Cocktail: the Swedish Sarsaparilla

This wasn’t supposed to be a post about a drink.

It was supposed to be another RPG missive, one where I looked at how I used the mechanics for cursed magic items in 13th Age to create a MacGuffin for my games’ cleric. But the party’s cleric had to cancel this week, so I can’t reveal it yet. Just in case he reads this.

Instead, I fell back on my other passion: mixing drinks. Autumn is my favorite time of year for food and drink; the irony is that I actually dislike pumpkin and sweet potato. But I love the other “dark” flavors of the season: maple, cinnamon, cranberry, caramel, and so on. I also love coffee and tea, hot, and the change in weather is perfect to brew an extra pot of either to combat the dropping temps.

I also love using coffee and tea in my cocktails. Since tea shops are stocking autumnal blends, it’s the perfect time to scout for teas that can function alone or as mixers in a cocktail. One such example was when I stopped in at David’s Tea on my way home from work recently, and left with a bit of “Root Beer Float” black tea: cinnamon, white chocolate, sarsaparilla, and safflower with tea. It’s got that perfect fall flavor punctuated by the spice of the sarsaparilla that I love.

While this made a great tea, I knew I was going to use most of it to make a syrup.

Tea syrups are some of the easiest and most versatile mixers you can make, whether you use them in alcoholic drinks or as a type of Italian soda. Simply steep the tea as normal, but with only ¼ of the recommended water. Once you strain out the loose leaf tea, add in an amount of sugar equal to the liquid left (e.g., if you have ½ cup — 4 oz — of tea, add ½ cup of sugar). Stir until dissolved, and congratulations: you have a tea-flavored simple syrup.

Initially, I tried a few drinks with the root beer float black tea syrup and vodka. And they were good. If you have a sweet tooth, mixing 3 parts syrup to 2 parts vanilla-infused vodka in a glass with ice, stirring and topping with soda, will give you a creamy soda that will have you wondering how all the vodka disappeared.

But then serendipity intervened. Looking through my liquor shelf, I realized that aquavit might make one helluva spiked Italian soda. (Yes, I have aquavit at all times. Between the nordic ancestry and working weekends at North Shore Distillery, I’m well-stocked in this herbal Scandinavian spirit.)

I was right. It does.

Here are two versions of the drink I’ve dubbed the Swedish Sarsaparilla. Ironically, sarsaparilla is associated as an alternative to drinking booze… and I’ve boozed it up. Oh, well. One version is just aquavit and tea syrup, which will give you an amazingly spicy root soda. The other adds a splash of sweet cream, which will create a delightful creamy soda.

Skøl!

Swedish Sarsaparilla

(root beer style)

1½ oz — “root beer float black” tea syrup (see above)
¾ oz — aquavit (North Shore’s Private Reserve, if possible)
soda water (to taste)

Fill a collins glass with ice. Build the drink in the glass in the order above, giving a gentle stir before and after adding the soda. No garnish is needed, but if you want to accompany the straw with the husk of half a vanilla bean or some Mexican chocolate shavings, I wouldn’t complain.

Swedish Sarsaparilla

(cream soda style)

1¼ oz — “root beer float” black tea syrup (see above)
¾ oz — aquavit (North Shore’s Private Reserve, if possible)
splash of sweet cream
soda water

Combine the first three ingredients, and give a brief shake without ice. Add ice, shake again, and strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice. Top with a splash of soda. Garnish as above, if desired.

Monstrous Dramaturgy: Five Hooks for the Hodag

You! You look like a fine GM, a man or woman of cultivated tastes who runs only the choicest role-playing games in the horror, supernatural, or related genre. This means, naturally, that you are always on the lookout for interesting and compelling monsters for your game. In that vein, I have one question for you:

Hast thou considered the hodag?

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No? Well, then I invite you to read on, and take a gander at the five options laid out below for using this cryptozoological critter in your next game of supernatural horror. Continue reading