vernors chicken

CB’s Vernors Chicken

My brother Christian Betz--part griller, part chemist, 100 percent perfectionist--loves Vernors ginger ale so much that one spring day he tried marinating some chicken legs in it before throwing them on the grill. The alchemy worked: the sugar in the pop caramelized the skin to a chestnut-hued crackle, and the succulent interior meat was imbued with a subtle kick of a Michigan original—E.B.T.


  • 4 whole chicken legs (aka chicken quarters), skin on
  • 2 cans of regular Vernors
  • 2–3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Couple good shakes good-quality paprika
  • Cayenne pepper to taste, mixed with salt


Rinse chicken legs and pat dry. In a non-reactive bowl mix remaining ingredients except cayenne pepper. Add chicken legs and marinate 6 hours to no more than overnight. Place chicken on a medium grill (you can hold your hand 2 inches over the flame for 6 seconds), and cook pelvis side down for about 40 minutes covered. Once chicken is on the grill, sprinkle the skin with a little cayenne-salt mix. Leave it be, but check frequently for flare-ups. Bottom skin will burn, but that’s okay. Flip, cook another 10 minutes or so or until done through, and the sugar in the marinade caramelizes to make the skin a rich brown. (The sugar in the marinade can burn, so watch carefully.) Wine pairing: Pinot Gris