fentiman’s botanical beverages

fentiman's dendelion and burdock soda

I’m always on the lookout for natural sodas.  I love a sweet carbonated beverage but the more I read about high fructose corn syrup the more I try to avoid it.

I also love infusing herbs into things ~ like brandy tinctures for instance ~ so when I heard about Fentiman’s Botanically Brewed Beverages I just had to sample some.

image:  savorcalifornia.comWith intriguing flavors like Dandelion & Burdock {tastes like cherry licorice!} and Shandy {a 0.5% beer-lemon drink} there will be a lot of experimenting with these beverages in my future.  They even provide some recipes on a cocktail page that I’ll be trying out I’m sure.

photo: thegreenhead.comSo far I’ve tried the Dandelion&Burdock and the Ginger Beer ~ both were delicious.  I used to be a big cola fan but haven’t had any of the major brands in a while because of the high fructose thing so I’m really excited to taste Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola.  The Rose Lemonade sounds lovely and the good old fashioned Tonic Water beckons to be mixed.

photo:  nj.comSince 1905 when Thomas Fentiman received his first recipe, this company has been finely crafting botanical beverages ~ I don’t know what took me so long but now that I’ve found them these drinks are definitely going to be stocking my pantry shelves.

homemade vanilla extract & liqueur

homemade vanilla extractVanilla is one of the most popular and beloved flavors in baking.  Warm, sweet and so versatile, I can’t get enough of it.  Not only does it enhance everything from ice cream to cakes to sauces, I love it in coffee and tea as well as an after-dinner beverage.

Pure vanilla extract can be pricey ~ so if you’re like me and use a lot of this elixir, making it from scratch is practical, economical and, I find, a lot of fun.  All it takes is a jar, vanilla bean pods and, for an extract, I like to use dark rum.

  • Cut four or five vanilla bean pods in halves or thirds; small enough so they’ll easily fit in an 8-ounce mason jar
  • Split pods down the center to expose all the beans
  • Place them into the jar and fill it to the top with the rum
  • It’s important that the pods are completely submerged in the liquid to avoid spoilage; double check this and cut pods smaller if needed
  • Place plastic wrap over mouth of the jar then screw on lid securely
  • Shake jar vigorously
  • Label and date; store in a cool dark place and shake daily for at least 6 weeks

That’s it!  The extract will only get stronger {and better} with age, so I just leave the vanilla in the jar and use a dropper or spoon to take out a bit whenever I need it.  After a while, to keep the pods submerged I either snip them into smaller chunks with scissors or just top off the jar with a bit of rum every now and then.  The other option is to eventually remove the pods.

homemade vanilla brandy

A much lighter ~ drinkable ~ version of vanilla extract is vanilla-flavored brandy.  Same process only less concentrated:  I just put a few split pods into a litre of brandy and let it sit for a month or so.  Again, I shake it up daily to keep the extraction process active.  Alcohol is very good at extracting so all it needs is a little help with a jiggle once a day.

This type of brandy infusion can also be made into a liqueur by adding simple sugar syrup or honey; spices such as clove and cinnamon; pear halves, dates and raisins; even orange peel for a Grand-Marnier-style apertif.