Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Yale game

I already told you about BT and BI's wedding that we went to over the Fourth of July. During the cocktail hour, ES and I decided we were pretty dehydrated, and she inspired me to drink her all-time favorite beverage: ginger ale. She drinks it often, and it acts as a panacea when she's stressed out by deadlines. Ginger ale has comforting associations for me too: getting me through the stomach flu, or giving me something besides contaminated water to drink on the airplane, or helping me have fun at the Yale game.

I know, I know. Beverages at the Yale game (or at any football game, really) are usually all about beer, right? Let me explain. In about 1997, my college roommate JB and I traveled down to Connecticut for the annual Harvard-Yale game. We planned to tailgate with our friends, and then head into the stadium to watch the football game itself. The kicker was that no alcoholic beverages were allowed inside the Yale Bowl.

Our solution? Decant the cider and Rolling Rock and whatever other schlock we drank back then into empty ginger ale bottles. Seal tightly, place in Microfridge until ready for trip, transport in backpack to New Haven, sneak past security, and enjoy.

And enjoy we did! We enjoyed laughing at those Mastercard ad-inspired T-shirts that were all the rage (along the lines of "buying a keg: $50; renting a car to drive down to New Haven: $100; purchasing a Harvard sweatshirt to wear at The Game: $40; beating Yale: priceless"). We enjoyed beating Yale (even when we didn't, exactly, but close enough). We enjoyed drinking our smuggled alcoholic beverages, and I in particular enjoyed telling anyone and everyone that we were drinking ginger-ALE. I remember it as being quite hilarious, probably because I was a little tipsy and overly proud of JB's and my ingenuity. But on further consideration, why does such a resolutely non-alcoholic drink have the word "ale" in its title? For that matter, why even the word "ginger" when the flavor of the traditional Schweppes or Canada Dry little resembles that pungent, spicy root?

I still don't have an answer to the former question, but I discovered the answer to the latter when I made my very own ginger ale last week. I'd seen this article about the proliferation of ginger ale on fancy drink menus across the country, but I lacked access to the key ingredient: ginger juice. Until, that is, I found out that A&K have a juicer. So, last week, I brought over a lot of ginger root (about 15 inches or so), and, without even peeling it, we put it into their large, loud, whirring, centrifuge-like machine. The aroma of fresh ginger filled the entire kitchen, and we quickly had more than enough ginger juice to make the ginger ale from the newspaper. (Cleaning the fibrous ginger bits from the teeth of the juicer was a little bit more time-consuming than making the juice itself.)

The drink looked beautiful and smelled great. I cautiously (gingerly?) took my first sip and was rewarded with a refreshing, but spicy-almost-to-the-point-of-burning taste. The NYT version of ginger ale is extremely gingery. I now understood where the name GINGER-ale came from. The concept was obviously good, but I needed to play around with the proportions to make it more palatable. To simplify things further, I did a little internet research and learned that club soda is just carbonated water! I'm not sure why I didn't know that fact already, but now I do.

So now I present, from the same test kitchen that brought mango mojitos to B's and my wedding reception, my modified recipe for ginger ale. I bet it would be delicious with a splash of alcohol, if you want to play up the ginger-ALE angle, but I would go for vodka or rum instead of Sam Adams. I know it'll be hard to get access to a crazy juicer like A&K's (and I can't think of any stopgap measure with the blender or Cuisinart), but the original article says you can get ginger juice at most health food stores. If you like ginger ale, I'd make the effort to track it down for this recipe. Enjoy!

Ginger Ale

Time: 10 min active, 25 min total
Makes: 1 10-oz drink

2 t. ginger juice
2 T. lime juice
4 T. simple syrup (see below)
8 oz. chilled carbonated water
lime wedges and ice, for serving

First, make simple syrup by mixing 1 c. sugar and 1 c. water in a small saucepan on the stove. Heat, stirring infrequently, until sugar dissolves, about five minutes. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. (Extra simple syrup can be stored in the fridge, and also used for lemonade.)

Then, mix together ginger and lime juices with 4 T. simple syrup in a 12 oz. or larger glass. Add soda water, being careful that it doesn't fizz up too much, and stir all ingredients well. Add plenty of ice and garnish with a lime wedge.


  1. You are welcome to come use our juicer for anything, not just ginger! I just made some olive oil ice cream and have coffee custard cooling in the fridge. Feel free to call Kyusik if you want to stop by when you're in the neighborhood!

  2. You should try ginger beer (the non-alcoholic Caribbean drink). It's super hot, because it's made with tons of ginger, AND capsicum! It's so hot it makes me cry. I prefer Stoney's Tangawizi ("ginger" in Swahili), a Coca-Cola product from East Africa, which is somewhere in the middle of the non-gingery ginger ale and the ultra-eppery ginger beer spectrum.

  3. Thanks for the coasters and the juicer-usage invitation! S, I have tried ginger beer, and it is definitely gingery, but I have never tried any ginger products from Africa. I'll have to do so in the future :)