1.12.10 Putting Down Root
I'm drinking alone. Though partial to a bourbon cocktail, preferably The Eldred, I've never been able to knock back much booze. I've got a 2-drink limit, because otherwise I head from pleasantly tipsy straight to clutching the bowl. But this bottle of Root has been winking at me from the liquor cabinet ever since it arrived in the mail, having caught G's fancy when he read about it somewhere. I took a teensy sip some time ago and realized it was not something I was going to be drinking straight. This is some seriously intense juice that needs to be coaxed into a sippable cocktail. So I've been mixing up a few different blends, trying to take the medicinal edge off the stuff. I've got a rocks glass in one hand, and my new Kindle in the other. I'm reading Mary Karr's memoir, Lit, about her slurring downward spiral into the quicksand of alcoholism—and her hardscrabble ascent out of it. The irony is not lost on me. I also read and enjoyed her other book, The Liar's Club, about her deeply unfortunate childhood. She writes with raw feeling and has that hysterical, bawdy wit that is often the veneer over lacerating pain. But back to Root.
It’s made by a Philadelphia-based company called Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction that’s bold enough to define itself as a vehicle "through which modern thinkers marry reverence for enlightened ideals with the mandate to reach more minds in an ever-fickle urban scene." OK then. Root harkens back to an 18th century pharmacist's herbal remedy made from sassafras, sarsparilla, birch bark and assorted other roots foraged from the wilds of Pennsylvania. Like so many of us, it gradually grew in potency until it was positively alcoholic—though paradoxically it was then called "root tea." (With the advent of the Temperance Movement, the alcohol was extracted and only then became what we know as "root beer.") This throwback to the original brew is an intriguing (if rather medicinal) mix of organic herbs and spices, including birch bark, sarsparilla, smoked black tea, sugar cane, essence of sassafras, orange and lemon peel, allspice, star anise, cinnamon, clove, cardamom (my fave) and nutmeg. I can only imagine it does have some "digestive" benefits. In truth, it tastes quite a bit like root beer (with a vague wintergreeny soupçon of wax lips) and I can imagine floating a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the stuff and being quite happy. But for now I have been content to play in the adult sandbox, and I hereby offer you a couple of very grown-up Root cocktails. I went online to see what other "mixologists" (already the word gags me) have been concocting with it and experimented with a few of their recipes. Do NOT mix this with Scotch, unless you want to kiss the porcelain throne. I am not kidding. Actually, I think you should only buy a bottle if you REALLY LOVE root beer. That said, I found one rum drink that is rather good, and I came up with one of my own that involves (no surprise) bourbon. Cheers! (Allowed, because I am holding a drink as I say it.)
The Pink Umbrella (a horrible name)
created by George Costa of Southwark Restaurant in Philadelphia (huh?)
- — 1 ounce dark rum
- — 3/4 ounce root
- — 3/4 ounce lime juice
- — splash Orgeat syrup (I happen to have this on hand for making mai tais)
Combine ingredients over ice and shake vigorously. Pour into rocks glass.
a Glutton for Life original
- — 1 ounce Root
- — 1 ounce bourbon
- — 1 ounce cider syrup
- — 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
Pour ingredients over ice in shaker. Shake vigorously and pour contents into rocks glass.