Another New Year’s Eve is upon us. Where did the year go? Am I the only one that’s surprised by this? “Time flies” doesn’t even begin to cover this but in the meantime, I plan on ringing in the New Year in a fun proper fashion. Some friends and I are attending a Roaring Twenties party tonight and are dressing up like gangsters. This being Chicago, I think we’ve got it in the bag. Beforehand, everyone is meeting at my place for some tasty snacks and cocktails. And I’ve got a special one planned. Ginger Kir Royales.
Traditionally, a Kir Royale is champagne with a bit of crème de cassis syrup. It’s delightful – bright, a little fruity, rather elegant and transports me right back to a ritzy bar in Paris. I like to be reminded of things like that. This year, I’m making a spicy simple syrup with a lot of fresh ginger and a fresh vanilla bean. A little bit of this with some champagne or prosecco and we’ll start the evening off right. It isn’t bathtub gin but it’ll do.
The syrup is also great mixed with sparkling water for a nice, zippy homemade ginger ale. With a squirt of lime juice, this is one of my favorite drinks. It also makes a fantastic martini, shaken with a little fresh mint. In fact, it makes all kinds of great cocktails and is even delicious when used to sweeten your ice tea. Oh, and did I mention how great it is with lemonade? Yeah, that too.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: RIDICULOUS. If you get stressed out during this one, look for the light at the end of the tunnel. You’re making a tasty cocktail! Keep that in mind. Usually by the new year, I find I need a stiff drink and this one takes the cake.
GINGER VANILLA SIMPLE SYRUP
Makes about 1 cup
¾ pound peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups water
1 fresh vanilla bean, split & scraped
- Peel and finely chop the ginger – a spoon works best to scrape of the skin but can become rather tedious for large amounts. To finely chop, I ran the fresh ginger through the shredding blade on my food processor. Voila!
- Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan, add ginger and scraped vanilla bean (seeds, pot and all) and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for 1 hour.
- Turn off heat and let steep for at least 1 hour.
- Strain and chill. Keeps for 1 month in the refrigerator. (You can discard the strained ginger bits but I like to store it in a jar in the fridge and use a spoonful or two in my tea.)
– Ginger Kir Royale: add 1-2 Tablespoons ginger syrup to a champagne flute and top with chilled champagne or prosecco.
– Homemade Ginger Ale: add 2-3 Tablespoons ginger syrup to a rocks glass, add chilled sparkling water and stir. Add ice.
– Ginger Mint Martini: in a shaker combine 3 parts chilled vodka, 1 part ginger syrup and 1 mint sprig with ice. Shake, strain and garnish with a mint sprig.