Happy Popsicle Week 2016, bebes! I’m posting today as part of a collaboration hosted by Billy of Wit & Vinegar to bring you a wide assortment of frosty treats on a stick. Check out all the other recipes here!
My contribution to this fresh and fabulous gathering is the Boston Cooler pop. Sounds good, but…what is it? Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
First, let’s talk ginger ale. I am a YUGE fan of ginger ale, especially the ones with a peppery bite. Everywhere we’ve lived has had a signature ginger ale: Rachel’s Ginger Beer in Seattle, Verdant Kitchen’s Ogeechee Gold in Savannah, and now Vernor’s Ginger Ale here in Detroit. Rachel’s explodes with fresh ginger, Ogeechee Gold is tinted with turmeric, and Vernor’s? I didn’t expect to love a Sprite/Dr. Pepper product that tastes like ginger cream soda, but it’s my new guilty pleasure.
We’d heard good things about Vernor’s but never tried one until, on a whim, I dragged my husband on a 35-mile bike ride.
As a preface, we are not cyclists of any variety. My husband rides my dad’s ancient touring bike, and I have a 30-year-old track bike that looks cool but is significantly too small for me. Both are single speed bikes, and our cycling experience has been limited to short trips when we didn’t feel like parking downtown or intended to drink a little. Until that fateful day last month, neither of us had ever ridden more than 15 miles in a stretch.
But nonetheless, when you’re new to the area and dying of boredom, long bike rides on a late spring day sound pretty great. So we headed out to the Rouge River Gateway Greenway Trail, a 17.5-mile paved trail just past Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, the schawarma capital of the known world. The trail wound pleasantly through a system of parks, and it felt good to stretch our legs and think nice thoughts about the new place we’d moved to.
Five miles in, though, J jetted off the path to a swingset in a field, citing a powerful thirst and announcing that he didn’t intend to make it the entire way. Also, his bike seat–an admittedly menacing looking thing with precious little real estate for one’s rear–was seriously uncomfortable. We gulped some water and ate apples, chucked the cores into the shaggy grass and pedaled on.
After many twists and turns and ups and downs (including J flying headfirst over his handlebars into the grass to avoid a kid), we arrived at the end of the trail. J was ready to fling his heavy, uncomfortable bicycle over the nearest cliff, but I remained optimistic. There were peanuts to eat, and we eventually mustered the courage to turn around. Before we got back in our saddles, a deal was struck: we would switch bikes.
The ride back was torture. J’s bike seat is most definitely a men’s saddle, and I am most definitely not a man. I alternated between standing on the pedals and gingerly straddling a saddle made for someone else’s, erm, parts. We hardly noticed the sun and the green leaves and the happy people playing soccer and disc golf on the return trip. It was a slog. I could feel the frustration radiating off my husband and found myself fantasizing about padded bike shorts.
Somehow, we made it back. After hurling the bikes on the ground, we flopped in the back of the Prius like a pair of tired dogs, panting and woozy. J swore on everything that was holy that he was never going on another bike ride with me ever.
Eventually, the glimmering promise of schawarma roused us from our stupor. On the way to hummus and glorious grilled meat, an unusual idea floated through my delirium.
“Hey, can we get a soda?” I burst out as we passed a convenience store. J made a dodgy maneuver (the “Michigan left“), and we screeched to a stop in the parking lot. I staggered in and emerged with a squatty bottle of golden elixir: Vernor’s. We gulped it down as if we’d just crossed the Sahara. Lady that I am [not], I belched enormously. Suddenly, we felt human again. What was in this stuff?
Turns out Vernor’s is the local cure for anything that may ail you. Stomachache? Have some Vernor’s. Tired? Vernor’s. Thirsty? Vernor’s. Ate too many coney dogs and need to belch? Yep, Vernor’s. It’s mild for a ginger ale, with a cream soda undertone and vigorous effervescence. Yes, it has more sugar than a Mountain Dew and you probably shouldn’t drink more than one per calendar year, but what the hell. It’s weirdly good.
And if that creamy, bubbly golden goodness isn’t enough for you straight, there’s the Boston Cooler, a Detroit classic made from Vernor’s and vanilla ice cream. As soon as I heard about it, I knew exactly what WSB would feature for Popsicle Week. These capture that oddly-named Midwest soda fountain favorite on a stick, and require exactly zero bike riding to enjoy.
Happy summer, and remember to check out all the other great offerings for handheld refreshment at the official 2016 Popsicle Week page!
- 3/4 cup + 3/4 cup Vernor's ginger ale*
- 3/4 cup half-and-half
- 1 egg yolk
- 25g (2 Tablespoons) sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Distribute 3/4 cup ginger ale between 10 popsicle molds and put in the freezer.
- Whisk egg yolk, sugar, and salt in a bowl or measuring cup and keep close at hand.
- Heat half-and-half very gently over medium-low heat until hot but *do not* allow it to boil (I use my finger to test the temperature--you want it at right about 140F, like a good latte). Pour a splash of the hot milk into the yolk mixture and whisk to introduce, then pour yolk mixture into milk in a thin stream, whisking constantly.
- Return to medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes, whisking absentmindedly, until it's hot again and thickened ever so slightly to the consistency of heavy cream. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then the remaining 3/4 cup ginger ale.
- Pop the custard mixture in the refrigerator until the ginger ale in the bottom of the molds is frozen. Top off the molds with the custard, add sticks, and freeze at least 4 hours until solid.
- Can you use regular ginger ale? Of course. To get that Vernor's taste, find a mild one or mix a standard ginger ale half-and-half with cream soda. (This may sound like heresy to Vernor's fans, but I find it rather mild and creamy compared to other ginger ales like Canada Dry.)