From Philadelphia’s Art in the Age, who are making and distributing the Colonial-style “Root” liqueur:
ROOT traces its heritage all the way back to the 1700s when colonists were first introduced to the Root Tea that Native Americans would drink as an herbal remedy. Brewed from sassafras, sarsaparilla, wintergreen birch bark, and other roots and herbs, Root Tea was used to cure a variety of ailments. As colonial settlers passed the recipe down form generation to generation, the drink grew in potency and complexity. This was especially true in the Pennsylvania hinterlands where the ingredients naturally grew in abundance. These homemade, extra-strong Root Teas were a favorite in colonial homes and public houses all over the northeastern colonies.
By the middle of the 19th century, the Temperance movement began to take hold in the States as various temperance organizations blamed the social ills of urbanization on alcoholism. Temperance groups like the Templar of Honor and Temperance, the Anti-Saloon League and the National Prohibition Party began to grow rapidly as they swayed supporters into their fold with increasing conviction and religious fervor. Despite the fact that the temperance movement had been founded to promote moderate alcohol consumption, it now advocated complete prohibition. In 1851, Maine became the first state to pass prohibition legislation, banning Root Tea and all other alcoholic beverages except those used for “medicinal, mechanical, or manufacturing purposes”. By 1855, just four years later, 12 other states had become “dry states.”
Around this time, an enterprising Philadelphia pharmacist by the name of Charles Hires decided to make a dealcoholised version of the popular drink for Pennsylvania’s hard-drinking coal miners and steelworkers. Hires found success when removing the alcohol from his homemade Root Tea and mixing it with soda water. Root Beer had been born.
Hires first introduced his non-alcoholic Root Beer—“The Greatest Health-Giving Beverage in the World”—to extensive public acclaim at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. A few years later, Hires began selling concentrated Root Beer syrup that could be mixed at soda fountains everywhere. In 1886, Hires’ Root Beer had become so popular that the family began a single-serve bottling operation and Root Beer as we know it today could soon be found on store shelves everywhere. Several commercial Root Beer makers, including Barq’s and IBC, would come into existence within the next decade to meet increasing public demand for the beverage. It appeared that the Root Teas of pre-Temperance America had been relegated to distant memory.
That was, of course, until now. Here at Art In the Age we’ve worked diligently to reproduce colonial Root Tea in all of its genuine glory. Well, we’ll be honest, you can’t use sassafras root anymore since the FDA banned it in 1960, but we’ve gotten pretty close with our special essence of sassafras made from citrus, wintergreen, and spearmint. Our certified-organic ROOT is a truly contemplative quaff, rooted in history and our own cultural landscape. It’s certainly like nothing we have ever tasted before. It is not Root Beer-flavored vodka or sickly sweet liqueur.
• It is distilled from organic sugar cane grown in the U.S., and has a lively, burnished rose-gold color.
• Incredibly unique in flavor, fairly clean on the palate with strong notes of birch, peppery herbaceousness, spices, citrus and vanilla bean.
• Very aromatic in the glass and finishes medium dry and exceptionally full-bodied.
• A truly original spirit with a strong enough backbone to hold up in cocktail; a classic, but like nothing else.