As you’ve probably heard or read, I recently became 1/3rd of a popup store here in Frankfurt called mer. It took about three months of planning—and painting—to create this space and one of the most striking aspects of it is the blue you’ll find splashed on the floor and walls. It’s such a distinctive shade and definitely not a decision I would have taken, but Steffen was so sure it would be a great choice and he was completely right. So when we were planning our launch party and the idea to have a signature drink popped up, I wanted to create something that would play off this blue that our guests would be surrounded by. Turmeric came up quite quickly, both as a colouring agent but also for the flavour (especially considering I now stock this amazing variety in the shop!). As a compliment, I thought of ginger for its fiery flavour and so the idea of a cordial of sorts came into being. When we were little, my mother often made lime cordial by juicing umpteen fresh limes, diluting the juice with water and balancing the sourness with sugar. This whole mix would be reduced to a concentrate, which would then be stored in glass bottles and used to create homemade lemonade.
Flash-forward many many years to the question of our signature drink. A conversation with my friend Sonja led to her suggesting vermouth as a base and suddenly the pieces fell into place. A shot of golden, intense cordial balanced by the vermouth, finished off with a generous splash of sparkling water and a big cube of ice. A thinly sliced cross-section of ginger would be the garnish. We’d have glowing yellow against the blue of the floor, and hopefully our guests would like this very personal concotion.
The party was, indeed, a success and the signature drink was very popular. That emboldened me to give the cordial another shot, this time for us at home. It’s very easy to make, the most tedious part is the hour-long boiling that it needs to go through to reduce properly. Ginger, turmeric, some lemon zest, a sweetener (I used raw cane sugar the first time around and jaggery, for its caramelised notes the second) and water combine and become something quite intriguing. You’ll smell the complexity wafting around your home whilst the pot’s bubbling in the kitchen, unusual yet very comforting. I didn’t want to make this a sweet syrup, and so I’m not using too much sugar here and you’ll end up with a cordial that’s light and easy to pour, giving you room to combine it as you like.
To make this non-alcoholic, just leave out the vermouth. You might want to add a splash of fresh lemon juice to brighten it up even more.
Turmeric Ginger Cordial
Makes about 500 ml
100 gm fresh ginger, preferably organic, washed and peeled, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric
6—8 tablespoons cane sugar or jaggery
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 litres water
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, starting with 6 tablespoons jaggery or cane sugar, and bring to boil on medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and allow it to simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Give the mixture a good stir and cook for another 20 minutes. Check the flavour at this point: if you think it’s getting intense, remove a tablespoon or two of the sliced ginger. You could also add the remaining two tablespoons jaggery or sugar if you think it’s needed. Allow the mixture to boil for a final 20 minutes, following which it should have reduced to less than half.
Remove from heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Carefully strain and then transfer it into a glass bottle. Cool completely before closing tightly. Store the cordial in the refrigerator, it should keep for about a week to ten days.
The mer. signature drink:
Combine 50 ml white vermouth and a generous splash of the turmeric ginger cordial in a highball glass. Top up with cold sparkling water, add a cube of ice and garnish with a slice of ginger. Serve immediately
Text & Images: Vatsala Murthy