I have many childhood memories of shoveling my mother’s homemade Korean food into my mouth until BAM: I hit a chunk of what I thought was a lovely water chestnut or bamboo shoot when in fact, it was a piece of ginger. Gross. No matter how much good food I ate after that, it seemed like I could never get the sting of ginger out of my system. By continually popping up in my mother’s otherwise delicious chicken soup and potstickers, ginger ruined many a childhood meal for me.
To be fair, ginger was far less intimidating and even inviting when ground up into a powder and mixed into sweet drinks and baked goods of the Western persuasion. Still, I stood by my opinion on ginger, even when gingery treats lured me outside my home. Whenever I was on the verge of enjoying a glass of ginger ale or a gingersnap cookie, the rebel inside me would exclaim, “No! I’m not supposed to like this…it’s the medicinal herb that Mom forces me to eat!”
Ginger finally wooed me in the form of the Dark and Stormy cocktail at Twenty-Five Lusk in San Francisco. This was my gateway drug to ginger: dark rum, lime, and ginger beer. The fizzy combination of sweet and spicy drowned out all echoes of my mother cajoling me to eat more potstickers. How had I thrived four years past the legal drinking age without discovering the Dark and Stormy?
Forget the cosmo – the Dark and Stormy is the truly cosmopolitan drink, with a history that spans generations and cultures. Ginger has its roots in Asia, having been used in Asian cuisine and medicine for over 5000 years. In 13th and 14th century England, ginger was so sought-after that a pound of it cost as much as a sheep. Thanks to the ginger plant’s affinity for the Caribbean climate, the Dark and Stormy has become regarded by many as the national cocktail of Bermuda. Lounging with my drink at Twenty-Five Lusk, I had no idea the brown liquid in my frosty glass had such a colorful history, but I knew for a fact that I was hooked on ginger from that moment on.
The Dark and Stormy is just the beginning of what’s possible with ginger-based beverages: Pimms cup (the drink of choice for English cricket matches and Wimbledon), Moscow Mule (dark and stormy with vodka instead of rum), cider-based drinks, spicy mulled wine. All these would make for a rousing house party.
I’m still not a fan of finding large chunks of ginger in savory dishes, but I now love anything flavored with ginger juice, and I can eat ginger candies, cookies, and cakes by the bucketful (arguably not a good thing; I try to focus on the health benefits of ginger). A true chameleon, ginger is as complementary to garlic as it is to vanilla. A pinch of ginger can enhance foods as different as fried chicken, pumpkin pie, agedashi tofu (a savory Japanese fried tofu dish), and yes, even my mother’s potstickers. By learning to like ginger, I know I’m giving my parents some degree of satisfaction, but I relish the fact that it took an alcoholic beverage to awaken my inner ginger beast. I’m sticking to my subversive guns.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Esquire
2 ounces dark rum (Gosling’s Black Label if possible, but any dark spiced rum will do)
3 ounces ginger beer (for sufficient spiciness, make sure it’s ginger beer and not ginger ale)
1/2 ounce lime juice (optional)
Combine the rum, ginger beer, and lime juice in a tall glass full of ice cubes. Stir.
Apparently, it’s an American thing to add lime – no Bermudian would dare add it to their Dark and Stormy. Like a true American, I prefer mine with lime.