Dandelion and Burdock: Distinct Beverage With a Kick

Fentiman's Dandelion & Burdock drink
Drink! Thanks to Fentimans for the image.

There’s a drink that’s been consumed since the Middles Ages by English folks. And it goes by the name of dandelion and burdock.

But what is this mysterious thing? Well, it’s a beverage. A fizzy drink these days!

Is it as legendary as, say, the likes of Bovril? Almost! It has a storied history and one we’re going to explore here today.

What’s Dandelion and Burdock?

It’s a botanical beverage consisting of dandelion and burdock! It can be served as an alcoholic root beer, but it’s perhaps best known as a carbonated soft drink.

Traditionally, it was used to help with various ailments.

But in the 20th century it became a soft drink for the first time and something mothers would give their kids as a treat.

Despite its long history, the drink is more obscure than the likes of Coca-Cola and remains a distinctly British thing.

We’d argue it’s even somewhat anachronistic with its values, as most people won’t have a clue what burdock is. That funny title would drive many folks away.

But to be clear, burdock is a root plant often eaten as food to help with ailments such as joint swelling, stomach ache, and other issues.

When merged with dandelion to form this drink, it creates a potent and unusual taste that lingers in one’s memory. Indeed.

What’s the History of Dandelion and Burdock?

The first recorded instance of dandelion and burdock as a drink dates to 1265.

That’s, specifically, from an account by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), an Italian Dominican friar, priest, and philosopher. Back then, people had proper jobs.

Early versions of the beverage would have been much less sweet than what we do now, free from the refined sugar. But honey was often added in.

It also shares its origins with other drinks made from fermented root extracts. That includes root beer and the legendary sarsaparilla (“Sarsi”, which is popular in Southeast Asian countries).

For a long time it was used as a health drink. It can be rich in vitamin A, C, iron, and zinc. Some versions, anyway, the pure stuff. The processed carbonated soft drinks of today don’t pack much other than sugar.

But people from the past would use the drink for anaemia, skin problems, blood disorders, and to help depression. A cure-all, if you please! Beats a lobotomy, we suppose.

Also, dandelion makes for a fantastic herbal tea. It’s a good coffee substitute if you want to cut down on caffeine, as it has a similar quality. Ish.

But that’s pretty much it for dandelion and burdock’s origins. From there, it went across Europe and wider into the world making its name as a popular drink.

It wasn’t until 1898 that someone decided to make loads of money from it.

Drinks manufacturer Ben Shaw in Huddersfield finally turned dandelion and burdock into a carbonated soft drink.

For a long while it was served in exquisite looking glass bottles, with an example at the top of this feature.

But you’re more likely to find it in a can, like with the Ben Shaw brand.

Ben Shaw's Dandelion and Burdock Classic

Ben Shaw was the first one in Europe to begin using cans to package soft drinks. Claim to fame right there.

But we’d still argue you’re more likely to come across the drink in an even more primitive form. Bargain bin two litre plastic bottles at supermarkets.

Dandelion and Burdock in a giant plastic bottle

There’s no denying dandelion and burdock has been dwarfed by the likes of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and all that jazz.

The American soda drinks have annihilated these quaint British ones. The title doesn’t help, really. Average Joe from Bolton walks into Tesco:

“Dandelion and burdock? What t’bloody ‘ell’s that? I don’t want no burdock, me!”

As such, the drink has become something of a nostalgic thing. We remember having it as kids, but can’t say we’ve drunk any since the early 1990s.

This is a great tragedy and we ORDER you out today. Go forth into the street, buy dandelion and burdock, and drink it immediately! OR ELSE!

How to make Dandelion and Burdock

Here are two British guys to help you out on your dandelion-based endeavour here.

You don’t necessarily need to make a beer (especially when you could just buy Marmite Ale), so here are some basic ingredients:

Couple of large burdock roots (150g)
Handful of dandelion roots (50g)
1 tablespoon of dried carragheen
500g of sugar
2 tablespoon of black treacle
Juice of 1 lemon

If you want to turn that into a beer, you’ll need an 11g sachet ale yeast. Otherwise, just leave it be for a mighty majigger that’ll put hair on your eyebrows.

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