My current beverage obsession is the Moscow Mule, a cocktail made with spicy ginger beer, tangy lime juice, and vodka – all served in a copper mug. There are a few variations to the drink. Some swap lemon juice for lime or add fresh mint, but nothing beats the combination of fresh lime and ginger if you ask me. It’s so zingy! That’s what inspired me to make these caramels.
Ginger beer is available with or without alcohol, and you may use either type for this recipe. I chose the strongly flavored Wild Ginger brand (with alcohol) which I had on hand for my New Year’s Eve party. My friend Matt gave it a try and said it was ‘like drinking incense.’ It is extremely spicy, which makes it an excellent ingredient for this candy.
The recipe begins with simmering down a cup of the ginger beer to a syrupy 1 tablespoon. This takes about 20 minutes and gives you pure concentrated ginger beer flavor. This concentrate is added to the caramel after it’s finished cooking, along with lime zest, lime juice and a tablespoon of vodka.
The caramel will firm after several hours at room temperature, but I recommend using the refrigerator to speed setting. It will also be much easier to slice into pieces while cold.
These caramels are soft at room temperature so they will need to be individually wrapped. I rarely use fancy wrappers for candy and instead opt for waxed paper straight from the roll. It works well enough cut into 5×5-inch squares and I use pinking shears for zig-zag edges.
Each caramel piece is garnished with a pinch of ginger salt which is exactly as it sounds – ground ginger mixed with salt! You can use common table salt, but I recommend using fine grain sea salt. You can usually find it right beside the fine grain table salt at the grocery store.
Moscow Mule Soft Caramels
Yields about 64 caramels
These caramels must be wrapped or they will lose their shape over time at room temperature. Use waxed paper cut into 5×5-inch squares for wrapping. Have the wrappers cut and ready before you remove the caramel from the pan. For a non-alcoholic version use ginger beer with no alcohol added and omit the vodka.
12 oz. bottle ginger beer (recommend Wild Ginger brand)
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
1 cup (213g) light brown sugar, packed
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter
1 cup (227g) heavy cream
1 cup (312g) light corn syrup
Zest of 3 limes (fine)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon vodka
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt (recommend sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon ginger
In a small saucepan bring 1 cup of ginger beer to a simmer and cook until reduced and syrupy. This will take about 20 minutes and yield about 1 tablespoon of concentrated ginger beer flavoring.
Butter an 8×8 inch pan and line with parchment paper that over hangs the edges. Combine the remaining ginger beer and the next 5 ingredients in a heavy 4-5 quart pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. The beer will fizz and bubble to the top of the pot when heated, so watch it carefully and stir so the bubbling subsides. Butter will melt and mixture will begin to boil.
Continue to cook until candy thermometer reaches 244°F, this will take about 30 minutes. You can test your caramel in a bowl of ice water to check the consistency. It should form a firm ball.
When the correct temperature has been reached, stir in the ginger beer reduction and remove from heat. The ginger beer reduction may firm as it stands because of the sugar content. If it is too firm to pour into the caramel, place it over heat until it loosens and then add it to the pot. Stir in the lime zest. Combine the lime juice and vodka in a small cup; add to the caramel. The mixture will bubble and sputter with this addition (be careful!). Stir in the salt and ground ginger.
Pour into prepared pan. Let cool for several hours or place in fridge until firm. Remove caramel block from pan using the overhanging parchment. Mix together the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the caramel block (you may not have to use all of the topping – add to taste). Cut into 1-inch pieces and wrap in waxed paper squares. Store the wrapped caramels in an airtight container for up to a week, or in the refrigerator for a few days longer.