Home made root beer

I’m going to try and brew up a home made, naturally carbonated version using ginger bug. Being a beverage hound, I’ve always wanted to experiment with home made sodas, either to drink on their own or as a mixer.

Root beer was a natural starting point, since it’s such a flexible recipe that I think will take a while to fine tune. While it’s relatively easy to get sassafras/sarsaparilla, getting every last juniper berry, dandelion root, etc can be a challenge. Come to think of it, both of those might be in your backyard if you’re in the Pacific Northwest. I popped over to Famous Foods on Kingsway which has a great selection of loose herbs and spices.

Back in the times before accessible, potable water, root beer was made in the home regularly. It was really just a sweet tea of roots, berries and herbs that received fermentation in a few different ways. Families would keep their recipe closely guarded – as such there seems to be a huge number of recipes out there but a few elements are key to the drink. Sassafras bark is the flavour from which the other herbs and spices are hinged around – it’s a heady, minty, soapy flavour that works well with everything from cinnamon to fir to hop flowers.

For my first attempt at making the drink, this is what I’m trying:

Juniper berries
Wintergreen (a 60s replacement for Sassafras)
Liquorice root
Vanilla bean

I’m creating the fizz with the help from a ginger bug, a great starter for naturally carbonated sodas. I’ll post the result when I’ve brewed it up!