Root beer is my favorite soda. I can live without most carbonated sugarbombs, to be honest, but once I start drinking root beer, I will only stop when there’s none left in my vicinity. The bubbles and spiciness of an ice cold root beer (preferably from a glass bottle) leave this warm tingle on the tongue that gets me every time.
Root beer as we know it actually started off as “root tea,” made with sassafras, sarsaparilla, birch bark, and other roots and herbs. But at the onset of Prohibition, a Philadelphia pharmacist named Charles Hires removed the alcohol from this beverage and repackaged it as root beer (haha) so that the residents of PA would have something delicious to drink the place of wine and spirits.
A Philadelphia-based company called Art in the Age (taken from “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”) has created a wonderful alcoholic complement to the flavors in root beer called ROOT. I first heard of it one evening while dining at Supper on South Street, where we had one of those waiters that loves answering questions and catering to your every preference. He even went to the kitchen to check if they had Romanesco broccoli in stock for one of the dishes that called for locally grown cauliflower. Whaddaguy! I’m pretty sure his name was Kenrick.
ROOT appeared in several of the cocktails on the menu, so we asked him what it was. He described it as what root beer would have been had Prohibition never happened. Indeed, Art in the Age has recreated the pre-temperance alcoholic root tea. And it’s organic! Organic booze is obviously the way to go, right? Apparently, the FDA banned sassafras root in 1960, but a combination of citrus, wintergreen, and spearmint round out their “special essence of sassafras.” Kenrick made us ROOT floats for dessert: two small scoops of vanilla bean ice cream, one shot of ROOT, and half a bottle of Rogue Chocolate Stout. I have been talking about them like a broken record ever since, and finally, on the 4th of July, I recreated the greatness.
Anyway, this entry was brought on by a discovery via GoogleReader. I consider myself much more of a cook than a baker, especially when it comes to from-scratch cake. This morning, though, I found a recipe for root beer cake topped with root cream. I am going to make this for the next special occasion that merits a cake, and depending on the result, it will likely be my go-to cake in the future. Yummmm.
P.S. Art in the Age is having a birthday party for Walter Benjamin on July 15th in Philly, for those of your who are in Philly/interested/interesting. I wish I could go!