PUMPKIN ROOT BEER (Staff Pick)
One taste of this and we knew: this is why there is a Smart Aleck Staff. So we could make stuff like this. Sure, we’re also good for making fun of historical hats, teaching subtle lessons about info literacy and contextualizing history, but this may be our finest accomplishment.
This quickly became our in-house root beer. It may look like there’s not THAT much root beer in it, but the flavor of the root beer syrup is a stronger than the flavor of the pumpkin spice syrup, really, and, after all, root beer is really just a spice soda to begin with. This is a particularly spicy version of root beer that has just a bit of pumpkin in it, which makes it a fantastic autumn soda to pair with stews. Like “Pineapple Habanero,” this is one flavor that we mention to people just to see their mouths water. And it lives up to the hype!
We made it from mixing two syrup bases together, so there’s a bit of work involved here: One COULD make it all at once, but we haven’t been able to fully replicate the results in one saucepan yet that we get from combining the bases. You can just up the level of cloves and cinnamon in the root beer base and toss in some pumpkin, though, and the results will probably be just fine.
This is our two-syrup method:
MODIFIED BLONDE ROOT BEER BASE (without the honey or vanilla):
1/4 cup sarsaparilla (or 1/8th cup sarsaparilla and 1/8th cup sassafras roots, if you have some)
2 star anise pods, freshly ground
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 small mint leaves
1.5 teaspoons fresh ginger
5 allspice berries
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of fennel
Dash of coriander
1.5 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of freshly squeezed orange juice
As with the colas, you can also try a tiny bit of gum arabic (web link) (for a fuller “mouth feel.”) Or a tiny dash of citric acid.
Add a couple cups of water - you can use a bit more here than you would in some recipes. The amount of liquid left after straining tends to be lower than you’d think with this one. Some people even put in 4 cups of water to 1/4 cup sarsaparilla.
Simmer all ingredients for 30 minutes, then strain.
Pumpkin Spice Base:
1 cup water
3 teaspoons canned pumpkin
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1.5 teaspoons ground cloves
Simmer spices and pumpkin in water for 20 minutes, stirring to make sure the pumpkin is dissolved, and strain. Use whole cloves and cinnamon sticks if you feel like it and want some extra artisan points. Even if you use the ground stuff, though, you’ll want to stir thoroughly and strain it, or you’ll get a chalky syrup in the end.
TO MAKE PUMPKIN ROOT BEER SYRUP:
1 part modified blonde root beer base
2 parts pumpkin spice base
6 part sugar
Combine one part root beer base with two parts pumpkin spice base (the root beer flavor will still dominate). Mix the combined liquids with sugar (1 part liquid to 2 parts sugar) in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat at once and let cool. Mix one part of the resulting syrup with 4-8 parts carbonated water.