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