There comes a point toward the end of every great meal when the table is covered with dirty plates, rumpled napkins, and the tablecloth has turned into a Rorschach inkblot of wine and sauce stains. When belts are loosened and eyelids begin to droop, it’s time for sujeonggwa. Sujeonggwa is a non-alcoholic Korean digestif made by simmering ginger, cinnamon, sugar, and water to make a warm, spiced, aromatic cross between a tea and punch. Traditionally, it’s finished with dried persimmons and pine nuts for peak fall vibes. The restorative, warm heat of fresh ginger balanced by the molasses sweetness of brown sugar makes the perfect pre-dessert pick-me-up after a big meal.
For this version, dried apple chips replace hard-to-find dried persimmons, which gives this sujeonggwa a mulled apple cider feel, and to compensate for the loss of the gingerbread and dried apricot notes persimmons typically provide, cinnamon sticks are lightly charred over an open flame and then combined with water, brown sugar, sliced ginger, cloves, and star anise to form the base for the drink. The mixture is simmered until intensely aromatic, removed from the heat, and a heaping handful of dried apple chips are added to the pot. The sujeonggwa is then set aside to steep for twenty minutes, strained, gently reheated, and served in mugs with a sprinkling of pine nuts—it’s like an apple pie in tea form.