Soil Expedition

Nicolas Torres, True Laurel | San Francisco

At True Laurel in San Francisco, bartender Nicolas Torres has experimented with a fair number of ambitious non-alcoholic cocktails. For the Soil Expedition, he wanted to recreate the flavors of root beer, using kefir grains as a fermentable base. He blends the resulting mixture with Seedlip Spice and Grove to create a naturally acidic, herbaceous cocktail that Torres says “tastes like A&W, but with a lengthier ride of roots and kombucha tang.”



  • 12 ounces Seedlip Spice 94
  • 5 ounces Seedlip Grove 42
  • 8 ounces water
  • 100 grams organic sugar
  • 1 gram star anise
  • 5 grams Indian sarsaparilla
  • 2 grams burdock root
  • 3 grams sassafras
  • ½ gram dried lavender
  • 3 grams licorice root
  • ½ teaspoon caramel coloring (see Editor’s Note)
  • 2 ½ grams dried kefir grains, bloomed into kefir water cultures (see Editor’s Note)

Garnish: lemon twist

  1. Combine all ingredients except for Seedlip Spice 94, Seedlip Grove 42 and kefir water cultures in a pot and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar. Let simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat and cover. Leave to sit overnight to fully absorb all the botanical flavors.
  2. The next day, fine-strain the mixture into a Mason jar and compost the spent roots. Add both Seedlips to the sweet root tea and stir generously.
  3. Strain the kefir water cultures and discard the water. Add the strained cultures to your mixture, gently stir, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Strain cultures from the mixture (you can use them again).
  4. Optionally, you can force-carbonate the mixture at this point. Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  5. To serve, pour over ice in a highball glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
Editor's Note

Caramel coloring
50 grams granulated sugar
¾ ounce water
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 ounces hot water

To a small pot or saucepan, combine sugar and ¾ ounce water. Cover and simmer over medium heat until the sugar melts completely. Increase heat to medium-high and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in cream of tartar until it is thoroughly distributed. Return to heat and continue to boil until the sugar almost turns black; you want a very dark brown. Remove from heat and stir until all foam dissolves. (The mixture will continue to cook and darken when removed from the heat.) Return the pot to the heat and add the hot water, stirring to dissolve any hardened sugar on the spoon and the sides of the saucepan.

Kefir water cultures
2 ½ grams dried kefir grains
100 grams sugar
500 milliliters water

To bloom kefir water cultures, dissolve sugar in the water; when water is room temperature, add cultures. Let them rest for 2 days in a shaded area until they fatten up. Leave them in the water solution until ready to add to the cocktail mixture.