Kola\Coca Soda

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In the years after the Civil War in the United States, nostrums and remedies began to appear for sale in the cities and towns throughout the South. One of these was invented by a war veteran who had been injured in battle, and subsequently found himself addicted to morphine, which he had been using to relieve his pain. Marketed as Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, it was touted as a cure for the blues, as well as for morphine addiction. The alcoholic version of the drink was reformulated in response to temperance legislation enacted in the area, and eventually became the world’s top-selling soft drink.

Pemberton's French Wine Coca

Pemberton’s French Wine Coca

This recipe for a drink that contains both coca leaf and kola nut extracts looks particularly pale when compared to commercial cola products. That is because the coloring agent in those versions is caramel. Commercial caramel color is created by heat-treating sugars such as glucose in the presence of acids, alkalies, or salts. It’s there pretty much only for the color. Leave it out and you get a pale golden drink colored, in this case, by the kola nut, coca leaf, and raw cane ingredients. Lime juice and six essential oils complete the formula.

Kola\Coca Soda tastes amazingly like a fresh version of the familiar cola practically everyone knows. It is very aromatic, thanks to the fresh lime juice and combination of fruit and spice oils. If you add a shot or two of dark rum to this beverage you will undoubtedly find yourself soon shouting “¡Cuba Libre!”

Speedwell Skullcap

Speedwell SkullcapPCHere’s a drink named after a Grateful Dead concert that never was. No wait! Hear me out. Altamont Speedway was the site of the death of the 60s hippie era. The Grateful Dead, scheduled to play, got the hell out when things got way out of hand. Speedwell (Veronica officinalis) is an herb that is sometimes considered a weed. Deadheads like herb and weed, right? Speedwell—Speedway, close enough for a Deadhead no doubt.

The Altamont Speedway with 300,000 hippies

The Altamont Speedway with 300,000 hippies


Speedwell is slightly bitter and astringent, with a taste a bit like green tea. Its medicinal use includes relief for coughs, and the plant is rich with vitamins, tannin, and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Skullcap, or Mad-dog Weed (Scutellaria lateriflora) is a perennial mint, purported by early North American settlers to cure rabies, hence its common name. Skullcap’s current use, however, is in the promotion of a sense of well-being, a property any Deadhead can relate to. The active ingredient is the flavone scutellarin, a phenolic compound. The name skullcap refers to the shape of its flowers, which resemble early military head gear. Speaking of head gear, here’s a Grateful Dead skull cap.

Deadhead Skull Cap

Deadhead Skull Cap

Schisandra chinensis (五味子 in Chinese, wǔ wèi zi, literally “five-flavor berry”) is so named because it is simultaneously sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy. A traditional Chinese medicine, it calms the spirit by balancing yin and yang. Western pharmacological studies have shown that it is effective in treating “heavy metal intoxication,” so—‘nuff said.

Grapefruit-like pomelo juice and zest, the main ingredients for the now-defunct liqueur Forbidden Fruit, along with Montmorency cherry extract, angelica and orris roots round out the ensemble. Drink up lovers!

Ginger Peach Peppercorn Pop

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Ginger and peach are two flavors that seem to be just meant to be together. Ginger peach tea is very popular, the flavors mixed with black tea, or without, as a tisane. There’s ginger peach pie, ginger peach hot sauce, ginger peach ice cream, even ginger peach soap!

Aromatic, spicy and pungent ginger has a long history of therapeutic use, especially in the treatment of gastrointestinal maladies. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which may explain why osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis patients experience reductions in pain and improvements in mobility when they consume ginger. Chamomile also has anti-inflammatory effects, while its use as a calmative and anxiety reducer is well known among herbal medicine practitioners.

The peach (Prunus persica) is native to Northwest China, from whence comes the world’s largest crop. In Chinese mythology certain peaches confer immortality on those who consume them. This recipe calls for a commercial 100% peach-pear juice combination. If it is unavailable in your area you could substitute a mix of pureed very ripe peaches with about double the volume of pear or white grape juice.

This pop recipe makes the most of the ginger-peach romance, and kicks up the spiciness with a hint of cayenne and a modicum of green pepper. The amount of cayenne is just enough to suggest a chile pungency in the back of the palate without burning the entire mouth.

The Pepper Harvest in Marco Polo's Day

The Pepper Harvest in Marco Polo’s Day


Green peppercorns are the same unripe drupes from the pepper vine as are black peppercorns, but they are processed differently. Highly prized for their aroma and flavor of lemon grass and bergamot, the organic variety are gently washed after harvest, and then freeze-dried to retain their essential oils and true flavors. They contribute a subtle but deep spicy warmth to the beverage.

White mulberry is apparently the latest dietary sensation, if you are to believe television health-food pundits. White mulberries are indeed rich in antioxidants, protein and fiber. In dried form they have less than half the sugar of raisins, yet are still nicely sweet, with a flavor similar to figs. The fruit is a component of traditional Chinese medicine, where it is used to treat diabetes.

Enjoy this healthy and restorative drink over ice, or chilled and straight. A chunk of candied ginger makes a tasty garnish. Add a bit of your favorite white liquor to make a tasty summer cocktail!

Tamazcal Opotunia

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The tamazcal (Nahuatl for “house of heat,” or possibly Aztec for “bath house”) is a sauna-like structure invented by the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Central Mexico, and the region south to present-day Costa Rica. These structures are still in use, performing a similar function as that of a sweat lodge or steam room.

Starting around 7000 BCE, complex agrarian cultures began to form in this region, along with the creation of sedentary agricultural villages, and ceremonial centers. Purification rituals were among the curative ceremonies performed by these indigenous people, designed to rejuvenate the body after battle or a ball game.

Tamazcal: Aztec Sauna or Sweat Lodge

Tamazcal: Aztec Sauna or Sweat Lodge


The way in which these therapies cleanse the body is believed to involve “heat shock proteins” (HSPs) that are created in response to environmental stresses, in this case the high temperature and humid environment of the tamazcal. HSPs are involved in binding antigens and presenting them to the body’s immune system. They also provide an essential role in the formation of other proteins, and in the body’s cellular repair system.

Along with the heat therapy provided by the tamazcal, many practitioners suggest imbibing in another source of HSPs: Opotunia-Ficus-Indica, or prickly pear cactus. The fruit is high in antioxidants, particularly betalains (betanin and indicaxanthin), two molecules that give the juice its nearly fluorescent red color. With a flavor reminiscent of watermelon, the juice is rich in Vitamin C, and is one of the first cures for scurvy! The plant also contains at least five other antioxidant flavinoids. The pulp of the fruit contains the carbohydrates glucose, fructose and starch, proteins, and fibers rich in pectin.

Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticocus)is a medicinal plant native to northeast Asia. It is often referred to as Siberian Ginseng, as it is widespread in North Korea and throughout Northeastern Russia. It is not the same as Panax ginseng, the more common Chinese herbal medicine. Eleuthero is considered an anti-oxidant “adaptogen” that reduces the impact of stress, while stimulating the central nervous system.

Rooibos or “red bush” (Aspalathus linearis) is a broom-like legume growing in the fynbos (shrubland) of the Western Cape of South Africa. The leaves of the plant are used to make a bush tea, which has been popular there for generations. Rooibos leaves are oxidized (“fermented” in tea parlance) to create their red color and complex flavor. They are high in Vitamin C and antioxidant flavonoids. Cinnamic acid gives them a honey-like aroma. Rooibos has a bitter/sweet taste that has been described as slightly pungent and “warm.”

These three ingredients combine in Tamazcal Opotunia with citrus juice and zest to create a potent tonic, cleansing indeed but also a refreshingly cool end to a steamy session in a tamazcal, a hammam, or just a hot August night.

Kalalau Punch

Kalalau PunchThe Kalalau Trail winds its way along eighteen kilometers (eleven miles) of the spectacular Nā Pali Coast of the Hawaiʻian island of Kauai. This is one of the most strenuous back packing trips you will ever take. Having said that, it’s quite possible that you will encounter someone along the way hiking stark naked and wearing flip-flops. Odds are good that they will be from Quebec, especially if it’s January.

Switch-backing across deep ravines, the trail is a centimeter of mud on top of solid volcanic rock for the first six miles. Camp beneath wild coffee trees half way and struggle to keep your damp firewood lit. Then things dry out as you enter the more arid region to the south. Under such conditions, trail side camaraderie builds as you repeatedly encounter fellow hikers resting along the way. Finally arriving at Kalalau Beach is an adventure in Paradise.

The trail to Kalalau Beach is one of the world's most strenuous.

The trail to Kalalau Beach is one of the world’s most strenuous.

The recipe for Kalalau Punch was created on such a trek. Kalalau Valley is home to numerous fruit trees, including mango, papaya, avocado and orange. Passion fruit grows in abundance. If your new friends invite you over to their camp for cocktails one evening, grab several oranges, a few passion fruit, some Hawaiian Punch crystals from your stash, that flask of Whaler’s Dark Rum you packed in, and head on over. Perhaps your new pals will have a bit of Pakalolo to share, as the sun sets over the water at 7 PM, the way it does every day of the year.

The effort to obtain it makes Kalalau Punch the ultimate tiki drink. Fortunately, the wide availability of wonderful juice blends mean that you need not risk life and limb to enjoy it. Mahalo and aloha!

FAQ: AKA The Umami Factor Elevator Pitch

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WHAT IS THE UMAMI FACTOR?

It’s two things. It’s the title of my new book, and it is the principle for making fermented beverages that provide a complex, mouth-filling, satisfying flavor sensation by balancing multiple aromas with the five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.

WHAT IS UMAMI?

Umami is the taste sensation of savory foods. The word is Japanese for “delicious” taste. It’s provided by receptors in your mouth, throat, esophagus, and even stomach that detect the presence of glutamates, which are derived from amino acids. The umami sensation is pleasant for the same reason that “sweet” is pleasant.

The body is cued to detect vital, high-engergy nutrients: carbohydrates with sweet taste, and proteins with umami taste. Natural, unfiltered fermented beverages are packed with umami-producing compounds from the fruits, grains, and yeast they are made of.

WHAT IS FULL SPECTRUM FERMENTATION?

Full-spectrum fermentation describes a process of techniques combined with intricate ingredient formulas that create complex flavor arrangements evoking the response “There’s so much going on there! How did you do that?”

Full-spectrum beverages are complex and improbable, but ultimately well-balanced drinks.

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WHY IS THIS BOOK DIFFERENT?

It takes a full-spectrum look at beverages from soft drinks to hard liquor. It thoroughly discusses the components necessary for flavor balancing. It examines related spectra, such as the inebriation spectrum and the commitment spectrum. It has a textbook approach to data, with a multitude of tables for ingredients and supplies. It provides recipes and detailed instructions, but more importantly it is a call to chefdom for aspiring fermentation artists. Tally Ho!

Buy The Umami Factor now for a substantial pre-release discount here.

Kratom Bomb

Kratom BombPWYou don’t light the fuse of this bomb. You suck the explosive contents through dual intake ports. Kratom leaves have a unique dual personality. If they are ingested in small quantities, they are a stimulant. If they are taken in large quantities they are a depressant. Different strains have various combinations of stimulation/sedation properties, making them useful in a wide range of applications from relieving anxiety and stress to reducing the pain of chronic infirmities such as arthritis.

Kratom is the fresh or dried leaves of a tree in the coffee family (Mitragyna speciosa) that grows all over Southeast Asia, most notably in Thailand where it is illegal despite being widespread in the wild. Kratom use is also prohibited in Malaysia. Kratom is legal to possess in almost every other area of the world. The leaves are typically eaten fresh where the plant grows wild. They can also be dried and brewed into tea by simmering them in boiling water. Leaf powder can be consumed in capsule form, or washed down with fruit juice.

Kratom Bomb uses stimulating Maeng Da leaves from Thailand, mixed in equal proportion with the more mellow Kratom from Indonesia. The syrup base for Kratom Bomb starts with coconut water sweetened with coconut and raw cane sugars. Spiciness is provided by adding fresh grated galangal and turmeric roots. Makrut lime leaf adds subtle aroma. Goji berries contribute a fruity background, and lime zest and juice provide a tangy finish. The drink is notably stimulating, and imbibers should indulge cautiously until they have established its specific effects for themselves.

Malta Macho

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Malt-flavored soft drinks are popular in Latin America, where they go by the name Malta. The drink originated in Germany, where it was called malzbier. In that early version, the beverage was fermented to less than 2% ABV, then bottled and pasteurized, leaving considerable residual sugar. Modern commercial versions use corn syrup, malt extract and artificial carbonation.

This recipe calls for an all-malt approach with no fermentation, and adds a bit of herb tea to expand the flavor sensation. Easy to make, it is prepared as fully non-alcoholic syrup, and carbonated with club soda. The recipe is inexact with regard to herbs, so experiment with proportions to suit your taste.
The accompanying photo shows a malta made with two grams of whole Fuggle hops for every four liters of beverage. They have not been boiled with the malt, and so the flavor and aroma are prominent, but the bitterness is quite mild. The sweetness is there, but is subtly balanced by the hop addition.

To create a drink with even more complex flavor, with considerably more effort you can try an all-grain version. Mash base and specialty grains as you would for beer, collecting about 1.5 liters of liquid.

Heat water to 70 C, add cracked caramel malts in grain bag, steep 30 minutes and remove. Drain liquid from grains and add water to bring back to 1.2 L. Heat water to 100 C, remove from heat. Stir in malt extract and herbs. Cool one hour. Dispense 150 ml into each of eight 500 ml swing-top bottles.

Freeze syrup in bottles, top up with soda water, store in refrigerator. When the frozen syrup has thawed, gently agitate the bottles to suspend the ingredients. After 24 hours any grain flour or trub will again sink to the bottom, leaving the flavor and color components suspended. The liquid can be decanted off the sediment to serve a more clear drink.

Agua Fresca Flor de Jamaica

JamaicaPWAguas frescas (“fresh waters”) are popular soft drinks sold primarily by street vendors in Latin American countries. They can also be found in taquerias and bodegas (convenience stores) throughout the region, and into North America. They are made with a variety of fruit, sugar, and water. The most common flavors are horchata (almond), tamarind and roselle (hibiscus), which in Spanish is known as Jamaica (pronounced ha-MAY-ka.)

Put allspice, ginger, zest and cinnamon in 2 liters of water; add the sugar and bring just to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat. Add the roselle and allow the mixture to steep covered for 20 minutes. Strain the syrup into a storage jar and add the lime juice. Store this in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. To serve, fill a glass with crushed ice, add the syrup to half fill the glass and top up with club soda.

Agua de Jamaica is the classic version of an agua fresca, and certainly the easiest to make. The roselle is high in Vitamin C, and is tangy yet floral in character, almost like a berry or grape drink. The spices are subtle, and create background complexity. It can be prepared as a still beverage, or, as in this example, topped up with club soda to create a sparking (gaseosa) version. Refrescante y delicioso!

Inti Inca Energy Drink

IntiIncaW1Energy beverages have a long history in the soft drink industry, despite their recent incarnation as the drink of choice among the young, the urban, the hip. Coca Cola is the most obvious example, as its original formulation contained both coca leaves and kola nuts, sources of the stimulants cocaine and caffeine.

Perhaps if you are an Incan descendent living in Peru, you might still be able to make an energy drink from coca leaves. For the rest of us, there’s always yerba maté, the national drink of several South American countries.

Yerba maté itself is a deeply entrenched cultural phenomenon in much of South America, where it is consumed both privately and socially in a way similar to that of coffee in North America. Like coffee, it contains both caffeine and antioxidants, giving it a reputation as both a natural stimulant and an herbal medicine. Guarana is another traditional South American beverage ingredient. With about twice the caffeine as an equivalent amount of coffee, guarana seed powder is often found in popular soft drinks in the region.

Both yerba maté and guarana are, however, fairly bitter in taste. To increase their palatability in a drink containing enough of them to have a significant stimulating effect, they are often mixed with sugar and other spices. Inti Inca Energy Drink adds Inca and Maqui berries, lemon juice and zest together with a bit of chai spice to round out its complex flavor.

Inti the Inca Sun God

Inti the Inca Sun God

It will not give you the jolt of commercial high-strength energy drinks, which compete on how much caffeine they can put in a serving. If you want that, you could use Inti Inca to wash down a couple of No-Doz tablets. But as the days grow longer, and Inti the Inca sun god rises earlier, this drink will get you through the day and well into the planting season with plenty of energy to spare.