We recently picked up some root beer from one of our local farmer’s market vendors, Rockridge Orchards & Cidery. We’ve had their apple juice and cider, both of which are quite tasty (we have yet to try their apple brandy, hopefully soon ;)). Their root beer came highly recommended, so we picked some up and were not disappointed. We haven’t come across many cocktails using root beer, and we like root beer, so we figured that as we head into the Labor Day weekend, why not combine two things we like into a wondrous whole.
Seriously, why aren’t there more root beer cocktails? We need to fix that.
First off, we tasted the root beer on its own. It was everything we look for – delicious and full-bodied, lots of sassafras, vanilla, and earthy root flavors, not too sweet. In case you haven’t noticed we tend to prefer mixers a bit drier so that we can control the final sweetness in a drink. But what to mix it with? We felt that most aged spirits were a gimme based on our initial tasting. Except for maybe brandy since that’s a little more delicate. Though then our eyes fell upon the Spanish brandy and we figured it might have enough oomph to stand up. We were not disappointed. Though we tried both sour mash whiskey and gold rum as well (the first wasn’t a win, the second pretty good), the Spanish brandy was definitely the best pairing. As a combination with the root beer, it still needed a little bit of brightness to lighten things up though. Lemon was ok, but lime juice was exactly the thing. Finally, Christa felt that a bit of anise would not go amiss. Absinthe wasn’t bad, but Peychaud’s was just right. With that, we give you:
- 2 oz Spanish brandy
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 3 oz root beer
Pour first 3 ingredients into a glass. Add ice. Top with root beer.
- Nose: Root beer, sassafras, little bit of vanilla, hints of cinnamon and anise.
- Palate: Honey, vanilla and lime right on the front. Mid-palate is sassafras, anise and a bit of molasses. Finish is tart lime, barrel notes, malt, and cereal (reminiscent of a dark beer like a Scotch ale. Good cocktail for a malt-y beer lover :)).
Seen as we felt aged spirits were too easy, we wanted to see if one of our more floral or herbal gins would work. We pulled out some Old Tom and our Amethyst. The Old Tom worked well, but the combination really really shone with the lavender notes of the Amethyst. Based on that pairing we felt that some orange flavor would work nicely to round out the drink. Accordingly, we added some Grand Marnier and some orange bitters, which brought richness and a bit of brightness to the drink. Finally, we added a touch of Angostura for some depth and with that we had:
- 2 oz gin (add a dash of lavender bitters to your favorite gin if you don’t have Amethyst gin)
- 3/4 oz Grand Marnier
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 3 oz root beer
Stir first 4 ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Top with root beer.
- Nose: Slightly medicinal (but in a good way). Quassia root, orris root, juniper and a hint of honey.
- Palate: Not for everyone but we like it. 😉 Intro is super strong sassafras, clove and juniper; very spicy, resinous, and aromatic. Mid-palate is earthy with notes of bark, underpinned with burnt sugar and honey. Finish is orange peel and malt. Aftertaste is root beer and Ricola.
Overall, we’re pretty happy with how both cocktails turned out. Though neither drink is the most approachable drink we’ve made, we both find them yummy. Clearly we need to experiment more with root beer in our cocktails. Until next time, cheers!