Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or spray sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined; set aside.
Either by had or with an electric mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar and the 1/3 cup granulated sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the yolk and vanilla; increase the speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds.
Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the molasses; beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl once with a rubber spatula.
Reduce the speed to the lowest setting; add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl down once. Give the dough a final stir by hand to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at the bottom. The dough will be soft.
Place the 1/2 cup sugar for rolling in a shallow bowl. Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Dip your hands into the water and shake off the excess (this will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands and ensure that the sugar sticks to the dough).
Using a tablespoon measure, scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough and roll it between your moistened palms into 1 1/4- to 1 1/2- inch ball; drop the ball into the sugar and repeat to form about 4 balls. Toss the balls in sugar to coat and set them on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Repeat with the remaining dough, moistening your hands as necessary with the water.
Bake until the cookies are browned, still puffy, and the edges have begun to set, but the centers are still soft (the cookies will look raw between the cracks and seem underdone), about 11 minutes, rotating the sheet from front to back half-way through the baking time. Do not overbake.
Cook the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer to the cookies to a wire rack; cool the cookies to room temperature.