Dandelion and burdock might sound like a couple of cute flowers, that is because they are! It is also one of the oldest and most iconic soft drinks in the UK. It has literally been drunk for centuries and when you talk to people of my grand parents generation it was the drink they remember. I was to randomly find a can of the stuff in a rather unexpected place.
Dandelion and Burdock in Albania!
I recently went searching the streets of Tirana for a somewhat legendary “foreign shop”, a place filled with all the imported goodies an Englishman could desire. The place is hardly huge, but there were a decent number of foodstuffs and candies to keep a genuine Englishman like me interested, but it was at the drinks counter that I literally lost my shit.
Usually, it is the sight of alcohol that gets me all hot and bothered, but today it was to be a set of old school English soft drinks, such as Cream Soda, Bitter Shandy, and Dandelion and Burdock. I purchased all 3! Cream Soda obviously needs no introduction, but Bitter Shandy was a favorite when I was a kid because Shandy is beer mixed with lemonade (sprite). Bitter shandy traditionally had a small amount of alcohol in it, so when we were kids we thought it would get us pissed. It could not, but we would all act like we thought drunk people acted. Oh how wrong we were. So, that leaves Dandelion and Burdock.
What is Dandelion and Burdock?
Dandelion and Burdock though was a whole other matter. I remember it being a big thing when I was a kid, and then it basically drifted away, until recently when it has gained some sort of hipster revival. Not all hipster revivals are bad things you see.
Back in the day it really was THE soft-drink and I remember my grandma telling me about going to pick the plants in order for the drink to be made. So Dandelion and Burdock is made from flowers? Hold your horses, not quite.
The history of Dandelion and Burdock
Dandelion and Burdock has apparently been made since the 13th century and was originally a fermented drink using roots from the dandelion and burdock plants. Legend has it that it was invented by St Thomas Aquinas, who after a hard night of partying, I mean praying stumbled out at dawn proclaiming he is “trusting God to provide”. He then lazily picked up the first two plants he could find and made a brew. Thus the enigma of this drink was born and born through laziness. Hurrah!
Nowadays most Dandelion and Burdock drinks contain neither of the original ingredients, like most things synthetic ingredients are used. Although with that being said a sort of revival of using actual ingredients has occurred, in the UK at least.
Soft Drinks and the Temperance Bar Movement
Researching this also got me to learn a new word today Temperance Bar! A temperance bar is a place where people go to drink non-alcoholic drinks. Mental right? Temperance bars were formerly a huge thing in the UK, almost reaching a level of actual pubs/bars. It was at these places that soft-drinks first either invented, or put to the masses.
Aside from Dandelion and Burdock, other drinks such as Vimto, or Ginger Beer could also be found on the menu. Unsurprisingly they went out of fashion a bit, but there is at least one still in existence. Fitzpatrick in Rawtenstall is the most famous temperance bar that still exists. Here they still use an ancient recipe and real ingredients to make Dandelion and Burdock.
Therefore this would be the only place left on the planet where you can buy a “real” old fashioned D&B. Bars without booze are not exactly my thing, but should I ever get back to the UK, I will be giving this place a look. Although I would certainly imagine it to be a hipster hell.
What does Dandelion and Burdock taste like?
So what do Dandelion and Burdock taste like? In essence, it comes from the sarsaparilla family and has a lot of similarity to it. In fact, there is even a rumor that originally Dr. Pepper tried to buy the Dandelion and Burdock recipe, were refused, and they presto made their own thing. Whether this is true, or not no one knows, but I certainly prefer D&B to DR P.
To read more about Sarsaparilla click here
Can you mix it?
Regular readers will know I judge all soft-drinks by how well they mix with liquor, so how does D&B fair?
Dr. Pepper might be great with vodka (it really is), but to the Street Food Guy, there will only ever be one Dandelion and Burdock. And YES it mixes famously with everything from vodka to a fine rum. D&B with dark rum, now there’s a hipster cocktail to get you all hot and bothered!