Root beer is a refreshing sweet soda, but I wondered what exactly is the root that gives it its name.
I did some research and here’s what I found.
The exact recipe for root beer isn’t shown on the label.
Soda companies keep it a secret because it’s a competitive advantage, and a competitor could simply copy their recipe exactly.
However, it is well known when root beer was said to have been first invented and what ingredients were traditionally used.
In this article, I will cover everything there is to know about the root used in root beer.
Why do they call it root beer?
The ‘beer’ part of the name appears to have been a common way to refer to sodas around the year 1900, but nowadays, beer is almost also used to refer to alcoholic beer that you buy at a bar or restaurant.
Different soda brands make their root beer slightly differently.
And some brands such as the well-known A&W and Barq’s use natural and artificial flavors.
To get a hint at what ingredients are used in well-known root beers, we can look at a standard dandelion root or homemade root beer recipe.
And a bunch of different Homemade root beer and root beer soda extracts are used, which include:
- Sarsaparilla root
- Ginger root
- Licorice root
- Dandelion root
- Birch bark
- Star anise
Hard vs. soft root beers
You’ve likely heard the phrase soft drink, but you may not know that soft drink means a soda that doesn’t contain alcohol.
And is distinguished from sodas that do contain alcohol which are called ‘hard sodas’.
Another common soda that has the name beer but doesn’t contain alcohol is ginger beer.
Some companies that make alcoholic drinks exclusively such as beers, and ales do make hard burdock root beers, and/or ginger beer.
However, these are typically only available at liquor stores, or in bars.
Almost all of the root beer you find at the supermarket or convenience store is technically a soft root beer and doesn’t contain any alcohol.
When was the root beer float invented?
A root beer float is a delicious way to drink root beer and is really easy to make but it’s a complex drink.
But, when was the root beer float first invented…
An ice cream float – the mixture of soda and ice cream is believed to have first been made in 1893 and has an interesting backstory.
And ice cream floats were somewhat invented by accident.
One day Robert McCay Green based in Philadelphia was serving drinks for a big celebration, and he ran out of ice to cool the sodas he was serving.
To cool the soda he instead used ice cream which was one of the only things available, and people immediately liked the creamy flavor it gave to the soda, and it became very popular.
After that, it became a drink because of the ingredient in root beers such as corn syrup that was available at many restaurants and diners across the USA.
And is still widely available from a range of different eateries across the country. Although, it’s an American drink.
In other countries such as the UK, Australia, and New Zealand ice cream floats AND modern root beer aren’t as popular and aren’t as widely available for sale.
Is root beer made in barrels?
Alcoholic drinks such as wine, beer, and whiskey are stored in barrels to give them a unique taste. But, is root beer made in barrels?
The general process for making sodas is to combine all of the ingredients in a liquid form and it’s then boiled down and concentrated.
After that, they add carbonated water or water, SODIUM BENZOATE, and CO2 gas to carbonate it – and make it fizzy.
Bundaberg, though, says that they mature their root beer syrup allowing the different chemicals in the root extracts to combine and react with each other, which changes the taste.
They don’t say specifically if they store it in wooden barrels like wine or liquor.
However, as part of the description on their website, they include a small graphic of a barrel.
It’s more economical not to use barrels
In my opinion, it’s easier and more cost-effective for a Coca-Cola Company to use metal to store their sodas while they are being made because you can reuse the metal barrels over and over again.
And in a bottling plant, the round metal cylinders that the soda is stored in prior to bottling are really large.
Therefore, they don’t need to make or buy replacement wooden barrels regularly for the different batches of soda they make.
It’s also generally not expected that soda should be aged in barrels.
Unlike, alcoholic drinks where the added flavors from the wood used in the barrel give alcoholic drinks like wine and whiskey a unique flavor.
Interestingly, large soda companies will carbonate the mixture of syrup and water.
Whereas, if you try to do this yourself at home using a Sodastream or soda siphon you can’t and it will produce way too much foam. Sodastream also has a warning label on their machine that says only carbonate water. ginger root
I wrote about this topic at length in an article that explains whether you can put cordially in a Sodastream.
Find it here – Can you put it cordially in Sodastream?
Is root beer and ginger beer the same?
When you buy ginger in the supermarket it has the look of the root of a plant and is technically the root of the ginger plant. But, are root beer and ginger beer or Ginger Root Beer the same?
Ginger root beer got its name because it’s made of a few different plant roots, and can contain a small amount of ginger (a key ingredient).
But, the flavors are dramatically different and you can easily tell root beer and ginger apart based on their taste, and the way that they look.
Why does root beer taste like toothpaste?
Root beer toothpaste is also more of an acquired taste.
Many people, myself included, that try root beer for the first time dislike its taste.
Because root beer tastes like toothpaste.
Why does root beer taste like mouthwash?
Root beer does not necessarily taste like mouthwash for everyone. The flavor of root beer can be described as sweet and slightly medicinal due to the use of sassafras root extract and wintergreen oil, which are common ingredients in traditional root beer recipes.
Some people may associate the flavor of root beer with mouthwash because both contain similar herbal and medicinal undertones.
It is important to note that not all root beers are created equal, and the specific flavor profile of a root beer can vary greatly depending on the brand and ingredients used.
Some root beers are sweeter and less herbal, while others are more robust and have a stronger wintergreen flavor. Additionally, some modern root beers may contain artificial flavors and ingredients that can alter the overall taste of the beverage.
When you brush your teeth you never swallow toothpaste or mouthwash because it can be harmful so people often have a feeling like they don’t want to swallow root beer if they aren’t accustomed to it, especially outside the USA.
In the USA, root beer is very common and a much-loved drink, but in other countries, it’s less known and not as common.
Ginger on the other hand is a common ingredient in virtually all countries and is used a lot in cooking.
It also has a flavorful and appealing taste.
Therefore, at first taste, most people really like ginger beer.
Well, there you have it.
That about sums up everything there is to know about the root that’s used to make root beer.