The Zenzerro: ginger, bourbon, and mint cocktail

5 Dec

A few months ago, I had the fabulous opportunity to interview Southern food writer John T. Edge over drinks at the Bar Americano at the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco. Although the bartender initially steered me to the girly drinks, while I pondered the selection, Edge asked, “Will the Zenzerro be acidic enough for my liking?” (Southern food writers talk like that.) Bourbon, mint, ginger ale, and gingercello (gingercello?) — what wasn’t there to like? (Note: Sadly, they’ve since replaced the Zenzerro with the Ginger Bullet — Bulleit bourbon, ginger ale, gingercello, and bitters.)

We both ordered the Zenzerro. It was delicious. Just sweet enough, very spicy, and the mint helped smooth everything over.

I set about trying to recreate the gingercello first. I asked my moonshiner friend if he had any recommended ratios of flavoring to alcohol. He didn’t, but he did warn that I should keep tasting the gingercello every week or so. “A friend tried to make ginger moonshine,” he told me. “He let the ginger infuse so long, it was undrinkable.”

Duly noted. I grated about an inch of fresh ginger root, let it sit in a bottle with vodka for a few weeks, and tried it a few weeks later. It was — meh. I tried the drink, and it was good, but not the subtle blend that I remembered. The proportions still had to be figured out, but overall, it just wasn’t gingery enough.

I signed myself up for a DIY Mixology class on infused alcohol at Workshop. As we poured the ingredients together for limoncello, I figured out the missing element: sugar. Sure enough, after I added some to my gingercello, the ginger flavor was much stronger. Then I found this recipe for gingercello, which actually included proportions. I’ll try that next.

So then, to try the actual recipe. On the first attempt, I used Canada Dry ginger ale, which is nice and bubbly but does not have the proper ginger potency. On the second attempt, I tried Reed’s Premium Ginger Brew, which had the right flavor but not enough bubbles. Still, it allowed me to find the right proportions, with a tiny bit of tweaking. Here’s my recipe:

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1.5 oz. gingercello
  • 10 mint leaves
  • ginger ale (roughly 6 oz. per glass)*
  • ice

Pour the bourbon into an old-fashioned glass. Determinedly muddle the mint with the bourbon, then add the gingercello. Stir. Add ice, then fill to the top with the ginger ale. Stir again if you want. Clink glasses with a dear friend and enjoy.

* Don’t skimp. American mass-market ginger ale is simply too wimpy for this drink (British or Australian Schweppes might work, though). The ideal ginger ale here has a strong, spicy, natural ginger flavor. It should be carbonated enough that the bubbles move through the drink but not so much that the bubbles tickle your nose as you sip. This is a manly drink. Manly drinks don’t tickle.


2 Responses to “The Zenzerro: ginger, bourbon, and mint cocktail”

  1. rail arson December 8, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    I’m a little stand-offish with ginger drinks ever since Michelle tried out her cure-or-kill special on me last winter. I think she was getting back at me for telling the “fifth level” Thai food story with such relish. This does sound good, though. Finally, something worthwhile to do with all that damn mint that keeps taking over the front yard. This seems like an excellent porch drink. Oh, summer, when are you coming back?

    • Nicole December 8, 2010 at 10:39 pm #

      Ooh. That sounds intriguing.

      Here’s a better summer mint drink. I drank a lot of these this summer. Delicious.

      Mr. Lucky

      3 TBSP pink grapefruit juice
      About 2 TBSP mint leaves
      2 oz. gin
      Chilled Izze grapefruit (or similar carbonated drink)

      Muddle the mint into the grapefruit juice. Fill the glass with ice, pour in the gin. Stir quickly. Fill the glass with grapefruit soda and stir.

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