What Is Root Beer Made Of

Root beer is a beloved North American soft drink that has been enjoyed for generations. But have you ever wondered what goes into making this delicious beverage? Root beer is typically made using the root bark of the sassafras tree or the vine of Smilax ornata, also known as sarsaparilla. These roots lend the drink its distinctive flavor and aroma.

Root beer is a non-alcoholic, caffeine-free, and carbonated beverage that is beloved for its sweet taste. The primary flavor of root beer comes from the sassafras or sarsaparilla roots. However, it’s important to note that the use of sassafras has been banned by the FDA since 1960 due to its primary component, safrole, being classified as a carcinogen. As a result, most commercial root beers now use artificial sassafras flavoring to replicate the classic taste.

Major root beer producers such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola Company, Dad’s, Keurig Dr. Pepper, and A&W have perfected the art of crafting this iconic beverage. They blend various ingredients to create a harmonious flavor profile that is loved by root beer enthusiasts worldwide.

Key Takeaways:

  • Root beer is a sweet North American soft drink made using the root bark of the sassafras tree or sarsaparilla vine.
  • The primary flavor of root beer comes from these roots, but most commercial root beers now use artificial sassafras flavoring due to a ban on safrole.
  • Major root beer producers include PepsiCo, Coca-Cola Company, Dad’s, Keurig Dr. Pepper, and A&W.

History of Root Beer

Root beer has a long and fascinating history in the United States, dating back to at least the eighteenth century. It quickly gained popularity and was sold in confectionery stores as early as the 1840s. Written recipes for root beer have been documented since the 1860s, showcasing its enduring appeal to Americans of that time.

The primary flavoring ingredient in root beer is sassafras, which was well-known for its medicinal benefits and widely used by Native Americans and Europeans for centuries. In fact, root beer was initially marketed for its perceived health benefits and was regarded as a medicinal beverage.

One prominent figure in the history of root beer is Charles Elmer Hires, who successfully marketed the first commercial brand of root beer in 1875. Hires’ root beer gained widespread distribution by 1893 and became synonymous with the refreshing beverage we know today. During the era of Prohibition, non-alcoholic versions of root beer saw a surge in popularity, offering people a satisfying alternative to alcoholic drinks.

history of root beer

The history of root beer is intertwined with the prohibition era and the prohibition movement in America, as it provided a non-alcoholic and enjoyable beverage option for people during this time. Today, root beer remains a beloved and iconic drink, with a variety of brands and flavors available to satisfy every root beer enthusiast.

Traditional Method of Making Root Beer

If you’re a fan of homemade beverages, you’ll love trying your hand at making traditional root beer. This time-tested recipe combines the rich flavors of sassafras root and bark, wintergreen, and yeast to create a delicious and fizzy beverage. The process involves fermenting a syrup made from molasses and water, resulting in a delightful homemade root beer with a unique twist.

To make traditional root beer, follow these simple steps:

  1. Cook a syrup by combining molasses and water in a pot.
  2. Add sassafras root and bark, wintergreen, and yeast to the syrup.
  3. Allow the mixture to ferment for 12 hours.

Tip: The fermentation process typically gives traditional root beer an alcohol content of 2% or less, adding a subtle kick to the flavor profile.

The result is a delightful beverage that captures the essence of homemade root beer. One of the characteristic features of traditional root beer is its foamy nature, which was originally achieved through fermentation. Some modern root beer brands replicate this foaming character by using small amounts of starch and natural surfactants.

Ready to embark on your homemade root beer adventure? Give this traditional recipe a try and savor the authentic flavors of the past!

homemade root beer

Enjoy the process of making homemade root beer with our traditional recipe!

Ingredients Quantity
Sassafras root and bark 2 cups
Wintergreen 1 tablespoon
Yeast 1 packet
Molasses 1 cup
Water 4 cups

Ingredients in Commercial Root Beer

Commercial root beers offer a wide array of flavors, utilizing a diverse range of ingredients to capture the essence of this beloved beverage. While not all commercial root beers are sassafras-based, they incorporate various flavorings to achieve the classic root beer taste. Here are some common ingredients found in commercial root beers:

  • Safrole-free sassafras extract – a key flavoring component.
  • Filtered water – provides the base for the beverage.
  • Sugar – adds sweetness to balance the flavors.
  • Vanilla – lends a rich and creamy note.
  • Caramel – contributes to the distinctive brown color.
  • Wintergreen – enhances the overall flavor profile.
  • Black cherry bark – adds complexity to the taste.
  • Licorice root – imparts a subtle anise-like flavor.
  • Sarsaparilla root – another traditional root beer ingredient.
  • Nutmeg – adds warmth and depth.
  • Acacia – a natural thickening agent.
  • Anise – provides a hint of licorice flavor.
  • Molasses – contributes to the robust taste.
  • Cinnamon – adds a touch of spice.
  • Sweet birch – enhances the overall aroma.
  • Honey – offers a natural sweetener alternative.

Some brands may incorporate additional ingredients to create a foamy texture, such as soybean protein or yucca. Caramel coloring is often used to achieve the signature brown hue of root beer. It’s important to note that not all commercial root beers are sassafras-based, with many opting for artificial flavors to replicate the classic root beer taste.

ingredients in commercial root beer

Sassafras Ban and Safrole-Free Alternatives

The use of sassafras in commercially produced root beer was banned in 1960 due to the classification of safrole, a chemical compound found in sassafras, as a carcinogen. As a result, most commercial root beers have turned to artificial sassafras flavoring to replicate the nostalgic taste without utilizing sassafras roots.

However, there are still brands that offer a safrole-free alternative. One such brand is Hansen’s, which uses a safrole-free sassafras extract in their root beer.

In addition to brand options, natural extracts with the safrole distilled and removed are available, enabling the production of sassafras-free root beer while maintaining the desired flavor profile.

Comparison of Sassafras Root Beer and Safrole-Free Alternatives

Sassafras Root Beer Safrole-Free Alternatives
Made from sassafras root Made using artificial sassafras flavoring or safrole-free sassafras extract
Distinct flavor profile Replicates the classic taste of sassafras
Historically used ingredient Meets regulatory requirements for safrole content
Unavailable commercially due to the ban Widely available from select brands

While sassafras root beer holds its own unique charm, the development of safrole-free alternatives has provided consumers with options to enjoy the classic flavor of root beer without the concerns associated with safrole.

Next, we dive deeper into homemade root beer and the various extract options available to those who prefer to craft their own batches of this beloved beverage.

Homemade Root Beer and Extract Options

Many people enjoy the process of making their own root beer at home. It allows them to customize the flavors and experiment with different ingredients. If you’re interested in trying your hand at homemade root beer, there are several extract options available that can help you achieve the desired flavor.

Companies like Shank’s Extracts and Stoltfus Root Beer Extract offer essences that capture the classic taste of root beer. These extracts are specially formulated to provide the distinctive flavor of sassafras, but they are safrole-free, ensuring a safe and enjoyable brewing experience. You can simply add these extracts to your homemade root beer recipe to enhance the taste.

If you prefer to explore a wider variety of flavors, you can also find other extract options online. These extracts come in different flavors, allowing you to experiment and create unique combinations. From traditional root beer flavors to fruity or herbal extracts, the options are vast.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to create root beer from scratch, there are also recipes available that use natural ingredients such as sassafras, sarsaparilla, ginger, licorice, and dandelion root. These recipes provide detailed instructions on how to prepare the root beer mixture and the fermentation process involved.

For those who are extra daring, some brewers even forage for wild sassafras roots to use in their homemade root beer. This adds a touch of authenticity to the brewing process and allows for a deeper connection with the roots of this classic beverage.

Whether you choose to use extracts or follow a homemade recipe, making root beer at home can be a fun and rewarding experience. It allows you to have full control over the ingredients and flavors, resulting in a truly unique and delicious beverage.

If you’re ready to embark on your root beer brewing journey, check out the extract options and recipes mentioned above. Get creative, experiment with flavors, and enjoy the satisfaction of sipping on your very own homemade root beer.

homemade root beer

Difference Between Root Beer and Sarsaparilla

Root beer and sarsaparilla are two popular beverages that are often mistaken for each other. While they do have some similarities, they traditionally have different ingredients and distinct flavors. Typically, sarsaparilla is made from the sarsaparilla vine, while root beer is made from the roots of the sassafras tree.

root beer and sarsaparilla

In the case of Bundaberg Root Beer and Bundaberg Sarsaparilla, however, there is no difference in the recipe. Both drinks are crafted using the same set of quality ingredients, including real liquorice root, sarsaparilla root, molasses, and vanilla beans. Bundaberg uses these natural ingredients to create a delicious and authentic flavor profile for both their root beer and sarsaparilla offerings.

To highlight the similarities between the two beverages, here is a comparison table:

Root Beer Sarsaparilla
Made from the roots of the sassafras tree Made from the sarsaparilla vine
Contains real liquorice root, sarsaparilla root, molasses, and vanilla beans Contains real liquorice root, sarsaparilla root, molasses, and vanilla beans
Unique blend of flavors with a smooth and creamy taste Distinctively bold and earthy flavor
Classic and beloved American beverage Traditional herbal extract with historical roots

As you can see, the only difference between Bundaberg Root Beer and Bundaberg Sarsaparilla is the label. The recipe remains the same, providing an authentic and enjoyable experience for root beer and sarsaparilla lovers alike. So whether you prefer the familiar taste of root beer or the unique flavor of sarsaparilla, Bundaberg has you covered.

The History of Sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla has a long and fascinating history, having been consumed by Native Americans even before it reached Europe. The key ingredient in sarsaparilla is the sarsaparilla root, which imparts a slightly bitter flavor to the beverage.

The consumption of sarsaparilla predates root beer, and its strong taste may have influenced the creation of root beer as a milder alternative. Native Americans and early Europeans recognized the medicinal properties of sarsaparilla and used it in various remedies.

Today, sarsaparilla is still used in various recipes, including barbecue sauces, where its distinct flavor adds depth and complexity to the sauce.

Brewing Process and Ingredients of Bundaberg Sarsaparilla

Bundaberg Sarsaparilla is crafted using a meticulous brewing process that combines real ingredients to create its unique flavor. Only the finest quality ingredients, including liquorice root, ginger root, vanilla bean, sarsaparilla root, and molasses, are used to ensure an authentic taste experience.

The brewing process of Bundaberg Sarsaparilla is a labor of love, taking three days to complete. This careful and time-intensive approach allows the flavors to develop fully, resulting in a rich and complex beverage that sets it apart from other root beers or sarsaparillas on the market.

The combination of real ingredients and the dedication to craftsmanship shines through in every sip of Bundaberg Sarsaparilla. This premium beverage offers a truly distinctive taste that will delight root beer enthusiasts seeking an authentic and flavorful experience.

Ingredients used in Bundaberg Sarsaparilla:

Ingredients Origin
Liquorice Root Locally sourced
Ginger Root Locally sourced
Vanilla Bean Locally sourced
Sarsaparilla Root Locally sourced
Molasses Locally sourced

Note: All ingredients used in Bundaberg Sarsaparilla are real and carefully selected to deliver an exceptional flavor profile.

Difference Between Bundaberg Root Beer and Bundaberg Sarsaparilla

When it comes to Bundaberg beverages, the distinction between Bundaberg Root Beer and Bundaberg Sarsaparilla lies solely in the label. These two flavorful drinks are crafted using the same recipe, with real ingredients sourced locally in Bundaberg, Australia.

Both Bundaberg Root Beer and Bundaberg Sarsaparilla are brewed with precision and care, ensuring a unique and delightful taste. The only variation between the two lies in the name, which depends on the country where they are marketed.

In the United States and the United Kingdom, you’ll find Bundaberg Root Beer, while in Australia and New Zealand, Bundaberg Sarsaparilla takes the spotlight. Regardless of the name, the recipe remains the same, providing a consistent and satisfying experience.

Comparison of Bundaberg Root Beer and Bundaberg Sarsaparilla

Beverage Available Countries
Bundaberg Root Beer United States, United Kingdom
Bundaberg Sarsaparilla Australia, New Zealand

Enjoy the same outstanding flavor with Bundaberg Root Beer or Bundaberg Sarsaparilla, depending on your location. Whichever you choose, you can indulge in the delicious taste of Bundaberg brewed beverages.

Making Root Beer Floats and Barbecue Sauce

Root beer is an incredibly versatile beverage that can be used in various recipes to enhance flavors and create unique culinary experiences. Two popular uses for root beer are in making root beer floats and barbecue sauce.

Root Beer Floats

Root beer floats are a classic American dessert that combines the refreshing taste of root beer with creamy vanilla ice cream. The combination of the fizzy root beer and the smooth ice cream creates a delightful contrast of flavors and textures.

To make a root beer float, simply pour a generous amount of root beer into a tall glass. Add a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream to the glass, allowing it to float on top of the root beer. Watch as the carbonation from the root beer creates bubbles and foam, blending with the creamy ice cream. Serve with a spoon and a straw for a fun and delicious treat.

Barbecue Sauce

Root beer can also be used as a key ingredient in homemade barbecue sauces to add depth and complexity to grilled meats. The combination of sweet and tangy flavors from the root beer pairs perfectly with smoky and savory barbecue dishes.

To create a root beer barbecue sauce, start by combining root beer, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, and your choice of spices in a saucepan. Simmer the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and develops a rich flavor. Allow the sauce to cool before using it to baste or glaze your favorite meats on the grill.

Root beer-based barbecue sauce can be used for various meats, including ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and even burgers. Experiment with different ingredients and spices to create your own unique flavor profile.

Whether you’re enjoying a refreshing root beer float or adding a touch of sweetness to your barbecue with root beer barbecue sauce, the possibilities are endless when it comes to exploring the delicious uses of root beer.


Root beer, a beloved North American beverage, has a fascinating history and a unique flavor profile. Traditionally made using sassafras or sarsaparilla root, commercial root beers now rely on artificial sassafras flavoring due to the ban on safrole, a compound found in sassafras. However, homemade root beer recipes offer alternatives, allowing enthusiasts to experiment with various extract options and safrole-free sassafras extract.

Whether enjoyed commercially or brewed at home, root beer continues to captivate taste buds with its enticing blend of ingredients. Its journey from its medicinal beginnings to becoming a popular soft drink during Prohibition showcases its enduring appeal. While sassafras ban changed the commercial production of root beer, it opened the door for homemade recipes and the exploration of exciting flavor combinations.

Root beer’s versatility extends beyond being a refreshing beverage. It can also be used to create delightful root beer floats and add a distinctive twist to homemade barbecue sauces. With its rich history, diverse ingredient options, and ban-defying recipes, root beer remains a symbol of North American culinary tradition and a favorite choice for those seeking a sweet and fizzy indulgence.

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