Triple Twichell

TripTwichWInspired by the type of strong Belgian brews known as “Dubbels” and “Tripels”, Triple Twichell takes the idea of a Mandarin/Seville orange soda and multiplies the amount of ingredients–except the water–by three.

As with the original Orange Twichell recipe, this drink blends two kinds of orange juice, and two kinds of orange zest with raw cane juice, ginger, Veronica spicata, and Sedona juniper berries.

The result is an intense, yet well-balanced soft drink that is bursting with flavor and orange aroma. The drink is made with a fruit syrup and herb infusion, finished with sparkling mineral water. It will improve noticably with an aging period of several weeks in the refrigerator. Aging allows the fruit pulp to settle out, and this can be suspended again with gentle agitation. Alternately, the drink can be carefully decanted off the settled pulp to provide a clear, golden yellow beverage.

Jamaican Ginger Beer

Jamaican Ginger

This is an extra-spicy, alcoholic ginger beer, with an addition of traditional Jamaican roots wine. Ginger beer was once a staple of British households, often potent as Porter, but miraculously free–or a few pence a gallon. For more than 100 years ginger beer, made from ginger, lemon juice, cream of tartar, sugar and water, was coaxed into life by an symbiotic fermentation community called a “ginger beer plant”. No one knew what it was or how it worked, but, like sourdough starter, these “plants” were passed down among families and friends.

In the late 1800s the responsible organisms were identified: Saccharomyces florentinus and Lactobacillus hilgardii. Along with its resemblance to the sourdough fermentation agent, a ginger beer plant is also like the komboucha organism. These are all combinations of fungus and bacteria that live and work together, much as does the familiar lichen (fungus and algae.) Unless you have a great-aunt in Yorkshire though, an authentic ginger beer plant can be hard to come by, though there is at least one online source. This source claims to offer a descendent of the pure strains isolated in the original research into its composition.

While pedigreed ginger beer plants are rare and expensive, several sources offer instructions on making your own. Success depends on what organisms are living naturally on the ginger root, as is the case in making chhaang yeast balls. In his 1963 book Home Brewed Beers and Stouts C.J.J. Berry suggests using ground ginger and bakers yeast obtained from a bakery.

Today’s hyper-clean supermarket ginger has failed to provide me with the necessary ingredients. Instead I’ve taken a different tack, forgoing whatever sourness the lactobacillus might contribute, and substituted Lallemand Windsor ale yeast, known for its fruity fermentation characteristics. As I wanted a ginger beer that was quite spicy, I used about 66 grams of fresh grated ginger per gallon. Since this was a Jamaican tribute, I used demerara sugar together with lime juice and zest. Instead of the cream of tartar called for in conventional recipes, I included wine-grade tartaric acid which dissolves more readily.
Roots Man

To atone for my blasphemous use of commercial yeast I added Roots Wine, at a rate of one ounce per gallon. These are legendary Jamaican tonic drinks, purported to increase vitality, strength, and “go-power” particularly among men.

The names of their root ingredients are wonderfully evocative: Tan Pan Rock, Search Mi Heart, Poor Man Friend, Nerve Wisp. Some drinks contain more than 20 ingredients, creating a complex flavor sensation.

Brands seem to come and go, with Baba Roots a recent market leader. Mandingo appears to be the latest drink darling. Of those I have tried “Natural Vibes” has been my favorite, but it is evidently out of production. In any case, the addition of a small amount of one of these tonics adds a mysterious background note to the ginger beer that combines smoky aroma with tart, tangy and sweet tastes.

While ginger beer made in this way ferments out very dry, it is far better when it has been sweetened a bit to taste. I have tried mauby syrup with good results. Agave nectar and raw sugar syrup also work well. Jah Guide Protek I&I.

Lime N.D. Coconut

Lime N.D. CoconutLime N.D. Coconut is a soda that is also a health drink! N.D. stands for “New Dimension.” (It’s also a sideways hat tip to Harry Nilsson.) It is a new direction in taking the Umami Principle to soft drinks. It tastes like nothing I’ve ever had in a traditional soda, and qualifies as a true umami flavor bomb. It is also the most nutrient-packed tonic drink I’ve devised so far.

This idea started when a friend encouraged me to try coconut sugar, because it was delicious. I did, and it was. Much coconut sugar comes from Indonesia with Thailand also an important producer. This suggested to me a Southeast Asian flavor theme, one that might produce in a soda, perhaps the enjoyment that comes from a well-made Tom Kha Gai.

My formula for a full-spectrum soft drink calls for a juice, a root, an oil, an herb, a sugar, a berry, and an acid. Here’s how those ingredients combine for Lime N.D. Coconut.

Faddish coconut water seems to crowd the health-food section lately. High in potassium and other minerals, it’s the latest trend in hydration and tasty too. Twenty years ago on a Mexican beach I bought a green coconut, the top lopped off with a machete, for a few pesos. The water inside was sweet and refreshing. The Whale Watcher Bar in Cabo would put in a shot each of rum, vodka, tequila, gin and Pernod—a Coco Loco. Twenty years later, Thai coconut water seems to be everywhere.

Shredded coconut, not the baker’s kind, just plain, unsweetened meat, adds to the coconut aroma of the drink, with a good dose of glutamate as well. Coconut milk, made from shredded coconut meat and water, contains about 0.37 percent glutamate. The amino acid is the most abundant of those in coconuts.

Key limes are easy to get now too. Their juice provides acidic sourness to balance the sweetness of the coconut water and sugar. The key lime zest provides citrus oil aromatics on top of the coconut aroma.

Fresh, thinly sliced galangal, a rhizome reminiscent of ginger, but with a stronger, more peppery taste, is the root component, with strong medicinal properties. Galangal and lime juice are mixed as a tonic in some Asian countries.

Lemongrass is a well-known tonic herb from India, now widely cultivated in Southeast Asia. Lemongrass provides this drink with both an aroma of lemons and a taste mildly reminiscent of them, without the sourness.

Coconut sugar is produced in Southeast Asia, on organic palm farms. Creamy and caramally sweet, it’s drawn from the flower buds of cocos nucifera. Coconut sugar contains minerals, B vitamins, and a large amount of glutamic acid. Glutamine is the largest constituent among the 16 amino acids found in coconut sap sugar, more than double the amount of the next highest, threonine.

Goji berries (wolfberry) go into Chinese tonic soups and herbal teas. Some Chinese wines also use goji berries. They contain about 500 times more Vitamin C than oranges, and befitting an umami bomb, the ingredient glutamic acid. At the same time polysaccharides from wolfberry protect neurons against the overstimulative effects of too much neurotransmitter such as glutamate.

A garnish of Thai basil and Kaffir lime leaves creates an amazing cloud of distinctive aromatics surrounding the glass. While Lime N.D. Coconut is refreshingly complex in flavor, this healthful tonic can be further tweaked with a shot of white rum and a twist of lime. Served on the rocks it is a great summer quencher.