Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Homemade Root Beer, Anyone?

Brian has been begging me all summer to make a batch of root beer. I've been putting him off all summer, promising we would make some before Geoff went back to college. Well, Geoff left Tuesday morning, so Monday was officially Radcliffe Root Beer Day.

Since I didn't want to deal with sterilizing bottles I don't have and finding caps for said bottles, I opted for the cheater method of making root beer.

First we start with water.

Then we add some good old-fashioned goodness . . . I mean sugar.

And some of that new-fangled organic sugar--it has a little molasses flavor to it.

Then we pour in some anise seed and some sassafras bark. Did you know sassafras costs $60 a pound? Wish I had me a sassafras tree in the back yard. I could probably put a kid through college if I did. Another little side note about the sass: it causes cancer in lab rats when they force feed the poor little guys with ungodly amounts of it. But I figure I'm safe because I can't afford to consume massive amounts of the stuff--too expensive.

So into the pot it all goes, to simmer for a while. Unfortunately, I could not find wintergreen leaves anywhere, dried or fresh, which happens to be a pretty important ingredient in root beer. After trying 3 different stores I gave up; I couldn't even find wintergreen extract.

After about 30 minutes, we strain all the seeds and sticks and leaves out of it and add a little vanilla. Looks yummy, doesn't it?

Now, for the cheater part of it. We're not going to mess with yeast and natural carbonation. Nope, we're going to buy our bubbles. Notice our new root beer pump dispenser with its cool new label. We mix the bubbly and the root beer syrup about half and half.

Looks like murky iced tea to me. Ian won't touch the stuff. Colin made a face and proclaimed it gross, although I noticed he choked some down the next day when we ran out of everything else to drink. Brian claimed it was excellent, but his palate isn't exactly refined, if you know what I mean. It had a rather pronounced licorice flavor with a scent of root beer, although Brian says he has tasted some designer root beers that taste just like this. Maybe his palate is more sophisticated than I thought. Maybe he has a future in distillery and boutique soft drinks. Anyone with cool highlights like his (all natural, by the way, we can't even get him to brush his hair, much less color it or otherwise take care of it) ought to be able to have any crazy career he wants.

The rest of us preferred the cream soda: bubbly mixed with brown sugar syrup and a splash of half and half. Geoff said it tasted like a cookie soda. I thought it tasted suspiciously like pancake syrup with fizz, especially since the sugar syrup was basically the same as the syrup I make for pancakes, just in different proportions.
Next time, I think we'll try ginger ale. Maybe we'll grow some wintergreen so we can try a different flavor of root beer. But don't tell Brian, because then he'll keep bugging me until we actually do it, and I have no intentions of making soda until . . . until . . . Geoff comes home. Yeah, that'll put him off for a while.

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