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!”

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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!

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.

Orange Twichell

jigger The concept of full-spectrum fermentation and the incorporation of umami-producing flavor sensations in beverages suggests that these concoctions should be balanced in character. The concentration of complex tastes and aromas exist for each creation in varying amounts depending on the nature of the drink.

Orange Twichell is an example of a fermented beverage that is extremely low in alcohol–so low in fact as to be considered “non-alcoholic” under the law. Actually, it contains something between 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent alcohol, and at that level the body metabolizes it faster than it can be consumed.

Naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria live on the skins of fruits, a fact experienced in ancient times when humans felt kind of funny after drinking grape juice that had been sitting around for a while. Oranges, in this case, contain about 0.1 percent alcohol when they are picked, and this rises during the time they are stored.

A couple of years ago in a specialty store I came across an attractive bottle labeled Fentimans Orange Jigger. I bought a bottle and tried it out. It was nice, but expensive. I thought I’d try to make my own. It turned out nice too, and quite a bit less costly. The idea was to create a balanced drink combining sweetness, bitterness, sourness, saltiness and umami.

The ingredient and nutritional labeling for Orange Jigger contains plenty of clues to its composition, and a look at the Fentimans website provided more information. There’s Mandarin orange juice in Jigger, and as I recall Seville orange juice too, although the drink is now described as having Seville Orange zest in it. The label also mentioned ginger, juniper berry, and speedwell. The nutritional information told me how much sugar was in it.

It was enough to have a go at it, and even make some tweaks along the way. My recipe starts with 30 percent fruit juice. The trick to this blend is to wait around until the Seville Oranges and Mandarins come into season, around January or February in the Northern Hemisphere. Mandarins are easier to come by during the rest of the year, but to make Orange Twichell in June I need to squeeze and zest the Sevilles and freeze the result.

The Fentimans website suggests that its beverages are fermented with brewers yeast. I tried brewing with ale yeast and wine yeast for a couple of batches but I found the yeasty flavor overpowering. For my latest batch I tried a different approach. I let the oranges sit in cool storage for a week, then squeezed them and refrigerated the juice for another four days. This resulted in a more subtle flavor change.

I needed a few tries to settle on the right amount of ginger and juniper too. For the ginger about 2.5 grams per liter of finished drink seems about right to me. Raw ginger contains about 2 percent protein, enough to give the umami sensation a bit of a boost. It also contains potassium, for a very subtle salt taste.

The juniper berries are an interesting story. I’ve tried the commercially available ones with success, but the best so far were ones that I happened to have picked in the mountains behind Sedona Arizona, quite on a whim. They’d languished in a bottle in the spice cabinet for 25 years when I rediscovered them. They were still in perfect condition–soft, spicy, and intensely sweet. The piney characteristic of fresh berries had turned into more of a citrus flavor.

The “speedwell” addition took a bit of research. I’d never heard of it, but it turns out to be a common botanical in England. Almost a weed, Veronica Officinalis seems to grow everywhere. I couldn’t get any, but the local nursery had the related ornamental variety Veronica Spicata. I grew some, dried the leaves and used about .25 grams per liter of finished beverage. In the intervening years I’ve tried both and I find the Spicata flavor much nicer.

I took all the ingredients plus organic evaporated cane juice (another source of glutamic acid) and heated the mixture to steep out the flavors, strained out the berry husks, shredded ginger and citrus zest. I reheated it to pasteurize the juice and let it cool. I dispensed 150 ml of the juice blend into each of 20 half-liter swing top bottles and put these in the freezer. When the juice was frozen I topped the bottles up with carbonated spring water. I keep the bottles chilled until I’m ready to serve the excellent results.

A note on the name: If Fentimans has not trademarked “Orange Jigger” they should, as it is a great name. Fentimans says “jigger” refers to an old English term meaning “good measure.” Seeking a name that would suffice while respecting the Fentimans brand, I saw that “jigger” can also refer to an alleyway in Liverpool. In Nottinghamshire an alleyway is commonly called a “twichell.” I liked the word twichell, so there it is!