My Family’s Ginger Wine Recipe is Spicy, Sweet, Tart, and 100% Alcohol Free

Juice 4 limes. Count on 10 cloves, 10 cardamom pods, 2 large cinnamon sticksand 1 nutmeg. Peel a 1″ piece of fresh ginger (more if you like the burn) then smash it with purpose. Now that you’re warmed up, grind the nutmeg (I use a mortar and pestle, but a coffee or spice grinder works too). Add the spices and chilies and give it a coarse pound just to crack the cardamom pods and peppers.

Point 2 cups of sugar in a medium saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Let the sugar sit for a few minutes. Shake the pan to move and loosen the caramel that forms. Repeat the swirling motion every few minutes, keeping an eye on the color and reducing the heat if it darkens too quickly. Continue until the sugar turns dark amber, about 10 minutes. Loosen up any stubborn sugar drips with a spoon (it can get messy, so try not to use any until the very end) and stir until smooth.

Lower the heat and step back while adding 1 cup of water for it will seethe and hiss with anger. Once calm, stir gently until all the caramel is melted. Add 3 cups of water, ginger, lime juice and crushed spices. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the liquid reduces by half and reaches a syrupy consistency. Once cooled, strain into a bottle (use a coffee filter to catch the fine nutmeg powder). You will have about 2 cups. Store in the refrigerator for up to two months.

How to use ginger wine:

Its versatility is endless: Add sparkling water (or ginger ale) and serve over crushed ice for a quick chill to beat the heat, or sneak in some whiskey or brandy (yes dad, I noticed) for a warmer winter.

Beyond the glass, the spiced syrup can be drizzled over waffles, pancakes and ice cream for extra sass. Drizzle a buttery bundt or semolina cake to raise eyebrows and spark conversation (“Is that chili in my dessert?”). Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, use it to smother a wheel of Brie and bake until gooey. I did, and it was a glorious hot mess.

Whichever way you choose to indulge, there’s one guarantee: ginger wine will invite your taste buds to a wild and boisterous party. And if the sting of the chilies doesn’t keep you coming back for more, the high sugar certainly will.


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Jean H. Vannatta