Years ago on Christmas, my friend Lori passed me a flask filled with deliciousness comprised of candied ginger and white rum. It was smooth, sweet, and spicy. She’d gotten the recipe from mutual friend and avid mixologist Chris McIlroy who called it Nim Nam.
Lori sent me Chris’ recipe which involved steeping a particular brand of candied ginger in white rum for several months. I’d been meaning to make it for some time, but the thought of having to wait so long for a sip of that ambrosial liqueur sent me down the instant ginger gratification routes of Dark and Stormies, Sparkling Whiskey Gingerade, and Ginger Rhubarb Bee’s Knees. (I like ginger – can ya tell?)
Fast forward to music camp this past summer. My friend Fiona mixed up her version of Nim Nam, which involved freshly grated ginger, vanilla bean, lemon, honey, vodka, and a mere 24 hour steep. She presented us with chilled glasses filled with the golden cordial, ice, and fizzy water. The concoction burst with mellow floral notes, a bit of kicky heat, and just enough sweetness. I begged for the recipe.
Fiona’s Nim Nam uses masses of freshly grated ginger and its juice. Ginger has subtle nuances that can be lost when heated, so I love the bold punch of spice that this version delivers. Meyer lemon zest and juice makes the whole thing taste of sunshine, and honey adds natural sweetness and a pretty, golden hue. The vanilla bean is optional, says Fiona, but it adds a touch of warmth that makes the drink taste comforting and familiar, a like a lemon drop for grown-ups.
The cordial takes only 24 hours to prepare, but the flavors continue to meld as it sits, post-straining, in the fridge for a few days. Don’t worry about using a fancy vodka here – the flavorings smooth away any rough edges. (Though if you’re a sucker for a pretty bottle, try Reyka or Hangar 1.)
I think of Nim Nam as a wintertime drink, suitable for holiday and New Year’s parties, but it also refreshes on a warm summer day. It makes a lovely gift funneled into pretty jars, and I find it to be the perfect after-dinner tipple. (Something else that makes a lovely gift? A stainless steel soda siphon for making your own fizzy water.)
Whatever the weather, serve this cordial in chilled glasses topped with ice and
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- 750 mL vodka
- ⅓ cup grated fresh ginger and its juice
- zest and juice of 1 lemon (preferably meyer)
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- ½ cup mild honey
- ½ cup boiling water
- In a large jar (1 quart or larger), combine the vodka, ginger, lemon zest and juice, and the vanilla pod and scrapings. Let sit for 24 hours, giving the jar a shake when you think of it.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl.
- Stir together the honey and boiling water in a measuring pitcher until the honey is liquified. Stir the honey syrup into the vodka. Pour the Nim Nam into bottles and chill.
- Serve the Nim Nam over ice topped with fizzy water. It will keep refrigerated, for at least a month and probably longer.
This spicy cordial is made with vodka; Fiona says to use the cheap stuff since the honey, ginger, and vanilla smooth away any rough edges. I went slightly upscale with Reyka; Hangar One is another one I like the taste of on its own. This stuff only gets better as it hangs out in the fridge the first few days after straining. Serve it over ice with an equal amount of fizzy water. And watch out – it goes down a little too easy.