Flavour Revolution – Root Beer

Safe Suds

The Sip Advisor began his wicked ways, many moons ago, with the enjoyment of root beer. It could be described as the gateway libation that led to this endeavor and made me the booze jockey I am today. Let’s dig a little deeper and take a look at some of the companies that brought this beautiful drink to our lips:

Hires

Created in 1876 by Charles Hires, a pharmacist from Philadelphia, Hires Root Beer has the longest history of all American soft drinks. That includes Coca-Cola! Hires’ root beer business began with selling 25-cent packets of powder that would produce five gallons of the drink. I wish that deal was still available to the Sip Advisor! Hires ran into some issues early on thanks to calling his soda “beer” (in order to entice blue collar folks). The Temperance Movement looked to eliminate the pop, but Hires proved there was little to no alcohol content and even went so far as to mock the movement, calling his root beer “The Temperance Drink”.

I`m a Dr. Pepper fan, but I would certainly never argue with the Caped Crusader!

I`m a Dr. Pepper fan, but I would certainly never argue with the Caped Crusader!

A&W

When Roy Allen joined forces with Frank Wright to open the A&W restaurant chain (one of the first dining chains in the U.S.) in 1922, they had no clue how successful their endeavour would prove to be. A feature of the fast food outlet was their root beer, which originally sold for 5-cents per serving. Allen had previously operated roadside root beer stands in parts of California. The Great Root Bear has been the company’s mascot since 1974 and was first used in Canada. Nicknamed Rooty, the bear has largely been replaced by the A&W Burger Family, but he still pops up from time to time, usually with a fresh mug of root beer close by.

Barq’s

Officially known as Barq’s Famous Olde Tyme Root Beer, up until 2012, Barq’s has existed since 1898. I remember the brand becoming quite famous in the 1990’s upon the release of their “Barq’s has bite!” ad campaign (featuring comedian Nick Swardson). Anything was better than the company’s original slogan of “Drink Barq’s. It’s Good.” The soda was created by the Barq’s brothers, Edward and Gaston, who began experimenting with beverages in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Barq’s is rare in the root beer world, in that it contains caffeine, while most similar products don’t. That means that it certainly does pack a bite.

Hold My Root Beer

Mug

Beginning as Belfast Root Beer, brewed out of San Francisco in the 1940s, the company eventually changed the product’s name to Mug Old Fashioned Root Beer. As is common with most root beer ventures, a Cream Soda variation was also released, but is less common to find. Mug was acquired by PepsiCo in 1986, joining their long lineup of beverage options. Mug’s mascot is a bulldog named Dog (how very creative!), whose adventures are featured in an online comic on the brand’s website. I don’t know about all you little sippers, but I don’t mind sharing my drinking experiences with a cute pooch!

Dad’s

The Dad’s brand name is derived in honour of all the fathers out there that used to brew their own root beer for their families, back in the day. Dad’s was an innovative line, being the first beverage to take advantage of the six pack format and half-gallon bottle options. Like A&W burgers, Dad’s Root Beer also follows a family-style orientation with ‘Papa’, ‘Mama’, and ‘Junior’ products. A popular marketing tactic used by the company in the 1940’s was to sell the quart-sized Mama for only 1-cent, with the purchase of a half-gallon Papa. Dad’s ads appeared in the 1946 movie The Stranger, directed by and starring Orson Welles.

Flavour Revolution: Root Canal

Jan 26

  • 2 oz Root Beer Schnapps
  • 0.25 oz Peppermint Schnapps
  • Top with Dr. Pepper
  • Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

If I had to pick a favourite root beer, amongst the fine choices above, I think I’d have to go with A&W. They get the nod because I can easily combine their soda with delicious burgers and scrumptious fries. Plus, you can never take anything away from a frosted mug, which the restaurant is happy to fill for you!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I knew from the moment I found this recipe, that it would be a good one. Sure, Peppermint Schnapps is an odd addition to the mix of Root Beer Schnapps and Dr. Pepper, but it all came out okay in the wash. There was a brief hint of peppermint flavour, but it’s very light and doesn’t ruin the other soda tastes.

March 10 – Absinthe

Absinthe-Minded

Well, my little sippers, we’re kicking Absinthe Week off in style by rocking the classic serving of absinthe, tripping balls and seeing a few green fairies. While I’m in my state of delirium, here’s some information about the alcohol to mull over.

Absinthe is an anise-flavoured – that always makes me laugh and I often bug Mrs. Sip about the word ‘anise’ – spirit… apparently there’s even a green anise… might want to get that checked out. While often being depicted as an addictive, psychedelic, hallucination-inducing spirit, in reality absinthe is not known to cause visions. It does, however, contain a very high percentage of alcohol (60%).

Regardless, absinthe has been banned by many countries in the past. Switzerland (the country where absinthe was created) banned the libation in 1910 after a man named Jean Lanfray killed his wife and kids, allegedly the result of an absinthe-induced delusion. Of course, the fact that Lanfray (dude even got his own Wikipedia page) was an alcoholic who had also drank wine and brandy that night was overlooked. People just gotta hate. The U.S., Belgium, France, the Netherlands and even Brazil also banned absinthe.

Absinthe Banned

The liquor even inspired a movement against it, known as the ‘Temperance Movement’. A critic of the drink stated: “Absinthe makes you crazy and criminal, provokes epilepsy and tuberculosis, and has killed thousands of French people. It makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant, it disorganizes and ruins the family and menaces the future of the country.”

Pretty harsh words, but the Sip Advisor likes to read between the lines. I want to be a beast of a man, as well as a degenerate and quite frankly, tuberculosis has nothing on me! Plus, I don’t see anything wrong with a few less French people in the world… I kid, I kid!

The term Green Fairy can refer to the euphoric state the drink is supposed to put you in, as depicted by numerous artists and writers. It also figures into the movie EuroTrip, causing twin siblings, Jamie and Jenny, to make out with one another. Oh, the crazy things teenagers will do. Absinthe is also important in some vampire fiction… how do you mistake red and green-coloured liquids? I guess they’ll drink anything.

Writer Oscar Wilde was a fan of absinthe, lamenting, “What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?” Wilde was far from the only famous artist to get into the drink. Pablo Picasso painted many works that had an absinthe theme to them, including The Absinthe Drinker, The Poet Cornutti, and The Glass of Absinthe. While other artists (Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh) portrayed the spirit in a more positive light, Picasso depicted the negativities of the liquor.

The Absinthe Drinker

Ernest Hemingway was also an absinthian (thought I made that word up, but spell check is apparently cool with it, too). A word of caution though, as pointed out by others, Hemingway committed suicide and van Gogh cut his own ear off… might want to approach absinthe with caution.

The formation of the European Union helped bring absinthe out of the dark ages and gave the alcohol a renaissance of sorts, as approximately 200 brands now exist and manufacturers are no longer confined to laws that constrained the production and sale of the feared liquor.

Despite all the controversy, absinthe is actually good for you thanks to all the herbs that take on homeopathic qualities. A shot a day keeps the doctor away has always been my line of thinking. And guess what: it’s drinking time!

Drink #69: Absinthe

Absinthe Green Fairy

  • 1.5 oz Absinthe
  • Sugar Cubes
  • Top with Ice Cold Water

Absinthe PreparationAbsinthe Fire

Heh, drink #69… there is a special technique used for drinking the classic absinthe recipe. First pour the spirit into a glass, then place a special absinthe spoon (with sugar cubes) on top of the glass. Next, you pour the water over the sugar to dissolve it and the end result is creating the cloudy “green fairy” the drink is famous for. Stir it all up and enjoy.

You can even light the sugar cube on fire if you pour the absinthe over the sugar, as we did to our drink today. After lighting the cube, make sure the absinthe in the glass doesn’t catch fire, as it will destroy the alcohol and make the drink taste awful (so I am told… I don’t mess these sort of things up). When the flame burns out, add the cold water. Wash, rinse, repeat!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
Wow, what a process to make this drink. We even did the whole Bohemian method and lit the sucker on fire! As for taste, it wasn’t that bad. The Sugar Cube cuts into the bitterness of the Absinthe and the Water dilutes the spirit even more, making it an enjoyable cocktail.