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Organic Spirits: Folktales in a Bottle

February 6, 2012
These drinks have a deep history. (Photo by: Art in the Age)

The secret behind Pennsylvania-based Art in the Age‘s latest organic spirits? “I raided my mom’s ancient family cookbooks for recipes and then turned them into spirits,” says producer Steven Grasse, who also created Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry Rum. “Each one has a fascinating story—a folktale in a bottle.”

Looking to his family tree first inspired Grasse to create ROOT. As this video explains, ROOT has its origins in the 1700s, when Native Americans enjoyed root tea—a mix of birch bark, sarsaparilla, wintergreen and other wild roots and herbs.

They passed the recipe on to settlers and it became particularly popular in Pennsylvania, where its ingredients thrived and the drink grew more potent with each generation. In the face of the temperance movement, a Philadelphia pharmacist removed the alcohol from root tea, calling the virgin version, “root beer.”

SNAP is an ode to classic German gingersnap cookies, or “Lebkuchen,” which the Pennsylvania Dutch (turns out “Dutch” in this case was a butchered version of “Deutsch”) brought to the area in the 1600s. Mineral-rich blackstrap molasses, an essential ingredient in Lebkuchen, is also essential to SNAP.

RHUBY is based on an 18th-century garden tea of rhubarb, beets, carrots, lemon, petitgrain, cardamom, pink peppercorn, coriander, vanilla, and pure cane sugar.

All three are ripe for sipping on the rocks or mixed into the likes of a ROOT & Ginger, an Appalachian Flip, an Apple SNAP or a Black RHUBY Lemonade.

You can buy these spirits online at Hi-Time Wine Cellars and in stores across the country, including:

  • New York area: Astor Wine & Spirits and Chelsea Wine Vault carry ROOT and SNAP,  and the Whole Foods in Paramus, New Jersey carries all three.
  • Los Angeles: Buy all three spirits at K&L, Hitime in Costa Mesa, Wally’s and elsewhere.

The team has a fourth botanical beverage brewing, but they’re not ready to spill the beans. Any guesses from the history buffs in the crowd?

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