Ginger beer is one of the most versatile cocktail mixers, working well with nearly every base spirit. The basic format of spirit-plus-ginger beer, usually with a splash of lime, is called a buck. A vodka buck is also known as a Moscow Mule (more on that in a future post), and a rum buck was known in old cocktail books as a Barbados Buck or Jamaican Buck, depending on where the rum came from. One modern version of a Gin Buck is the Gin-Gin Mule (with added mint) and one Bourbon Buck-spinoff (with mint and muddled strawberries) is the Kentucky Buck.
That’s all cocktail trivia best reserved for nerds like me. What you should know is that the ginger beer that you buy in stores is not really a beer: it almost never contains alcohol. Typically it is just a gingerier and spicier ginger ale.
You should also know that you can make your own ginger beer, and it is very easy to do so. The recipe below is based on the one in the marvelous cocktail book Art of the Bar. When your ginger syrup is ready, add soda water for a non-alcoholic ginger beer, or add your favorite variety of base spirit and a squeeze of lime for something stronger. Buck up and give it a try.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup diced, peeled fresh ginger
1/3 cup black peppercorns
Bring all ingredients to a simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until ginger flavor is very strong and spicy. Strain the syrup before using or bottling, and store syrup in the refrigerator between uses. It should last at least a couple of weeks. To make it last longer, add one fluid ounce of vodka.
1 fl. oz. ginger syrup
1.5 fl. oz. bourbon
3.5 fl. oz. soda water
Squeeze of lime
Add all ingredients to an ice-filled glass and stir.
Ginger syrup cooking on the stove.
Peeled ginger ready for making into syrup.
A bottle of ginger syrup, ready for mixing.