The way I imagine the ginger ale of long-ago is as a carbonated beverage of subtlety and purity….a natural, lightly spicy drink of understated refreshment that need not be extreme to be interesting. Somewhere along the line, as with so many other drinks and foods, the mass-production of ginger ale literally blew that old recipe out of proportion, and it was changed forever. Actual ginger root was traded out for artificial ginger flavoring, and that pale, throat-tickling spice instead became a rush of sugary sweetness, with the aid of high-fructose corn syrup. Even today’s “gourmet” examples style themselves safely within this model, and can be a disappointment to the purists and the health-conscious alike.
With the tarnished reputation of brand-name soft drinks being front-and-center in the modern health crisis discussion, it should come as a big surprise that I’m sharing my excitement about crafting a homemade soda pop. Now, don’t get any big ideas; I’m not “selling out” or eroding my values relating to what we should and shouldn’t be putting into our bodies. Think of this instead as a fun exercise in reinventing a drink that had fallen victim to adulterated trends during the 20th century.
Commercially-produced ginger ale typically contains 4 grams of sugar per ounce (or 4/5 of a teaspoon). That’s a little shy of 6.5 teaspoons of sugar per 8-ounce serving (and we all know that single-serving soda is packaged in 12-16oz containers)! Regularly consuming this many sugar calories via soda is not only linked to obesity and diabetes, it is entirely unnecessary to the taste experience. To prove the latter, I made a simple syrup from cane-based Turbinado sugar and real ginger root that, when added to carbonated water at a ratio of ½ teaspoon to 8oz, creates a spicy, magical and thoroughly satisfying glass of ginger ale. Replicate my recipe, and re-gauge the concept of sweet for yourself, your family and your holiday guests.
1 cup Turbinado Sugar (or 48 tsp)
4oz Ginger Root, peeled and chopped
1 cup water
Bring the sugar and water to a boil over med-high heat, stirring so the sugar dissolves. Add in the ginger. Bring to a simmer, stirring. Take off heat, and let cool. Strain ginger and use the simple syrup for up to a month. Keep refrigerated.
Old-Fashioned Ginger Ale
Portion ½ teaspoon of the simple syrup into your favorite soda glass. Twist open a chilled bottle of seltzer, or create your own with a Soda Stream carbonator. Pour 8oz of seltzer over the hit of syrup. Stir, admire the pale golden color, and enjoy!