But sometimes you want something different. Mocktails are always served alongside alcoholic drinks, but they are often sweet, fruity and a little OTT.
Sometimes you want something subtle and sophisticated.
Enter the Cucumber Ginger Fizz.
I discovered this drink last year when I was asked to come up with some mocktail recipes for a High School Prom pre-party. A few of the students weren't into the sweetie-fruitie drinks, and asked if I could come up with something different.
A quick google gave me several different recipes for many fun things, but this recipe for a Cucumber Ginger syrup was the winner of the night.
I had a half-bottle left over from that night, and forgot to drink it.
Then came Boxing Day.
His Grace has a set of wonderful friends from his University days. One of their annual traditions is "The Box on Boxing Day" party. During their school days, they had a Box, which contained everyone's alcohol. Each person would contribute something different. By pooling their poor student resources, they were able to enjoy a wide variety of adult beverages.
Over the years the collection grew, as it got added to and forgotten about, until it had a bar's worth of various liquors, cordials, etc. There's even a bottle of 'genuine' absinthe in there, and a bottle of grenadine, my personal favourite. (I'm a sucker for a good Shirley Temple, if made with ginger beer.)
This year, I remembered the half-bottle of Cucumber Ginger Syrup lying dormant in my fridge, and I brought it along, in hopes that someone would realise its potential.
Initially I made mocktails for people to try. "Hmm," said one mate. "This would go really well with gin."
I'll take your word for it. So, we mixed up a drink, garnished it with a cucumber slice, and the drinkers gave it a go.
Gin for the win! Everyone loved it. Did we just invent a cocktail?
Apparently, we did. I went home after the party and attempted to look up the actual name of this new-ish drink we discovered. Surely someone else had come across it before?
Yes and no. While we came across similar drinks, like the Mule, no recipe I found duplicated its flavours exactly. They either had lime or mint or both, which changes the aromatic profile enough to make them sibling drinks, but not the same.
So yeah. We invented the Boxing Day Special. You're welcome.
Cucumber Ginger Syrup
1 medium cucumber, grated
1 knob of fresh ginger, grated
2 c sugar
2 c water
Combine sugar and water together in a saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved. (This is Simple Syrup, and is often used in cocktails to give a sweetness without the grittiness of granulated sugar.)
Place grated cucumber and ginger in a bowl. Pour the hot simple syrup over and let steep for 2-3 hours.
Strain and bottle until needed. Keeps in the fridge for several weeks.
This Cucumber Ginger Syrup is versatile ingredient for drinks. Combine it 1:3 with soda water for a sophisticated mocktail, or go fully adult with this recipe for a Boxing Day Special.
Boxing Day Special
In a highball glass, combine:
2 shots Cucumber Ginger Syrup
2 shots London Dry Gin
Top up with soda water (approx 2-4 shots). Garnish with a cucumber slice.
And that's it. It's a simple recipe that delivers a broad palate with a flavour journey of cool cuke, hot ginger and aromatic juniper.
* * *
Here's an interesting fact I learned on Boxing Day: garnishes aren't just to make the drink look pretty. Sometimes they're used to add an extra aromatic note to the drink. For example, the gang made Mint Juleps. The mint itself didn't get blended in. We blitzed up some ice, poured over a nice Honey Bourbon, then pushed in a long sprig of mint. Then to drink, you bruised the mint, inhaled and then sipped. The mint was scented, not tasted, and this apparently changed the nature of how a drinker experienced the bourbon without affecting the flavour.
The cucumber garnish in a Boxing Day Special gives you the initial scent of cucumber, which then lifts more cuke flavour from the drink, so you get the full experience.
The things you learn.
Her teetolling Grace will trust that this truly is a nice drink, and not her friends being nice to her. After all, they were not afraid to completely pan her attempts at a home-brewed apple cider a few years prior.