Now I know this is not a traditional root beer. Traditional root beer is brewed with yeast, is mildly alcoholic — and can be tricky to make. This recipe will give you a root beer flavored syrup that tastes amazing, is stable in the fridge for a year, and needs only seltzer water or club soda to become a wonderful homemade root beer.
You will need some unusual ingredients to make this, notably sassafras roots. If you happen to live in the United States east of the Great Plains, you are in luck: Sassafras grows everywhere in that region. If you don’t live there, or don’t feel like foraging for your own sassafras, you can buy sassafras root bark online.
The burdock in the recipe grows all around you, or at least a cousin of it does. It’s called curly dock. Use it if you can, as it’s free. Otherwise, many good supermarkets have burdock in the produce section: They are long pale, skinny roots often sold under their Japanese name “gobo.” If you absolutely cannot get your hands on burdock, skip it. The root beer will be different, but still fine.
If you can find it, get wintergreen extract. If not, use peppermint extract.
When you make your root beer, start with a tablespoon of this syrup to a pint of seltzer water. You can adjust the strength of your drink from there.
This syrup keeps a year in the fridge.
Makes 2 quarts
- 6 cups of water
- 2-3 ounces of sassafras roots
- 1 ounce of burdock root
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 clove
- 1 star anise
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2-3 drops wintergreen or peppermint extract
- 6 cups sugar
- Chop the sassafras and burdock roots into small pieces, about 1/2 inch or smaller.
- Put the roots in a medium-sized heavy pot with the clove, star anise and coriander seeds and cover with the water. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Simmer this for 15 minutes.
- Add the molasses and simmer another 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add the wintergreen or peppermint extract. Put the cover back on the tea.
- When the mixture cools, strain it though cheesecloth to remove any debris.
- Return it to the pot with an equal amount of sugar. Stir to combine. Bring it to a simmer and cook it for 5 minutes, uncovered. Pour into quart mason jars and seal. Keeps a year in the fridge.