Swamp water? Toxic waste?

Whatever it is, it doesn’t look very appetizing, doesn’t it?

Well, this is another of those cases where looks are inversely proportional to yumminess. It’s an infused syrup for homemade ginger ale, and if you’re as ginger-obsessed as I am, it’s beauty incarnate. This syrup makes a turbo-charged version of ginger ale, a bubbly drink so intensely spicy and punchy that your head will reel in the best possible way. It’s simultaneously refreshing and electrifying, with a deeply addictive slow, sweet burn.

I love ginger so much that I make this summery cooler year-round, but it recently occurred to me that its bilgey appearance and diabolical bite couldn’t be more perfect for your Halloween party. Depending on the size of your bash, I’d double or triple the batch, and serve it out of a glass vessel suitable for a mad scientist’s lab. If your party is of the strictly grown-ups variety, you could mix in some rum for the aptly-named Dark and Stormy.

Ginger Ale Syrup
(Originally from Jean Georges Vongerichten, but see below)
Makes around 2 cups syrup, enough to serve 6-8 (assuming I feel like sharing)

1/2 pound fresh ginger, peeled
Inner parts of bottom third of 2 stalks lemongrass
1-2 dried Tien tsin peppers or other small infernal chiles, left whole
3/4 cup sugar, preferably raw (demerara or turbinado)
Seltzer or fizzy mineral water

Chop the ginger into half-inch chunks, and thinly slice the lemongrass stalks. Place both in a food processor and pulse until very fine, but not pureed.

In a small saucepan, combine the ginger mixture, chiles, sugar, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer vigorously for 15 minutes.

Let cool to room temperature, then strain through a fine-meshed strainer. The syrup will theoretically keep in the fridge for days, but it’s highly unlikely it will last longer than 48 hours once you’ve tried your first sip.

To serve, pour 4-5 tablespoons of syrup into a large ice-filled glass, and top off slowly with the seltzer or mineral water. Stir gently with a chopstick or long spoon to distribute the syrup.


The original recipe came from Jean Georges Vongerichten, but I found it some time ago after following so convoluted a trail of hyperlinks that I’m really not sure how authentic it was even before I started tweaking.

If you don’t have access to a food processor, as I didn’t when I first tried this, grate the ginger and mince the lemongrass instead.