add spices and aromatics.
Let it all steep, uncovered, until the flavour is infused. Strain, if desired, (I don’t) and transfer to a sealed container, like a one quart mason jar. This ginger syrup can be prepared by simmering sliced ginger with sugar and water. I’ve added dry roasted cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and black peppercorns to the mix to add some depth of flavour.
This kitchen secret weapon is so good that one could package it as a neighbourly Christmas gift or better yet hostess gift (so many ideas). I suggest attaching a label or tying a card with drink or dessert ideas. Let’s face it, not everyone can drum up a few cocktail/mocktail or dessert ideas with new ingredients. Make it easy for others to enjoy the Ginger Syrup.
Celebrate this kitchen secret weapon invite a few friends over, make a few cocktails/mocktails. Socialize.
While this syrup can be used in a multitude of drinks and other deliciousness, I will share a few quick tips. To make ginger ale, fill an ice-filled glass with about 1/3 of the ways up with Ginger Syrup, top with soda water (splash or two of vodka or rum) and a squeeze of lime, stir and enjoy.
As a dessert option, this syrup could be used to poach pears and served with whipped cream. Better yet, you could substitute regular maple syrup for Ginger Syrup when indulging in waffles or pancakes.
That’s it. Enjoy, and stay warm.
2 cups sugar
4 cups water
2 inch piece of ginger (peeled and thinly sliced)
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole black peppercorns
4 cardamom pods (slightly opened)
In a large pot, add sugar and water, stir. Bring to a boil, add ginger then reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook for 10 minutes. In meantime, on medium heat, dry roast cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom for about two minutes, until spices become fragrant. Add spices to the syrup mixture. Allow to cool. Pour into a large mason jar. Refrigerate.