Dandelion & Burdock Tasting, History, Cocktails & Home-made Recipe


This is the first in a series of articles focusing on mixers, looking at history, tasting notes of brands, cocktails and home-made recipes.
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HISTORY

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Dandelion & Burdock is a rather traditional British drink that could fall into the category of root or small beer; a low or no alcoholic drink. It’s American cousin is the popular root beer.
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The earliest record of a Dandelion & Burdock drink is from c. 1265, from an account of St. Thomas Aquinas, who prayed to God for inspiration as he walked into the countryside, where he made a drink with the first plants that he found: dandelion and burdock.
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The D&B of then was different to the contemporary version and would likely have been less sweet, certainly not sweetened with refined sugar; honey or fruit sugar would be more likely. Throughout this time, D&B brewed drink would also have been made and it is likely that this would have had some alcoholic strength.
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Fast forward to 1871 and the founding of Ben Shaw’s, a soft drinks manufacturer. Around this time, carbonated water was becoming popular and it not was long before other sparkling soft drinks turned up.

Ben Shaw’s started making D&B in 1898 and it remained a favourite throughout the 1940s; this likely makes them the oldest continuous producer of Dandelion and Burdock.. In 1959 they were the first company Europe to package their soft drink in cans.

With the rise of Colas and other American soda the Old British favourites like Dandelion & Burdock fell by the wayside. However, with the rise of boutique soft drinks manufacturers like Fentimans and Breckland Orchard it is becoming a popular nostalgic drink again. Let’s have a look at some of the varieties available at the moment:
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TASTING

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#1 Barr’s D ‘N’ B
nose: strong anis, reminiscent of pernod/pastis or the jelly from liquorice allsorts
taste: sweet, syrupy and less intense than the smell suggests. A little to mild and needs a bit more flavour. That said a few of the panel described it as “really nice”.

#2 Ben Shaws
nose: almond, marzipan
taste: dull. not much going on and the flavour is rather flat. quite disappointing; main point of note is that there is a lingering finish of marzipan.

#3 Barr’s Original
A more up-market version of #1 available in a glass litre bottle rather than a can.
nose: medicinal, but pleasant. It reminded some of the panel of the pink mouthwash you get at the end of a visit to the dentist, surprisingly this was a compliment.
taste: Calpolian (Calpol like) quite similar to root beer, good flavour and quite fizzy.

#4 ASDA Dandelion & Burdock
nose: Vanilla, Icecream Chewits, Drumstick Lollies
taste: Icecream Chewits once more a well as some anis and vanilla. Reminded one pnelist of Fruit salad sweets and in general the whole drink was reminsicent of old-fashioned sweets. Needless to say it was quite sweet and although the whole panel liked it, they agreed it didn’t really taste like Dandelion & Burdock.

#5 Breckland Orchard
We were treated to some Limited Edition test samples of Breckland Orchard’s Dandelion and Burdock. Readers may recognise the name from our Ginger Beer Tasting where their Chilli Ginger Beer won Gold.
nose: quite subtle, with the hint of vanilla, anis and wintergreen you would expect from a Dandelion & Burdock.
taste: smooth, not too fizzy (the panel liked this) hints of honey, strong anis elements and very balanced. Delicious, refreshing and a great example of D & B.

#6 Fentiman’s
nose: cherry, anis, vanilla & almond/marizpan; quite classic
taste: very fizzy with a huge initial burst of flavour, this quietens down towards the end.Quite pleasant with notes of almond and cherry which reminds me of a Cherry bakewell cake. Tasty!

Results

#1 – Breckland Orchard

#2 – Fentimans

#3 – Barr’s D “N” B

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COCKTAILS

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Cocktails containing Dandelion & Burdock Soda seem few and far between and so here are some improvised recipes.

i) Tom’s Mule [50ml Vodka, 25ml Lime Juice, 75ml Ginger Beer, 75m Dandelion & Burdock]

ii) JDB [50ml Jack Daniels, 100ml Dandelion & Burdock]

iii) Aquinas Fizz [50ml Gin, 25ml Lemon Juice, 150ml Dandelion & Burdock]

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IN CONCLUSION

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I’ve enjoyed exploring this traditional British soft drink and was surprised at the variation in the commercial products available and how well it worked in cocktails. The JDB was something of a revelation. Dandelion & Burdock is certainly a drink worth a second glance.

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