The hipsters are out, say some. Whether or not you rejoice on this news, the bar world has much to thank them for. The popularity of craft beer, cocktails in marmalade jars and, at least in Germany, Club Mate: a carbonated, caffeinated soft drink made with yerba mate. It has a stimulating effect, less sugar and a more natural taste than other energy drinks, making it the beverage of choice at both a Velvet Underground vinyl listening session and a Berlin hackathon.
But what would the real hipster do? Small batch, organic, homemade Club Mate, of course.
What is yerba mate in the first place?
It’s a South American plant that contains caffeine, which is chopped up, dried and enjoyed as a beverage similar to tea. Especially in Argentina is very popular, and it is not uncommon to see people walking around with a thermos for the hot water, and the traditional gourd filled with mate for drinking. It has an earthy, slightly leathery taste, with some mint-like aromas in the back.
Homemade Club Mate
The commercial Club Mate is made with mate extract, and several additives such as citric acid. In soft drinks, I find that citric acid often reminds me of washing powder. By replacing the citric acid by fresh lemon juice, you give the drink a well rounded sweet-sour balance.
The drawback to using fresh lemon juice is that you cannot batch your homemade Club Mate beforehand. I find, however, that the benefit in taste by far outweighs the effort of adding lemon juice just before serving. I also find that mate has a natural affinity in taste to pineapples – if you can find it, use pineapple mint as a garnish!
- 30 ml yerba mate syrup
- 10 ml fresh lemon juice
- 100 ml sparkling water
- Briefly stir to mix, garnish with pineapple mint, if you can find it. Serve in a mason jar before it was cool and take a polaroid shot of it, preferably.
Now, for the syrup there’s two ways: One takes little effort but a little planning, and one is for the impatient. I find the cold infusion takes less effort (duh), and also extracts a more bracing, clean bitterness, while the cooked variant has a slightly more muddled taste. Both result very nice drinks, though.
- 20 gr dry yerba mate
- 500 gr water
- 150 gr sugar
- This is important, as it will absorb quite a lot of water, and your measurements will be all messed up if you miss this. Put the yerba mate in a sieve, and rinse it thoroughly.
- Add 500 gr of water, and let to steep in the fridge for 12 hours. Strain, and add 150 gr of sugar and dissolve in low heat. Cool and bottle.
- Optionally, add a splash of vodka for longer shelf life.
- 100 gr water
- 30 gr dry yerba mate
- 30 gr sugar
- First, wash the yerba mate (as above).
- Then cook washed mate with 100 gr of water sous vide for 1 hour at 80 degrees. Sous vide sounds fancy, but it can be as easy as putting the ingredients in a zip lock bag, sealing it with as little air as possible in it, and putting it in a pot of water.
- Strain, add 30 gr of sugar, and dissolve on low heat. Cool and bottle.
- Optionally, add a splash of vodka for longer shelf-life. Should keep for at least 1 week refrigerated.