In my mind, there is no ginger ale other than Vernors. Don’t try to give me Schweppes or Seagram’s or Canada Dry. All other ales pale against this oldest surviving American soft drink. The nose buzzing beverage and beloved tummy tamer still uses the very same formula created some century and a half ago by James Vernor - a pharmacist in Detroit, Michigan. (Even though I’m from Ohio, I have to give props to Detroit. Great things come from that part of the state.)
Now I live on the West Coast, and it can be hard to find this coveted childhood favorite. But, when I do, I drink it over crushed ice…or cook with it.
I’ve heard fine chefs say never include in ones ingredients a wine one wouldn’t want to drink. I think the same holds true for ginger ale. I’d like to share two recipes – one I’ve made for years and one I made up last night. Both feature the slightly sweet, gingery, barrel aged taste of Vernors.
The first – Vernors Carrots – is an adapted Alton Brown recipe and a popular side-dish in this house.
-1C Vernors Ginger Ale
-1lb baby carrots
-2T salted butter
Add carrots, butter, and Vernors to a sauté pan with lid. Bring to a simmer, uncovered. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Pierce largest carrot with a toothpick to check for doneness. When desired tenderness is reached, remove the lid and turn the heat on high. Continue tossing the carrots in the liquid until mixture is reduced and coats the carrots with a gorgeous glaze (about 5 minutes more). Serve immediately.
The second – Vernors Chicken – is a Good Cooker original. I made it last night on a whim and it was amazing. I will certainly be whipping it up again – after I buy more Vernors.
1C Vernors Ginger Ale
2lbs chicken legs (or bone-in thighs)
1/2C orange juice
1/4C soy sauce
1/2 t white pepper
3cloves minced fresh garlic
Place chicken in lidded pan large enough to accommodate one layer (I used my new enameled cast iron Dutch oven – it holds 6qts and weighs in at just over 15lbs – yikes). Combine Vernors, orange juice, soy sauce, pepper and garlic and pour mixture over chicken. Bring to a simmer, uncovered. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for one hour. Remove chicken from pan and arrange on serving plate. Cover with foil. Reduce liquid to a thick glaze over high heat. Brush or spoon onto plated chicken legs. Serve immediately.