Now serving at Short Order: Ginger ale by Bruce Cost
Years ago, I used to make up errands that would take me near Ginger Island, Bruce Cost’s then-restaurant in Berkeley. I was after a glass of the ginger ale he made from fresh ginger root, completely irresistible on a hot day. He once gave me a verbal recipe, but I was too lazy to make it.
Besides, what would I do with a huge quantity of the stuff?
Imagine my surprise when I slipped onto a bar stool at Short Order last week, and found Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost on the beverage menu. The ginger isn’t just a faint tinge: it’s punchy and glorious. On a hot day, it's cooling; on a cool one, it's warming. Simply brilliant, and made only with fresh ginger and cane sugar. (It also comes in Jasmine Green Tea and Pomegranate flavors.)
When Cost moved from the Bay Area to Chicago in 1995 to develop Asian restaurants (Big Bowl, Wow Bao) for Lettuce Entertain You, he brought his fresh ginger ale recipe with him and it was just as much a hit there as it was in Berkeley.
Now Cost, an astonishing Asian cook and author of "Ginger East to West," is living in New York where, with TMI Trading Company in Brooklyn, he’s producing and bottling his fresh, unfiltered ginger ale.
Cost explains that he’d always made it on site at his restaurants, where “it was always the best-selling beverage, outselling Coke, iced tea and lemonade. People responded to the bright taste of the unfiltered fresh ginger. A little over a year ago, we found we could capture this in the bottle, using only fresh ginger and pure cane sugar, and we’ve gotten the same great response.”
Some of the country's top chefs are featuring it too -- Charles Phan at the Slanted Door in San Francisco, Thomas Keller at Ad Hoc in Yountville, Rick Bayless at Frontera Grill in Chicago. and David Chang at Momofuku in New York, to name a few.
And right now the product is beginning to show up on the shelves of BevMo stores. Watch for it. Meanwhile, I can get my fix, along with Nancy’s Backyard Burger and the exceptional spuds at Short Order, which just opened for lunch by the way.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photo: Bruce Cost's ginger ale. Credit: Bruce Cost