Roots in my root beer: do you have a favorite homemade soda?
November 26, 2013 11:03 AM   Subscribe

I would love to make my own non-alcoholic beverages. As hippy, from scratch as possible. Do you have favorite recipes?

Last year I made my own ginger ale by cooking ginger into a syrup. I would love more recipes/ideas for beverages. Generally I steer clear of artificial sweeteners, and love things of a more "from scratch" variety. When traveling in Maine this year I had root beer that was actually brewed from a variety of roots. Any recipes or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. I would like to bottle things up and give beverages away as holiday gifts. Thanks!
posted by anya32 to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Jeffrey Morgenthaler's tonic recipe (easily googled) is incredibly delicious with or without benefit of gin. Requires buying cinchona bark powder, probably from the internets.
posted by clavicle at 11:21 AM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have yellow birch in your area, you can make birch bark beer. Branches are easier to get to than root digging. This is the time of year for it, too.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:22 AM on November 26, 2013

My root beer syrup recipe is as follows, you might need to tweak it a bit, as this is really the base for a liqueur. If you omit the vodka, it would make a fine syrup for a homemade soda once you hit it with some carbonated water.

1+1/2c water
1 tbsp sassafras root bark
1 tbsp saparilla root bark
1 tsp birch bark
1/2 tsp chicory
1 whole star ainse
1 tsp crystalized ginger, chopped fine
1 vanilla bean, split
1/4c molasses (or simple syrup made with brown sugar, both have good results)
1+1/2c vodka (100 proof, ideally).

Simmer the ingredients together, then cool them down in the same vessel. Strain and chill.

You can find almost all of these ingredients at your local hippy herb shop, or well stocked health-food store.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:23 AM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Real ginger beer. It is quite an involved recipe but advocates swear by it.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:28 AM on November 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I really like P&H Soda (all-natural soda syrups). They have a recipe book now!
posted by mlle valentine at 11:42 AM on November 26, 2013

Furnace.heart: In these kinds of recipes, the alcohol is often critical for leeching out flavor components. Are you sure it would taste the same if made without alcohol?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:59 AM on November 26, 2013

It leaches out different flavors, but i've made a couple 'virgin' batches of this for a dry friend, and it still tastes very good, albiet different. The thing you have to worry about is the sweetness overpowering the rest of the concoction, which booze tends to balance out. It's a base recipe, and can be messed with relentlessly.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:05 PM on November 26, 2013

In Vermont switchel has been making a comeback. It's got a tangy flavor, a little sweet and it's one of those great things to drink on a hot day. There are a lot of variations to it but most include maple syrup or molasses, apple cider or white vinegar and ginger. Here are a few recipes for it: wikibooks,, hillbilly housewife (with oatmeal?), artofdrink (with liquor suggestions if you are into that sort of thing).
posted by jessamyn at 12:17 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, switchel! I made a fruit & vinegar shrub last year when I discovered a bunch of chokecherries growing nearby. Here's a good recipe (you can make it into soda). When they say "don't squeeze or squish the berries while draining," they mean it, or the chokecherry syrup will be bitter. But very refreshing!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:33 PM on November 26, 2013

Spruce Beer. A bit late for this year. It's a very acquired taste (think slightly-carbonated pine-sol) but the folks I know who love it really do love it.
posted by scruss at 1:24 PM on November 26, 2013

Sassafras is toxic. I used to love sassafras tea as a teenager, but I give my liver enough of a workout.
posted by theora55 at 4:50 PM on November 26, 2013

nthing switchel, previously on the blue

Homemade Root Beer, Soda, and Pop has been on my wishlist for a while, and made it there due to a recommendation from a mefite.
posted by namewithoutwords at 8:40 AM on November 27, 2013

I was thinking about making ginger beer the other day; when I was a kid I had an activity book and there was a recipe in there. I don't remember the name of the book but here's another good, simple recipe That describes making the 'bug.'
I made the switchel last summer and it was not my thing, not my kids' thing either. In fact I think only one person in ten liked it. Worth trying though.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:35 PM on November 27, 2013

You are all amazing! Thank you! I am making ginger beer this weekend!
posted by anya32 at 10:13 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

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