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 foreigner 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.
Dandelion and Burdock though was a whole other matter. I remember it being a huge thing when I was a kid, and then it basically drifted away, until recently when it has gained some sort of hipster revival.
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.
Nowadays most Dandelion and Burdock drinks contain neither of the original ingredients, although a sort of revival of actually using actual ingredients has occurred.
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? But it is at Fitzpatrick in Rawtenstall where they still use an ancient recipe and real ingredients.
A temperance bar, who knew?
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.
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.