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.

Announcing! UMAMI Factor–The Book!

Now available for pre-ordering at a substantial discount!

Now available for pre-ordering at a substantial discount!

You’re about to be introduced to the UMAMI factor, the secret to sensational homemade beverages, including spirits, wine, beer, soft drinks, kombucha, and more. Chances are you may not have heard of umami, the taste impression created by certain amino acids in a food or beverage. Now you know. Starting the novice off right with a thorough understanding of “full-spectrum” fermentation theory,the book dives into the various preparation techniques and shows how umami-producing ingredients create beverages with a sensation of balance and roundness on the palate, tongue, nose, and even throat. More than 75 recipes, including all the beverages here, plus sharp insight, and handy tips help the amateur fermentation chef conquer the next frontier in beverage science. Even the most experienced of fermentation aficionados will discover a philosophical yet practical approach to further exploration. Pre-order now from Amazon.com and save 21% over the cover price!