I flew out to see my mom and the new family for Christmas in 2010. One of the first stops on errand running was the PLCB. The concept of a state store was new to me, and so were many of their products. Scanning the aisles, the big names were the same, but the lower-shelf bottles were entirely new. Jacquin’s kept popping up and the black-and-white-labeled bottle of their Ginger Brandy had my attention. My mom and I both have an affinity for ginger, and it was cheap and new to us, so I was sold.
It was perfect for hot toddy making.
We initially had a few disagreements about the fundamentals of a toddy. Does it have
sugar or honey? Lemon or orange slice? Yes or no on the steeped tea bag? I like mine pretty plain: no citrus or tea. Honey, cinnamon: yes. Butter was my favorite additive, and I eventually convinced my mom that drinking butter wasn’t as bad as it sounded. We experimented until we had something we liked, then happily sipped our toddies together while watching the new family pound Yuenglings and open-mouth-chew their way through dinner.
The next year for Thanksgiving we were together again, making our toddies. Finding Jacquin’s to be light on flavor, Mom wanted more ginger. After a brief consult with various sources, she found a recipe for black peppercorn ginger simple syrup. It was the missing ingredient that made it all come together.
You get a normal sized hunk of ginger, peel and cut 3-4 ounces into slices. Add the ginger and about 1 ½ teaspoons whole black peppercorns, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar into a saucepan. Stirring to dissolve the sugar, bring it up to a simmer and let it cook for 20-30 minutes, or until it has thickened to a syrupy consistency when at room temp and has the right flavor and spice. Let it cool, strain it, pour into a jar.
Things to keep in mind when preparing: the thinner you slice the ginger, the more surface area you expose, which means the more ginger flavor you’ll infuse. Also, the peppercorns don’t necessarily make the syrup taste like pepper – they’re more about enhancing the spiciness of the ginger. The proportions are not absolute, but you want the syrup to reach the point where it’s just a spicy as it is sweet.
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