A few weeks ago Robert and I ate dinner at The Northstar Cafe downtown. If you live in the central Ohio area and haven’t eaten there yet, you should. It took us awhile to finally get around to dining at this glorious establishment and I wish it hadn’t- the food is wonderful. They use organic ingredients and most of their menu items are made from scratch, including their fresh ginger ale. I am a ginger ale freak, so although I normally order water or unsweetened iced tea at restaurants, I excitedly jumped all over their delightful concoction without thinking twice. OMG- it was absolutely breathtaking! The spice of fresh ginger was infused with fresh lime and mint and just the right amount of sweetness. My actual dinner -an Asiago chicken sandwich with roasted red peppers and fresh arugula- was positively scrumptious as well, but this drink blew my mind. I immediately wanted to recreate it at home!
I did some research on the internet and read about different techniques. Some people used fresh lemon, others were serious about their ginger ale and added yeast and bottled it at home. I didn’t find anything all that similar to Northstar’s drink, so I had to experiment on my own. The first time I made it, I boiled chunks of fresh ginger with mint and lime peels (and too much sugar). The result was a rather bitter, excessively sweet drink . Disappointed but not discouraged, I gave it a second (and third) go around until I finally found a method that resulted in a drink that (I think) tastes somewhat like Northstar’s wondrous creation.
This is a perfect summertime drink- it’s crisp, refreshing, and a little spicy! It can also be transformed into a cocktail- add a little pear vodka and you have a tasty drink to help you unwind from a long day. I hope you enjoy this fresh ginger ale as much as I do. Thanks to The Northstar Cafe for the inspiration; and seriously- go try out their food if you can! They have three great locations in Columbus.
Fresh Ginger Ale***
*** I’ve changed this recipe and a new and improved homemade version can be found here
- 1 fresh ginger root
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (2 limes)
- 4-5 sprigs of fresh mint
- Club soda, chilled
1.Peel the fresh ginger with a peeler (or a spoon). Rinse off any excess skin or dirt and chop it into course chunks. Place the chunks in a medium saucepan.
2. Add the 5 cups of water and turn the burner on high. Bring the mixture to a boil (watch it carefully- it can boil over quickly!). Reduce the heat to medium and add the sugar, stirring until it has dissolved (about 2-3 minutes). Remove the mixture from heat and let it sit for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
3.Meanwhile, pluck the mint leaves of the springs and place them in a large bowl. Juice the limes and pour the juice onto the mint leaves. Gently crush the leaves with a wooden spoon to allow the oil from the mint to be released and blend with the lime juice.
4.After the ginger mixture has been sitting for 15 minutes, place a sieve over the bowl of the mint and lime juice and carefully pour the liquid into the bowl. Remove the sieve and discard the ginger chunks after they have cooled.Mix the concoction with a spoon. This is your ginger syrup. Allow it to chill in the fridge.
5. When you are ready to enjoy some fresh ginger ale, you can do it one of two ways: 1) for a single serving or 2) for a crowd. For the single serving, I keep the club soda and ginger mixture separate and combine 1/2 cup club soda with 1/2 cup of the syrup and then pour it over ice. When making it for a crowd, I combine 4 cups of the syrup and 4 cups of cold club soda into a pitcher and serve it over ice immediately. Either way, I found the 1:1 ratio of syrup and club soda to be a good combination, but you can certainly adjust it to your preference.
6. Garnish with a lime wedge and a sprig of mint, if desired, and enjoy!
Source: Inspired by The Northstar Cafe