An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jul 30, 2013
08:54 AM
The Connecticut Table

Ode to a Classic: The Root Beer Float at Backstage in Torrington

Ode to a Classic: The Root Beer Float at Backstage in Torrington

John Berry/Register Citizen.

The root beer float at Backstage Restaurant in Torrington.

Backstage, the very large, very relaxed restaurant with a decidedly pub feel on Main Street in Torrington, offers 40 beers on tap and another 80 in bottles. So why was I surprised when I discovered that they serve one of the most delicious and distinctive root beer floats around?

After all, it is made with a root beer that is actually brewed at a Louisiana brewery, so authentic that it arrives in metal kegs! Remember the root beer float … a tall cold glass of root beer soda topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, tons of foam, and the most satisfying, yet slightly exotic taste? Well, here it is in all its glory.

The general manager and director of the restaurant’s beer program, Chris Verrilli, discovered the alcohol-free brew through one of his specialty beer distributors. He had been looking for a root beer that could be served on tap, and, voila!

Made by the Abita Brewing Company, known for its Purple Haze and Jockamo beers, it was the answer to his search as he had been trying to find a root beer made without high fructose corn syrup, and that uses 100 percent cane sugar (Louisiana cane sugar in this case) but with no additives or preservatives. Made with pure artesian spring water, it is naturally caffeine free.

This root beer also uses herbs, natural vanilla extract and yucca, which creates the foam. The root beer is actually reminiscent of soft drinks made in the 1940s and 1950s before bottlers turned to corn syrup and fructose. “I had been trying to come up with something that people always enjoy in the summer and I always enjoyed this myself!” Mr. Verrilli said.

Originally known as sarsaparilla, the first root beers were made using sassafras.

Served directly from the tap like their other beers, the 12-ounce portion comes out at 38 degrees F. and is slightly less carbonated than the root beers and sodas most of us are used to.

It is then put into a frosted glass that sits in an old-fashioned metal glass holder, a staple of old soda fountains. Mr. Verrilli and Backstage’s director of operations, Robert DeZinno, searched out these metal holders and were thrilled when they located enough to actually use them in the restaurant.

Add to this a huge scoop of one of the best local Connecticut ice creams, namely Arethusa Farm’s vanilla, then add a straw and a tall spoon, and, kids of every age, get on your mark!

The float premiered this summer at $7 and is served throughout the day and evening.

See the full story from the August issue of LCT magazine.

Ode to a Classic: The Root Beer Float at Backstage in Torrington

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