Summer coolers come in all sizes and shapes. Ginger beer is one of my favorites; I’m always on the lookout for an unusual one, and there are plenty—once you take notice. Some are dark, sweet and spicy, while others are light and refreshingly tart.
Over this home-bound summer, I’ve gotten used to going with whatever food and drink is easily available. While browsing old files recently, a short recipe caught my attention for an easy ginger-based drink. Labeled Indian Sparkling Panakam, it included ground dried ginger and very few other ingredients, with no resting or aging process needed. An instant ginger drink.
I had the basics on hand so I gave it a try. I mixed dried powdered ginger, cardamom, a dash of salt, and lime juice together and combined it all with agave syrup. Incredibly, the ginger syrup was full-flavored and packed a nice zap of heat.
Either an individual glass or a full pitcher can be prepared by diluting the syrup to taste with sparkling or soda water. I was doubly excited as I am always ready for an opportunity to pull out my trusty soda syphon, on stand-by, poised and waiting in the fridge door.
A taster glass is a good way to check for flavor, balance, and sweetness. I pour one tablespoon of the ginger syrup into a glass and give it a short blast of soda water. The mixture suddenly comes alive, rises up out of nowhere, forming a brown, creamy head—an apparent reaction to the ginger. It calms down, I add more soda and have a taste. For simple pantry items this is quite the concoction!
Since then, I’ve enjoyed this sassy ginger cooler at different times of the day with all manner of food. It’s a bubbly and utterly refreshing instant spritzer.
Instant Ginger Beer
A mildly sweet ginger drink; adjust to taste. Inspired by Sparkling Panakam from Super Natural Every Day, by Heidi Swanson.
¼ cup agave nectar or simple syrup
2 tsp ground ginger
⅛ tsp ground cardamom
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
⅛ tsp sea salt
4 cups seltzer, soda or sparkling water, chilled
Garnish: mint, Thai basil, or lime slices
1. Create the syrup in a container: combine ginger through sea salt and stir to dissolve, combine with agave.
2. For an individual glass, measure in 1-2 tablespoons of the syrup, add seltzer water to half fill, stir to muddle. Add ice, top off with more seltzer and garnish with basil, mint, or lime slice.
3. For a pitcher: place the syrup in a pitcher. Add a splash of seltzer and stir to dissolve. Add the remaining seltzer, stirring to mix well. Add more ice cubes to chill well. Garnish as desired. Serves 4, or 1 quart