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Published: Tuesday, 7/6/2004

Fountain drinks can be made at home

I won't go so far as to say that iced tea, lemonade, and pop are passe, but there are new ways to make cool homemade beverages.

Few people think of making their own root beer. But with less than two teaspoons of McCormick Root Beer Concentrate, a product in the spice aisle of grocery stores, you can.

Root beer was created in the mid-1800s by a Philadelphia pharmacist Charles Hires, according to the Food Lover's Companion. It was a low-alcohol, effervescent beverage made by fermenting a blend of sugar and yeast with various roots, herbs, and barks such as sarsaparilla, sassafras, wild cherry, wintergreen, and ginger. Today's commercial root beer is nonalcoholic and generally contains sugar, caramel coloring, artificial and natural flavorings, and carbonated water.

Old-fashioned root beer makes a cool, frothy float with ice cream. While a bottle of root beer has been an essential ingredient for nearly 130 years, now this fountain flavor can be re-created with McCormick Root Beer Concentrate. Add the root beer concentrate to sugar and boiling water until dissolved, then chill. When ready to serve combine the mixture with soda water and pour over scoops of ice cream in a tall glass. (See recipe on page 2).

The root beer concentrate can also be used to make homemade root beer, root beer ice pops, and root beer frosting. "This is not a new product. We've always made it," says Laurie Harrson, director of public relations for McCormick. "Other extracts such as lemon, strawberry, and orange can also be added to sparkling water or soda water, club soda with ice and it makes a great flavored drink." Start with 1/4 teaspoon per 8 ounces water until you reach the desired strength of flavor. "People will like varying levels of fruit flavor."

There are also new products. Nescafe Ice Java is an iced coffee syrup which, when added to cold milk, makes a coffeehouse-style iced coffee. Blended with milk and ice cream, it makes a coffee shake; drizzled over ice cream, it becomes a coffee sundae.

Or make a beverage such as Mocha Frappe from the ingredients on your shelf.

It can be made with low sugar and low fat ingredients: For three servings, place six crushed ice cubes, 1/2 cup low-fat milk, 1/4 cup chocolate syrup, and 2 teaspoons instant coffee crystals in a blender or food processor work bowl. Cover and blend until combined. Add (low-fat) ice cream and blend on medium until smooth, stopping the blender occasionally and stirring with spatula. Transfer to small glasses and serve with spoon and straw. Artificially sweetened chocolate syrup can be used in place of regular syrup.

Or, make Mocha Frappe with 1 cup coffee ice cream, 1 cup crushed ice, 1/4 cup cold espresso, and 3 tablespoons chocolate syrup combined in a blender and blended until smooth. This recipe comes from Ice Cream Treats by Charity Ferreira (Chronicle, $16.95).

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