Ginger Tonic (and several ways to use it)

There’s nothing quite like discovering you can make the simplest of things yourself. I can recall very two distinct Holy Sh*t, I Can Make That?! moments from my past. The first occurred shortly after I discovered stumbleupon many years ago. (This moment actually sparked my love affair with food blogs, so it’s kind of a special, landmark point on my timeline.) For anyone who isn’t familiar with stumbleupon, it’s a site that allows you to select a bunch of things you’re interested in, and then SU lets you bounce around to various articles or posts online that align with your interests. Basically, an Internet user’s ADD-esque dream. So I, having probably selected an interests lists that was something like science / food / kittens, was clicking through posts one day, when SU brought me here. How to make butter? For freakin’ real?! I was locked in. I spent the next couple hours reading pretty much every post on Aleta’s blog, and I was convinced I’d found the most amazing thing the Internet had to offer. And then, I discovered that there were more food blogs out there. Run by other talented people who make delicious things. (Does it seem ridiculous that I didn’t know food blogs existed? I guess I just assumed blogs were for people who want to whine about their problems or broadcast way too much information to the world. Silly me!) And that marked the start of my food blog obsession.

The second HSICMT?! moment occurred when I happened upon this post on Kelly’s blog (back when it was Eat Make Read). After finding that, I made a lot of ginger ale. To the point where I (and I’m pretty sure everyone else) got sick of it. Then last year, Mark of Season with Spice did a post for Strong & Soothing Ginger Tonic, and I was extremely intrigued.

While I didn’t make this right away, it remained in the back of my mind for nearly a year. And when I was staying with my parents last month and my dad came down with a cold, I decided to give it a go. My parents seemed a little skeptical when I chopped up an monster piece of ginger root, but I was going to make them drink it, and they were going to like it!

I tweaked the recipe slightly to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand, subbing in honey to make tonic even easier on the throat. And I was extremely pleased with the end result. What you wind up with is a tonic that’s a bit less sugary and intense than a ginger ale base would be. Since my parents were hesitant to drink it straight, I began adding it into their tea, which they liked much better. I also started adding it to glasses of apple cider, which was amazingly delicious!

So, in short, this tonic can be used in a variety of ways. Drink it straight to soothe a sore throat or a tummy ache. Add it to tea to give it some sweetness and a little kick. Use it as a cocktail mixer, or just combine it with seltzer to make a nice, fizzy ginger drink.

And one more quick note before the recipe: Did you know that you’re supposed to peel ginger with a spoon? I didn’t until last year (thanks, Eileen!). Just scrape it with the spoon edge, and it comes right off. This allows you to get into all the nooks and crannies of the root that your vegetable peeler can’t reach, and also keeps you from whittling the poor thing away to nothing. Neato!

Ginger Tonic

(adapted from Season with Spice)

  • 2 cups of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 cups of water
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp dark brown sugar

Combine water, ginger, and citrus zest (reserving juice for later) in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover, turn off heat, and let steep for 30 minutes.

Strain solids out through a sieve, then filter liquid through a sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth, until your are happy with the clarity (more on clarity later).

Return liquid to the saucepan, add honey and sugar, and warm over medium heat until the honey and sugar are just dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool, then add in citrus juices.

Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

A note on the clarity of this mixture: No matter how much you filter this through cheesecloth, ginger tends to leave a lot of sediment, which will settle to the bottom of your jar after a couple hours. If a cloudy mixture doesn’t bother you, just give the jar a good shake before you use it. If you want the mixture to be as clear as possible, let the sediment settle, then pour the clear liquid into a separate jar, stopping once you begin to reach the sediment.

Cocktail ideas: Based on the fact that this went splendidly with apple cider, I started mixing up drinks with ginger tonic, cider, and applejack. It was good, but it was missing a tangy note, which I remedied with a plum-orange shrub. Since shrubs aren’t the easiest things to come by yet, I think a good alternative would be kombucha. (Plus, a ginger tonic and kombucha cocktail is practically a health drink, right?) I’ve seen a mango kombucha on the shelves before, and I’d love to try that with ginger tonic and rum. Elderberry kombucha would also be a good match, perhaps with whiskey or applejack.


  1. Linda says

    I feel ya! When I finally got around to making this Chinese dessert my mom always makes-and discovering how easy it was-I felt so empowered. This tonic has been bookmarked, btw. I love ginger anything, and will heartily take your suggestion of mixing it with apple cider. Or kombucha, now that’s another great idea! Love love love the idea of adding something tangy.

    Whew. That took like 10 minutes to type. Am I the only one who makes tons of mistakes on my phone keypad?

    • says

      Omg, touchscreen keypads infuriate me (especially on the iPhone). People think I’m crazy because I keep lamenting the fact that flip open/slide out QWERTY keypads aren’t available on smart phones. Someone needs to make that, because I swear, people will buy it. I know I would!

      Johnny loved the idea of mixing this stuff with kombucha when he read this post. I really really want to try the tonic + mango kombucha + rum! And I can’t get over how good this is with apple cider. (I drank both of those rocks glasses filled with cider + ginger tonic after the photoshoot was over.) (:

  2. says

    We Indians use ginger a LOT. It’s a must in my morning tea and when I have a a bad throat, I gulp the syrup with honey. This is a great drink and the photos are stunning, specially the set up!

    • says

      Thank you, Kankana! I had a lot of fun doing the styling for this shot. (I got the idea to put everything together onto one tray when I was making my coffee in the morning, and I immediately stopped what I was doing and started grabbing glasses off the shelves.) :)

      I’m kind of kicking myself for not trying this recipe sooner, because it’s amazing how versatile it is. And I adore ginger, so it’s been going into practically everything I drink!

  3. says

    I am a huge fan of ginger beer, especially when combined with rum. But I love love the idea of a ginger tonic! I imagine this pairs wonderfully with apple cider… and maybe a little bourbon too!? Also, your photos are gorgeous!

  4. says

    Hooray for the spoon trick, and thanks for the shout-out! This ginger syrup sounds like it would make some seriously amazing bourbon cocktails. And kombucha? Genius!

  5. says

    Such stunning photos (as always). I’m a ginger-holic too, and have been making Dark and Stormies using fresh ginger and agave. I bet they would be even more awesome made with this tonic, with the honey and dark brown sugar complementing the dark rum. I’m on it! Plum orange shrub, mango kombucha, apple cider and tea all sound like amazing mixers, too. Mmm! Love that the recipe starts with 2 cups of ginger. That is my kind of recipe! I must have been on the same gingery wavelength because I had a locally-brewed ginger beer today while at a food blogger meet-up in San Francisco (sadly, they didn’t serve spirits – I totally asked). Thank you for the unending inspiration, Carey. :)

    Ps. I love that this is tagged with “easy-peasy”. Adorable!

    • says

      Thanks, Alanna! :) I am totally jealous of that locally brewed ginger beer! We are lucky enough to have a guy in Burlington who makes some of the most delicious root beer I’ve ever had. He sells it by the glass or the bottle at the farmers’ market, along with root beer floats with local vanilla ice cream (which I have eaten for breakfast on several occasions). Sometimes I dream that maybe he’ll branch out and make lots of different beverages (like ginger beer), but that would probably never happen.

      This stuff would be awesome in Dark & Stormies! If I’m using ginger in any drink, I like it extra spicy. And using fresh ginger or a concentrated ginger base like this definitely seems like the way to go for D&Ss, or anything else rum-based. (My biggest problem with rum drinks is that they always seem overly sweet between mixers and the rum itself, so more spicy, less sweet stuff like this is perfect.) Yum!!

      • says

        I’m in love with this tonic! It’s so good by itself, over ice with fizzy water. It’s like the best, most complex, spicy ginger beer ever. Love it with a splash of bourbon or dark rum, to. Getting ready to brew another batch. Yum! Thanks!

        Those root beer floats sound insane – I would totally eat one for breakfast. :)

        • says

          Yay! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. :D And I’m definitely going to send along some of the pineapple-ginger shrub I made when we do our bitters exchange, because they are BEST FRIENDS, especially with ruuuuum!!!

  6. says

    holy crap that’s awesome. I’ve done the same thing with discovering the homemade butter thing, I was just thinking “THIS IS WITCHCRAFT” the whole time (especially when I found out you can jut make it by shaking the heavy cream in a freakin mason jar!), and also when I realised you could make ice cream AT HOME. When I discovered food blogs, I found them so incredibly cool, free recipes? AND pictures? what.

    I’ve been dying (okay not dying, but I can’t breathe properly..) from a stupid cold all week (no time to relax = no time to recover from colds :( ) so I’m seriously going to go and see if there’s any ginger around so I can make this! That spoon-peely tip is so useful, I’m always using a knife to cut the outside off, but it takes so much of the flesh with it when I do that!

    • says

      Oh man, the ice cream thing — yes. I finally bought the ice cream bowl for my KitchenAid last year, and I have used the BEJESUS out of it. (I also bought David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop and read through it like a million times, then nearly had a breakdown because I wanted to make everything. Ahh!!)

      I still can’t get over that spoon peeling trick. I actually had to watch a video online just to convince myself it was real (and that I wouldn’t screw it up). And I shouldn’t even say this because I’m totally going to jinx myself, but I’m almost looking forward to the next cold I get so I can try out the effects of this ginger tonic. I will sometimes drink a small glass of apple cider vinegar and honey to soothe a sore throat, but that isn’t all that pleasant. This would definitely be better. I hope you feel better soon, Izy!

  7. says

    Just stumbled across your blog… wow. So beautiful! And I love ginger and lemon etc… Lemon, hot water, honey, and ginger simmered on the stove was my mom’s staple home remedy for just about anything. I hated it when I was young, but now it can’t be beat. Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Thank you, Tia! It’s so funny how we grow to love the things we couldn’t stand when we were little. I still surprise my mom when I tell her that I love certain things now. :)

  8. says

    Hi there!

    So happy to have found your blog. I am a “lost” Portuguese soul living in VT as well and I just came across your website while browsing for interesting blood oranges recipe ideas. Your pictures caught my eye. Truly inspirational and I love your recipes.

    Will stop by more often. VT is indeed a wonderful place to eat fresh and healthy.


  9. says

    Ummmmm I think I’m having a HSICMT moment RIGHT. NOW.

    This is friggin amazing! I love ginger beverages to death, but the thought never popped into my head to make one myself from scratch. Must try immediately.

    And I just love all these photos so much. Always so stunning. And that serving tray! It’s so detailed I just love it. I’ve been kind of obsessed with serving trays lately after watching the ladies of Downton Abbey have breakfast in bed off of so many pretty ones. I need to invest in some! And then promptly have breakfast in bed.

    • says

      Yaaaay!! Definitely try it — it’s so easy! When I was talking to Kevin about the giveaway, he also mentioned this post, and adding a little bit of cayenne pepper extract to the final product, since gingerol can degrade rather quickly, which makes the tonic lose a bit of its bite over time.

      OMG, Downton Abbey……I want ALL the things. There was one episode I was watching where someone just casually lifts up this beautiful amazing mesh cake dome and grabs a tea cake, and I freaked out. I went in search of vintage mesh domes on Etsy, but they’re practically impossible to find. And then I found these, which are pricey, but it’s for a set of two and I’d definitely pay $50 for one, so I think that justifies it……I’m going to buy them.

  10. Corrine Ann says

    Trying this as soon is I get home! I am probably already guaranteed to have a HSICMT moment. The first time I had one was after I finished plating my first Thanksgiving dinner this past November. Like, really? I did that? What?

    Also – where does one find plum-orange shrub around here? THAT sounds perfect.

    • says

      Yes! I totally had that same moment after I made my first Thanksgiving dinner. :) Unfortunately, I’ve been hosting Easter and Thanksgiving for the past couple years, and the awe has worn off. Now it’s more like, “OK, I’m done, everyone stop what you’re doing and somebody get me a drink!”

      The plum-orange shrub is sooo good. That was actually one of several shrubs I whipped up this fall in the throes of my shrub madness. You can find that recipe in this post. If you can get your hands on some plums, I highly recommend it! :)


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    Ginger Tonic (and several ways to use it)

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