Been experimenting with making an old timey root beer syrup at home, to add to carbonated water. Of course, I could just do a properly fermented root beer (and that will probably be my next tackling of this), but I wanted to go easy for now. So how to do it? A bit o’ boiling, a bit o’ filtering, a bit o’ sugar adding, a bit o’ reboiling, and a bit o’ cooling. This is my own recipe, based on some online research and also what I had around the house. You could substitute the anise or cinnamon for other stuff, like fennel seeds or cloves, or all spice. Key stuff you shouldn’t do without — the sassafras, the vanilla, the wintergreen, the molasses, and the sugar.
- 1 heaping cup of sassafras roots (legal in Canada, you may have to dig for them yourself in the USA — google it)
- 3 cups water
- 2 vanilla pods (scraped, then add whole pod into the pot)
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 stick real cinnamon
- 1 tbsp chopped wintergreen
- 1 tsp grains of paradise
Additionally, you will need
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 cup of fructose (or normal sugar, I prefer fructose)
Buy or dig up sassafras roots (common tree on the east coast of the US and Canada). Clean like crazy. Chop up into small 1/4" bits, get a heaping cup. If you’re buying, make sure it’s clean, but also remember the stuff you buy is almost always more potent than the stuff you dig up.
Add all the ingredients except the molasses and sugar to a pot. Bring to a boil rapidly but then turn down to a simmer, stirring constantly. Let simmer, lid on the pot, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the molasses and bring back to heat to melt it all in.
Double strain the resulting liquor — I like to first strain through cheesecloth, then through a coffee cloth filter (be wary, it will get clogged up); I don’t like using paper, but maybe you will. You should have a very dark, very opaque, but still reasonably “clear” liquor.
Add back to the pot, with the fructose or sugar. Bring to a boil again to disolve the sugar. Let cool.
The result should be about 2 cups (500ml) of concentrated root beer syrup. Add to soda water based on the sweetness and concentrated level you want, and enjoy! For me, a 6:1 ratio of soda water to syrup works.