Drink gingerly: Cool off with these ginger beer cocktails

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August 18th, 2011

Creative Loafing Tampa Original Article

Whoever said April is the cruelest month hasn’t been to Florida in August.

It’s crazy hot here. As in, your-shirt- becomes-a-scalding-wet-towel-that-fuses-to-your-skin-when-you-walk-out-your-door hot.

That’s why, when the mercury soars in the Sunshine State, a ginger beer cocktail is my go-to cool-down drink.

Ginger beer and ale are easily confused. Ginger beers tend to be less sweet and boast more complexity. Wimpier still, most commercial ginger ales are made with artificial colors and corn syrup.

Lots of artisanal ginger beers have popped up lately. Many are excellent. One that’s good and relatively available is made by Fever Tree. (They’re even sold down the street from me at Datz in South Tampa.)

More interesting than bubbly waters like seltzer and club soda, and less expensive than sparkling wine, ginger beer’s spiciness especially complements rum, a traditional cocktail partner.

Which is what you’ll find in that most classic of ginger beer cocktails, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy, a Bermudan beverage that happens to be among the few (maybe only) trademarked tipples. Legally correct concoctions must be made of Gosling’s Black Seal rum and a good splash of ginger beer. No ginger beer brand is prescribed, though the company’s Stormy Ginger Beer does play nicely with its rum.

A related drink that’s even easier to make is the Shandy, a mix of equal parts beer and ginger beer. Toss a little vodka or other spirit in, and you have a TurboShandy.

Which brings us to the Moscow Mule, a classic cocktail in the way (to me) that Velveeta is an iconic American food. Still, it’s a tasty drink. And way better than vodka and Red Bull. But what isn’t?

Ginger beer also mixes well with brown spirits such as bourbon and rye. A couple recipes I’ve been mixing up a lot lately are the Nor’easter and Cablegram. The Nor’easter, cooked up at Brooklyn eatery Char No. 4, also happens to use one of my favorite cocktail sweeteners — maple syrup.

Or you could go with an even simpler, older drink, the Cablegram. Concocted in 1934 by New Yorker Patrick Gavin Duffy, this one’s basically a whiskey sour with a health splash of ginger beer.

Dark ‘n’ Stormy

  • 2 ounces Gosling’s Black Seal rum (don’t tell their lawyers, but most any dark rum will do)
  • 4 ounces Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer (or any other ginger beer)
  • Slice of lime

In highball glass (or any tall glass) filled with ice cubes, add rum, then top with ginger beer and garnish with the lime slice.

Moscow Mule

  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4 to 6 ounces ginger beer

In a Collins glass (or other tall glass) filled halfway with ice cubes add lime juice and vodka. Pour in cold ginger beer. Stir.

Nor’easter

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon (rye also works nicely)
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce maple syrup (darker ones give a richer taste)
  • 1 1/2 ounces ginger beer
  • Slice of lime

In cocktail shaker filled with ice combine booze, lime juice and maple syrup. Shake vigorously and strain into tall glass filled with fresh ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with lime slice.

Cablegram

  • 2 ounces rye or bourbon
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, dissolved)
  • 2 to 3 ounces of ginger beer

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice combine hooch, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake vigorously and strain into ice-filled Collins glass (or any tall glass). Top with ginger beer.

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