Fresh, dried, candied or pickled, the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale — ginger root to you and me — is a hot commodity at the moment.Used quietly for years to add zip to everything from stir-fries and sushi to breads and cookies, ginger also happens to be a key ingredient for the noodles and dumplings traditionally eaten in Chinese cuisine. But at the moment the knobby brown root is enjoying a bit of zeitgeist that goes far beyond, showing up in desserts, upscale sodas, marinades for pricy meats and fancy cocktails as the food world embraces this zingy root in anything but a gingerly fashion.At the Lukshon restaurant in Los Angeles, chef-owner Sang Yoon laughingly describes himself as the guy who'll “eat my own weight in the pickled ginger” when sitting down to sushi. “I really enjoy that light burn on the palate. It almost acts as a palate cleanser. It's especially really pleasing for richer, oilier dishes like mackerel.”So at his restaurant, he has taken ginger well beyond the stir-fry, making a syrup from ginger and galangal (a more savory relative of ginger) for cocktails, juicing ginger for sauces and vinaigrettes and hot pickling ginger for raw fish dishes.Chef and Asian food authority Bruce Cost is such a fan he wrote the 1984 cookbook, “Ginger East to West,” which traced the history of ginger. He created Bruce Cost Ginger Ale for his restaurants and now sells it in specialty and food service retailers across the country. Unfiltered, it's brewed in Brooklyn and made from fresh, whole ginger and cane sugar.“It's probably the premier herb on the planet,” he says, noting that ginger is an ancient food that has been embraced by diverse cultures.And his brew is hardly alone. Grocer's shelves are suddenly crowded with fancy ginger ales sporting big, bold flavor, from Reed's Extra Ginger Brew to Maine Root Ginger Brew.Diana Kuan, a New York-based writer and cooking instructor who blogs about food at appetiteforchina.com, likes ginger in all its incarnations, including, of course, its traditional role along with garlic and scallions as the basis for stir-fry and other dishes.Ginger also shows up in marinades to help tenderize meat and is a natural partner to crab, steamed fish or in rich dishes, such as pork belly or dumplings. “It has a really clean and sharp flavor,” says Kuan.Somewhere in there, you may need a cocktail, and this ginger lemon drop spritzer may fit the bill. Use the best ginger beer (fancy ginger ale) you can find. Fresh ginger, usually found with the grocer's Asian produce, should be firm and brown.GINGER LEMON DROP SPRITZERStart to finish: 5 minutesServings: 1Ice12-ounce bottle ginger beer2 ounces Domaine de Canton (ginger liqueur)1 ounce vodka1 ounce lemon juice1 teaspoon minced fresh gingerFill a highball glass with ice and pour in enough ginger beer to fill the glass two-thirds of the way.In a cocktail shaker filler with ice, combine the ginger liqueur, vodka, lemon juice and fresh ginger. Shake well, then strain into the glass.(Recipe by Alison Ladman)GINGER BEEF1 pound flank steakMarinade:2 tablespoons dark soy sauce1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry1 teaspoon granulated sugar2 tablespoons ginger juice (storebought or homemade)Sauce:1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry1 tablespoon light soy sauce2 tablespoons white or rice vinegar2 tablespoons granulated sugar2 tablespoons water1 teaspoon hot chili oil or crushed red pepper flakes, or to tasteOther:1 stalk celery1 red bell pepper1 carrot4 to 5 cups oil for deep-frying2 tablespoons oil for stir-frying, or as needed3 red chili peppers, seeds left in1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped2 cloves garlic, finely chopped1 teaspoon sesame oilBatter:1/4 cup flour1/4 cup cornstarch1 tablespoon vegetable oil1 tablespoon hot chili oil (optional)1/3 cup water, or as neededPartially freeze the beef to make it easier to cut.If making homemade ginger juce, grate the ginger and squeeze out the juice until you have 2 tablespoons. Cut the partially frozen beef along the grain into thin strips the approximately length and width of matchsticks. Add the marinade ingredients and marinate the beef for 25 minutes.In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, vinegar, sugar, water and hot chili oil. Set aside.While the beef is marinating, prepare the vegetables and sauce. Cut the celery, red bell pepper, and carrot into thin strips.To prepare the batter, combine the flour and cornstarch. Stir in the vegetable oil, and the hot chili oil if using. Add a much water as is needed to make a smooth batter. It should not be too dry or too runny, but should lightly drop off the back of a wooden spoon.Heat the oil for deep-frying to 360 degrees. Dip the marinated beef pieces into the batter. When the oil is hot, add the beef and deep-fry until it is golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.Increase the heat to 400 degrees. Deep-fry the beef a second time, to make it extra cripsy. Remove and drain. Clean out the wok. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the wok. When the oil is hot, add the chilies, minced garlic and ginger. Stir-fry until the chilies begin to blister. Add the carrot. Stir-fry briefly, then add the celery, and then the red pepper.Push the vegetables up to the sides of the wok. Add the sauce in the middle. Heat to boiling, then add the deep-fried beef back into the pan. Mix all the ingredients together. Remove from the heat. Stir in the sesame oil. Serve hot.