Wanting to set themselves apart from other sandwich shops—beyond their excellent shrimp po’ boy— the owners of Dr. Augusta’s Samitorium, Christopher Bobbitt and Vlad Vujovic, decided to whip up their own fountain sodas. Bobbitt breaks down the two-day process of making a classic root beer.
1. The recipe
With less sugar than most root beers, the ones at Dr. Augusta’s have a stronger medicinal flavour that’s a nod to the original purpose of pop: as a tonic to cure ailments. The recipe Bobbitt uses is from an online copy of A. Emil Hiss’s The Standard Manual of Soda and Other Beverages, first published in 1897.
2. The raw materials
The primary ingredients for the root beer are sarsaparilla roots, licorice roots (or sticks), wintergreen, and cane sugar. Sassafras was once used instead of sarsaparilla, but international regulations have made it hard to order in large amounts, since sassafras contains an oil used to make ecstasy. The shop imports the sarsaparilla roots in powder format from the States. A full pound of the stuff is used to make one batch of soda syrup.
3. The soak
The powder is soaked in warm water overnight, then packed into a conical sieve. Bobbitt pours more warm water into the sieve and the water percolates through the ground roots, in the same way a coffee maker operates—except it takes six to eight hours to get two litres of root water.
4. The boil
Wintergreen extract and cane sugar are added to the root water, which is brought to a boil. The liquid is taken off the heat and allowed to cool; as the water evaporates, it transforms into a thick syrup.
5. The presentation
The syrup is poured into a cup, then blasted with a powerful stream of carbonated water from the fountain, mixing it all together. The foam on the top settles (much like a pint of beer) and is given a gentle stir with a long spoon before it’s served.
Dr. Augusta’s other old-timey drinks
The cream soda is a refreshing combination of carbonated water and syrup made from cane sugar and vanilla beans—that’s why it has black specks in it. For colder temperatures, there’s a spicy ginger ale made with both powdered and freshly grated ginger, cane sugar, and a bit of cayenne to preserve the kick. (“Sugar breaks down ginger’s natural heat,” says Bobbitt.) Their New York egg cream is essentially a chocolate soda, in which a syrup of cocoa powder, sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper is added to milk blasted with carbonated water.
$2.75 ($5.75 as a float), 602 Dundas St. W., 647-748-5522, facebook.com/draugustas-samitorium.