Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cocktail Hour - Root

A month or so ago, GeekBoy found an article about the origins of root or birch beer. It seems that, before there was what we today know as root beer, the tasty beverage was a spirit rather than a soda/soft drink. He read that there was a distillery out there making the spirit, true to its' original recipe. Filing this bit of info away for future reference, he moved on to other endeavors. A week or so ago, on a trip to the local Wine & Spirits store, he remembered the article, and asked if they had it. GeekBoy was in luck, they did. Of course he picked up a bottle for us to try.

It's called 'Root'. The fine print on the front of the bottle reads: 'This rustic spirit was inspired by a potent 18th century Pennsylvania folk recipe. It is an alcoholic version of what eventually evolved into Birch or Root Beer.'
The back of the bottle has illustrations of the 13 organic ingredients. They are: anise, allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, spearmint, lemon, smoked black tea, wintergreen, clove, orange, nutmeg, sugar cane and birch bark.
It also came with a booklet that included some historical information and recipes for cocktails. To summarize; the concoction was introduced to the colonial settlers by the Native Americans in the 1700's. Through the years after that, it became stronger and more complex, as the recipe was passed down. Apparently, the ingredients were readily available in PA, so it became quite popular here. In the late 1800's, the temperance movement inspired a pharmacist in Philadelphia to remove the alcohol from the 'Root Tea' (as it was called) and he (tongue firmly in cheek) renamed it 'Root Beer'. This new beverage was unveiled at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, where it was a smash hit. You know how the rest of it goes.

So, Geekboy perused the included cocktail recipes and settled on the 'Rootini'. Probably because we had the necessary ingredients close by (and he knows I have a penchant for frou-frou martinis). Very simply, the recipe is:

2 oz. Root
1 oz. vanilla liqueur (we used Liquor 43, as I was out of Navan)
granulated sugar (to rim the glass)

Combine the Root and the liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake it up, and strain into the sugar rimmed glass.

We skipped sugaring the rim - I always make a mess with that and I thought it might be a little too sweet for me.
It was really very good. Rich, sweet, but not syrupy. Kind of like the essence of root beer with a kick. It reminded me of A&W Root Beer Barrel candy, yum. I would order it as an after-dinner drink in lieu of dessert, or if I was out just for cocktails. It's not something that I would drink with dinner - I tend to shy away from sweet things with my dinner food.

We tried a bit straight up as well. It was potent, but actually very tasty. I could see maybe serving it on the rocks, to cut the intensity a little. Overall, we really enjoyed it. It's an interesting addition to our bar. One of GeekBoy's buddies had a taste of it on Sunday and gave Root a thumbs up as well. We'll definitely be trying the other recipes in the booklet soon.

If you can find it, I highly recommend giving Root a try.

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