I recently polled a group of friends about their cocktail preferences. I expected them to report that their favorites were Negronis or Margaritas, maybe Martinis or Sazeracs. But almost all of the folks I asked said they’ll always order the gingery drink on any menu.
And while there are a number of liqueurs that can contribute ginger flavor to a cocktail, my favorite way to add the spicy heat of ginger to a drink is going straight for the root. This is partially because of cost. I’d much rather spend two or three bucks on the potent rhizome itself than $28 on a bottle. Besides, I like to control the sweetness in my drink, not have it dictated by whatever liqueur (or soda) I’m adding.
The use of fresh ginger is one of the primary reasons that I love the Domo Arigato, a mezcal cocktail from bartender Ran Duan of the Baldwin Bar in Woburn, Massachusetts, which appears in my new book, The One-Bottle Cocktail: More than 80 Recipes with Fresh Ingredients and a Single Spirit. The ginger flavor comes through bold and clear, and while juicing ginger can be a bit of a pain if you don’t have a juicer on hand, you need less than half an ounce per drink, so the effort isn’t too exhausting. One option is to grate the peeled ginger and press it through a fine-mesh strainer; another is to whir it in a blender, then mash the purée against the strainer to get at the juice. I implore you NOT to use bottled ginger juice, which often has a terrible acrid note.
Beyond the ginger, though, there’s another reason I love this drink: its secret savory note, which comes from a few drops of toasted sesame oil that are shaken in with the mezcal, simple syrup, ginger, and lime. It’s not enough to make the drink seem oily; the sesame just layers onto the agave spirit’s naturally earthy tones, building a bridge between the spirit and the warming ginger. Together, the three elements give you a spicy-savory core which calls out for the cooling pour of soda and lime.
Once you have the ginger juice ready, the process is as easy as could be. You’ll just add all your non-fizzy ingredients to a cocktail shaker (I like to use a simple two-metal-tin setup) and fill it with ice. Seal and shake it until the tins feel nice and cold, then open it up and add the club soda to the shaken mix. Yes, that’s right: pour the soda into the shaker. It’s a trick I learned from Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Bar Book, and it means that when you strain the drink into an ice-filled glass, the soda doesn’t just sit on top.