BOTW–Virgil’s Root Beer

Virgil's Label

Interestingly, I recently received a large box of, uh, soda from Reed’s. The bottles included their Extra Ginger Brew, Spiced Apple Brew and Virgil’s Root Beer.

I’ve enjoyed and appreciated their Extra Ginger Brew before and used it in Savoy Cocktails. Not as super spicy as the description “Extra Ginger” would lead you to believe, it is however, a very natural tasting ginger beer style soda.

I haven’t yet tried their Spiced Apple Brew, but have one chilling in the fridge as we speak.

The thing that interested me most, however, was the Virgil’s Root Beer.

Root Beer and I go waaaaaay back.

Growing up, a trip to the A&W drive in, (for a Root Beer float and Cheeseburger with bacon, thank you very much,) was as intrinsic a part of just about any sporting event as the event itself. Win the track meet? A&W afterward. Win the baseball game? A&W afterward. Lose the track meet? A&W afterward. Lose the baseball game? A&W afterward. And yes, it was a real drive in, with the call boxes and car hops who would bring your order out and attach the tray to your partially rolled up window.

Looking over the ingredients in the Root Beer, they include “Unbleached Cane Sugar, Anise from Spain, Licorice from France, Vanilla from Madagascar, Cinnamon from Ceylon, Wintergreen from China, Sweet Birch from the US, Molasses from the US, Nutmeg from Indonesia, Pimento Oil from Jamaica, Balsam Oil from Peru, and Cassia Oil from China.” Whew, that’s a lot of stuff!

Wait a sec, this isn’t a Root Beer at all, as it has no Sassafras, Virgil’s is a Birch Beer!

Tasting Virgil’s, to me, with all the spices above, the dominant taste element is the Wintergreen.

It’s a pleasant, natural tasting Root Beer-like beverage. Not overly sweet. However, the heavy wintergreen flavor detracts somewhat from the overall flavor. The use of unbleached cane sugar, on the other hand, gives them big points in my book. Given a choice between the usual HFCS heavy American Root Beers and Virgil’s, I’d pick Virgil’s to salve that occasional Birch Beer craving.

Virgil's Root Beer

Monkey Gland Cocktail

Monkey Gland

Monkey Gland Cocktail

3 Dashes Absinthe. (1 teaspoon Verte de Fougerolles Absinthe)
3 Dashes Grenadine. (2 teaspoons Homemade Grenadine)
1/3 Orange Juice. (1 1/2 oz Orange Juice)
2/3 Dry Gin. (3 oz Plymouth Gin)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

According to Robert Vermeire, “This cocktail is very popular in Deauville and London. Harry McElhone, the well-known bartender of Ciro’s Club, invented it.”

Here is Mr. McElhone’s version from “Barflies and Cocktails”: 1 dash of Absinthe; 1 teaspoonful of Grenadine; ½ Orange Juice; ½ Gordon Gin.

He also notes, “Invented by the Author, and deriving its name from Voronoff’s experiments in rejuvenation.”

Voronoff’s experiments in rejuvenation” allegedly refers to therapeutically implanting monkey, uh, parts in humans.

Some details from the wikpedia article:

In his book Rejuvenation by Grafting (1925), Voronoff describes what he believes are some of the potential effects of his surgery. While “not an aphrodisiac”, he admits the sex drive may be improved. Other possible effects include better memory, the ability to work longer hours, the potential for no longer needing glasses (due to improvement of muscles around the eye), and the prolonging of life. Voronoff also speculates that the grafting surgery might be beneficial to sufferers of “dementia praecox”, the mental illness known today as schizophrenia.

In the 1930s, thousands of people took this treatment, but by the 1940s it had fallen out of favor as scientific studies failed to show any benefit, beyond the placebo effect, to Voronoff’s treatments.

Anyway, made a double batch of Monkey Glands thinking Mrs. Flannestad or the house guests would enjoy them. However, aside from me, no one seemed particularly taken with the cocktail.

More trivia:

Voronoff’s experiments were in vogue during the 1920s and 1930s. According to wikipedia, his first transplant of a Monkey Gland into a human took place in 1920.

McElhone was at Ciro’s in London prior to taking over Harry’s American Bar in Paris in 1923. So, probably, this cocktail was invented, or at least named, some time between 1920 and 1923.

Given that timing, odds are this cocktail was probably made with the newly available* Wormwood free Pernod.

*From this Coctkailtimes article: Absinthe was banned in 1910 in the Switzerland, 1912 in the US, and 1914 in France. In 1920, France again allowed the production of anise flavored drinks. Pernod’s new Wormwood free formulation was one of the first out of the gate.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.