April 16th, 2012

Ginger-Grapefruit Simple Syrup


If someone were to ask you to name your earliest food memory, what would it be?

Don’t think long on it. In fact, try not to think at all. Go with what first comes to mind. See where that takes you.

This intriguing prompt at a food writing workshop I attended stirred up an unexpected taste and memory for me: Ginger Ale.


As a young child, I loved Ginger Ale. No matter how I felt, a glass of it always embodied something good. It could have been served over ice in a pretty glass with a maraschino cherry, aka The Shirley Temple, marking a festive occasion. It could have been my birthday or a holiday gathering.

Or it could have been as simple as a visit to my grandparents in Queens, New York.

If I ate a good dinner, and the weather was nice, we’d go up onto the flat tarred rooftop of their apartment, a 5 story walk-up. Nana would gather ice, glasses, and the jar of maraschino cherries. Poppop would grab a bottle of White Rock or Canada Dry and the dessert of the moment. That could have been chocolate chip cookies, or brownies, or a quivery Jello with whipped cream. I’d bring along my beloved stuffed animal, a big curly haired silver-grey poodle that I had named, not surprisingly, Ginger Ale.

We’d sit around a card table on folding chairs amid the upper private world of chimney stacks, pipe vents, and t.v. antennas. We’d drink our special beverages, eat our dessert, and listen to the sounds of cars and people below. I’d ask about the neighbors in other apartments; had they ever used the fire escape? did they have poodle dogs, or parties on the roof?

We’d linger until just past dusk, watching as distant bridges became strands of lights .


It was the best party ever.

But if I was sick and feverish, holed up in my bedroom, Ginger Ale took on another meaning. Mother would bring me a small lukewarm glass, along with a triangle of dry toast. She’d carry this remedy on a tray, and place it on my bed. She’d caution me to sip very slowly. And take tiny bites of toast. Which I did, with diligence.

It always made me feel better.

As an adult, I rarely drink Ginger Ale. But recently, I was asked to make a special cocktail for a Farm Dinner/Wedding Celebration I was catering. I concocted this fresh ginger-grapefruit zest syrup.


Crisp, citric, with refreshing bite, a splash in an inexpensive champagne elevated it to an ooh-la-la cocktail. Stirred into a glass of Perrier transformed it into a sophisticated version of my childhood delight. Worthy of a wedding celebration,

Or of one of those rooftop parties.


2 cups Water
2 cups Sugar
Zest of one large Ruby Grapefruit
2″ piece of Ginger root, peeled and sliced
a few whole Peppercorns

In a saucepan on medium heat, add water and sugar. Stir well.
Add grapefruit zest, slices of peeled ginger, and a few peppercorns.
Bring to a boil, stirring so that sugar is well dissolved.
Remove from heat, and allow ingredients to steep into the simple syrup.

To Serve:
Splash 2-3 Tablespoons into icy fizzy mineral water, like Pelligrino. Garnish with strip of ginger, or slice of grapefruit.


Pour 1-2 T. into the bottom of a fluted champagne glass. Add champagne, garnish and serve.


Posted in Beverages, Recipes

30 Responses to “Ginger-Grapefruit Simple Syrup”
  1. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    Champagne, ginger, simply syrup? Need I say more! AMAZING! I can only imagine just how incredible this is! Another great one!

  2. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Such a wonderful rooftop story, Nancy. And this syrup looks fantastic. I especially like the peppercorns in the mix. Great prompt. My first? Soft boiled egg on toast, with Grandpa John. He’d place the egg on the toast, crumble bacon on top, and then cut it into tiny squares. Gosh, I loved that breakfast…

  3. Tammy Says:

    And we still have grapefruit on our trees! Fantastic Nancy. Doing it this coming weekend.

  4. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Thanks, KB!

    Denise, I want that breakfast right now.

    Tammy, how lucky to have grapefruit right there in your yard. This syrup is so easy and delicious–I hope you enjoy it.

  5. Mary Says:

    Oh, I LOVE this! I am not a huge fan of grapefruit on it’s own, but I enjoy making grapefruit soda. Our neighbor has a grapefruit tree that we are welcome to. So, I am going to run over there and pick a few tonight. Thanks for the idea!

    P.S. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with adding champagne to just about anything.

  6. Beth Says:

    Ginger is definitely in the air this week! This syrup looks so refreshing. And one of my earliest food memories would definitely be my grandmother’s ginger cookies.

  7. Cathy Says:

    Your cocktail looks elegant and delicious, Nancy!

    Ginger ale in Queens…I can still feel the bubbles tickling my nose. Of the desserts Nana served I recall ice cream, cakes from Ebinger’s Bakery, and–even better–an ice cream cake. We were never taken onto the roof, although I do remember the folding card table. It seemed that every household had one then, but now they are as quaint as ginger ale.

    And as for my first food memory: can it really be baby cereal? How…bla!

  8. Magda | My Little Expat Kitchen Says:

    What a beautiful story, Nancy. My earliest food memory would be eating breakfast with my brother, soft, sweet bread dipped in sweetened milk and cinnamon. Oh, I miss that. I haven’t had that in ages!

    Love that simple syrup cause I looove ginger. Thanks for a great recipe, Nancy.

  9. Barbara Says:

    What a neat story Nance! I know you & Carole got to go spend nights w/ our grandparents. I was too young. I never heard this one. What a nice memory! I cannot seem to conjure up a notable one, so I will just leave it at that!

  10. fluffy Says:

    take me back to Costa Rica
    the veranda the sunset
    filled with joy

  11. Kath Says:

    This is such a lovely story. My earliest food memory is flinging the piece of liver that I didn’t want to eat onto my sisters plate after telling everyone to look at the big spider. She was not too pleased. My mum was laughing too much to make me eat the liver (that time!). I am a big fan of ginger ale, especially with a bit of Amaretto.

  12. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Kath—that’s a good one. weren’t you the clever girl! I would have been flinging liver too—fortunately my mom hated it so much as a child, it was the one thing she never cooked.

    Fluf—Pura Vida!

    Magda—bread dipped in sweetened cinnamon milk–what a lovely memory!

    Cathy—anything from Ebingers was a real treat. I remember the crumbcake-coffeecake. I got streusel and powdered sugar everywhere whenever I ate a piece.

    Beth-I bet those cookies were delicious—and helped form your love of ginger!

  13. Katerina Says:

    I had ginger ale when I went to the States to study and I loved it. Your syrup looks fantastic and combines so many beautiful flavors in it!

  14. Juliana Says:

    Nancy…this syrup with ginger and grapefruit sounds awesome…it is sure great to have it handy :)
    Very refreshing and flavorful.
    Thanks for this recipe Nancy and hope you are having a great week.

  15. judy preston Says:

    I would have enjoyed being a part of that rooftop scene. Was tht Nana and Grandpa Pre


  16. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    I love how the pink grapefruit looks on these cocktails. I am so making this for the sizzling weather we are having, and I am definitely using champagne!

  17. rachel Says:

    Delight, I love this post as much as I love ginger ale. My granny used to have a pub in the north of England and we used to drink little bottles of canada dry through straws and munch on salt and vinegar crisps and cocktail cherries – we thought it was the height of sophistication. My cocktail last year was a moscow mule. This year it may well be your ginger/grapefruit/champagne cocktail.

  18. Barbara Says:

    Great idea, Nancy. I’m loving all the ideas for grapefruit I’ve been seeing lately.
    I don’t know if gingerale would be forefront for my earliest food memories, but we lived near Detroit and the Vernors gingerale plant. We often went there and had their floats when I was a child.

  19. Faith Says:

    Simple syrups are so much fun to play around with and this one sounds fantastic. Ginger ale has always been a favorite of mine too. :)

  20. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Judy–it was at Nana and Poppop Vienneau’s apartment, which was in Jackson Heights, too, just a couple of blocks from Nana and Pop Preston. The Preston’s apartment was nicer–they had the elevator! Both had pretty enclosed courtyards, shared by the apartment buildings. I may have gone up on the Preston’s rooftop too, but the ginger ale parties of long long ago were at the Vienneau’s.

  21. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    Lovely memories, Nancy. What a treat it must have been to have dessert and ginger ale on the roof! Great cocktail.

  22. Emily @Cleanliness Says:

    Freaking. Fabulous.

  23. Teresa/foodonfifth.com Says:

    Oh how refreshing your simple syrup in soda water looks! Ginger Ale is my favorite and the only soda pop type drink I ever indulge in. I will have to make your recipe to have on hand.
    Love your story. I can just see you as a little girl with all your curly hair hanging out on the rooftop! What fun.

  24. Nancy Says:

    shirley temples are one of my earliest food memories too (fizzy! pink! how can you go wrong?). and also eating sun-warmed tomatoes and strawberries from our garden. the grapefruit-ginger syrup sounds so refreshing. will have to try it soon.

  25. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    Your simple syrup with champagne sounds very nice, indeed!

  26. FOODESSA Says:

    I’ll never forget the first time I made homemade ginger-ale after having made ginger candy…I was hooked and so commercially bought ginger-ale never made it back into my home.
    My Mom also used to have me drink this and dry soda crackers…those were the days.

    The Grapefruit certainly sounds like a very interesting addition…and now you also gave me another idea of maybe trying it with other citrus skins.

    Nancy, you’re always so inspiring…have a fabulous week ;o)


  27. Carla Says:

    I had to laugh at Kath’s comment about her earliest food memory. Liver was what came to mind for me as well. It was the first food I ever remember feeling strongly about, be it positively or negatively.

    I was four and very tired of being forced to eat it when my mom would prepare it. At that age I had grown just independent enough to express my opinion and stand my ground. She forced it into my mouth, and I spit it right back out. That behavior didn’t go over very well, but I got my point across and I haven’t touched the stuff in the intervening 33 years.

    I just cannot make myself try it again. I still have visceral memories of the taste, texture… There are very, very few things in this life I will not eat, but liver remains at the top of the list.

    My first food love was berries. Raspberries, blackberries, black raspberries, mulberries, strawberries, blueberries, any berry. I was just crazy for them. And still am. I’ll use just about any excuse to cook with and consume berries that I can.

  28. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Great story, Carla! Like you, I place liver at the top of my “food loathing list.” some things you never outgrow!

  29. “than I” and “than me” « Motivated Grammar Says:

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  30. Grammatical Pendantry: Comparatives in English, Greek & Latin « ΕΝ ΕΦΕΣΩ Says:

    [...] drank my secret stash of ginger-grapefruit soda? (1a) He/*Him drank it. (1b) [...]

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