One of the items that made it into my suitcase back from Rumfest UK were a couple small bottles of Roots Wine. The maker of it had a stand at Rumfest, and was offering it up straight and mixed with rum. A nice little crowd gathered for much of the day, in part because he had a thatched hut (and nothing draws people at a rum event like a thatched hut) and in part because nobody could figure out what exactly this product was.
It's billed as "Real Jamaican Roots Wine," and as "the most natural drink." It's a naturally fermented drink, about the same potency as wine, and sold in a little bottle equivalent to the size of a glass of wine. And the base? Fasten your seat belt: the ingredients include ginger root, elderflower, rosehip, sarsaparilla, gingseng, burdock root, cinnamon, nettle, St. John's wort, rosemary, sage, dandelion, cola nut, honey, Demerara sugar, and water. (In case anything's missing, labels also notes "Thanks: birds, bees, flowers, sun, and moon.")
I had a couple of swigs in London, and it was... interesting. Funky. A nice palate cleanser after sipping a couple dozen rums that day. I thought someone — someone more creative then I — might concoct an interesting cocktail with it. I bicycled up to Cure the other night to see what the mandarins there might do with it. I opened it, which was followed by a lot of sniffing and straw tasting, then a lot of brow furrowing. Kirk Estopinal mustered the brass to try something with gin. And it was... interesting. Funky. Sips all around, more furrowed brows, etc.
Then someone at the bar figured something out — "It smells like sauerkraut," he said. And, lo, it did. (That's the funk!) He set the bottle down, and everyone moved away from it. The little bottle sat alone for the rest of the night.
I still like the concept of this stuff — it's sort of like a small-batch fermented bitters (although, admittedly, without much of a bitter component). It's just that the cabbageness gets in the way.
Still curious? It's available around England but can be shipped to the United States. See Roots Wine for more info. If you figure something out, let me know.