Coming Right Up: Tower Root Beer Dinner at Tryst
The era of a dry America may be far behind us, but would you believe we’re still drinking the dregs of prohibition? Back when speakeasies weren’t just for show, the Cusolito family started the Tower Root Beer Company in Somerville and hit the jackpot by serving ice-cold root beer as a substitute for beer. They perfected the taste with the help of a local pharmacist, who provided the essential oils necessary for the recipe. The family business withstood even the 1929 stock market crash, but fizzled in 1969 after it was sold to a soft drink company conglomerate.
Thirty years later, Larry Cusolito, a third generation of the Cusolito family, dug up his grandfather’s original hand-written recipe and resurrected the business in all of its effervescent glory. It’s the same amber bottle, the same great taste, and now with a new diet product to meet the needs of a wet but calorie-conscious America.
Tryst Restaurant in Arlington popped the lid on this revived classic with a three course, $29 prix fixe dinner by chef Paul Turano in celebration of the company’s return with dishes inspired by — you guessed it — root beer. Enjoy the stout-braised beef short ribs and licorice-and-sassafras-rubbed pastrami with a root beer pickle and toast points. If you haven’t turned into a sassafras tree yet (root beer was originally made from the bark), dip into an old-fashioned root beer float with a banana cream-filled Twinkie. Reformed teetotalers can rejoice in an option of paired cocktails, like the “Tower of Manhattan,” a sassafras-infused bourbon with a root beer reduction and orange bitters, the “Dark and Cloudy,” Goslings Black Seal with ginger beer and root beer, and a “Spiked Float,” all made with the Tower’s 97-year-old soda recipe. — Emma Rosenberg
(Editor’s note: Sadly, this dinner has come and gone since this story was written. But the celebration for this comeback kid of a drink is far from over: The root beer is being sold at farmers’ markets across the region, so check out the upcoming days and times here to get your fill.)