Root Beer: What It Is, History, Taste & the Best Root Beers

root beer

Root beer – it’s such a unique and alluring soda, isn’t it? The carbonated bubbles, the creamy sweetness of sassafras root, and the fizz that explodes on your tongue. It brings back memories of lazy summer days spent with friends at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. Let’s explore this delicious beverage in more detail!

What is Root Beer?

Root beer is a refreshing and sweetened beverage with many versions; typically, the beverage includes water, sugar or honey, a variety of plant extracts such as burdock, sarsaparilla bark, licorice root, nutmeg, and aniseed, and yeast for carbonation. 

Often spices are added for additional flavor as well. Root beer can be served hot or cold and is enjoyed worldwide by many people, both young and old. It is a great drink to cool off on a hot summer day!

What Does Root Beer Taste Like?

It is a classic carbonated sweet drink typically made with herbs and spices, including sarsaparilla, birch bark, and wintergreen. The flavor of root beer can vary depending on the brand and recipe, but generally, it has a rich, creamy taste with a hint of spiciness.

You’ll immediately notice its sweet and bubbly nature when you sip root beer. The initial taste is often described as vanilla-like or creamy, with a slight caramel note. As you continue to drink, the flavors become more complex, and you’ll begin to taste the various spices used in the recipe.

Sarsaparilla is one of the primary ingredients in most root beer recipes, giving the drink a unique herbal flavor. The woody taste of birch bark and wintergreen’s cool, minty flavor often complement this.

If you’re a root beer fan, the taste can vary between brands. Some root beers are sweet and creamy, while others have a more pronounced spicy flavor. Some even have hints of fruity notes, such as cherry or raspberry.

Whether you enjoy it on its own or as a float with a scoop of ice cream, there’s no denying that root beer is a classic American beverage that continues to be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Who Invented Root Beer?

The origins of root beer are unclear, but it is believed to have been invented by Native Americans who used sassafras root to make tea. When European settlers arrived in America, they adapted this recipe and added sugar and other spices to create a sweet, carbonated beverage. 

The first commercially produced root beer was created in 1876 by Charles Elmer Hires, a Philadelphia pharmacist. Hires began selling his root beer as a concentrate that could be mixed with water and carbonated, and it quickly became popular throughout the United States. Over time, other companies began producing their version of root beer, which remains a beloved beverage today.

History of Root Beer 

The history of root beer can be traced back to Native American tribes, who used sassafras root to brew a medicinal tea that eventually evolved into the beloved beverage we know today. European settlers then adopted the drink, who added sugar and other spices to create a sweet, carbonated beverage.

The first commercially produced root beer was created in 1876 by Charles Elmer Hires, a Philadelphia pharmacist. Hires was inspired to create the drink after tasting a homemade root tea made by a Pennsylvania Dutch farmer. He began selling his root beer as a concentrate that could be mixed with water and carbonated, and it quickly became popular throughout the United States.

In the early 1900s, root beer became associated with the temperance movement and was marketed as a non-alcoholic alternative to beer. Many root beer brands used beer-like names and advertising slogans to appeal to this market. During Prohibition in the 1920s, root beer enjoyed a surge in popularity as it became one of the few legal beverages that could be consumed publicly.

Throughout the 20th century, root beer continued to evolve and diversify. Many brands began adding new flavors to their recipes, such as vanilla, birch bark, and wintergreen. Some even experimented with fruit flavors like cherry and raspberry. Today, countless varieties of root beer are available, ranging from traditional recipes to modern twists on the classic drink.

Despite its popularity, root beer has also faced controversy over the years. In the 1960s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned sassafras oil in food and drinks due to concerns about its potential link to cancer. Most root beer recipes have since removed sassafras and replaced them with other ingredients.

 From its Native American origins to its association with temperance and Prohibition, root beer has played a unique role in American culture. Its evolution and adaptation over time reflect consumers’ changing tastes and preferences, and its enduring popularity is a testament to its delicious taste and nostalgic appeal.

15 Best Root Beers 

Root beer is a beloved drink that has been enjoyed for generations, with many different brands and recipes. If you’re a fan of this classic beverage, you might wonder which root beers are the best. Here are 10 of the best root beers to try:

1. Sprecher Root Beer

Sprecher founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1985, is a craft soda brand with a reputation for producing bold and complex flavors. Sprecher’s root beer is one of its most popular products and is made with real Wisconsin honey and a blend of spices. 

The honey gives the root beer a natural sweetness that is not too overpowering, and the spice blend includes flavors like clove, anise, and nutmeg that add depth and complexity to the overall taste.

Sprecher’s root beer has a creamy and smooth texture enhanced by its carbonation. It’s ideal for those who appreciate a unique and artisanal take on classic root beer. Sprecher also offers other craft sodas, including cream soda, ginger ale, and cherry cola.

2. Abita Root Beer

This beer is a brewery based in Louisiana that has been making root beer since the 1990s. Abita’s root beer is made with pure Louisiana cane sugar and a blend of herbs and spices, giving it a distinct and complex flavor. 

The spice blend includes notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg, balanced out by the sweetness of the cane sugar. The root beer has a creamy and smooth texture, making it an ideal beverage for any occasion.

3. IBC Root Beer

This root beer brand appeared in 1919. Its recipe includes a blend of natural flavors, including sarsaparilla and vanilla. 

IBC root beer has a classic taste that is both satisfying and refreshing, making it a popular choice among consumers. The root beer is smooth, creamy, and made with real sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

4. Bulldog Root Beer 

It is a Pacific Northwest-based brand made with pure cane sugar and a blend of spices, including cinnamon and nutmeg. The root beer has a smooth and creamy texture with a bold and spicy flavor enhanced by its carbonation. Bulldog root beer is a great choice for those who want a root beer with a little kick.

5. Mug Root Beer 

Mug root beer has been around since 1946 and is known for its creamy and smooth taste. Mug root beer has a smooth and sweet flavor balanced by a slight hint of vanilla. It’s an ideal beverage for anyone who wants a classic root beer taste without any overwhelming flavors.

6. Hank’s Root Beer 

Hank’s root beer is a craft soda made with real cane sugar and a blend of natural spices, including wintergreen and vanilla. This Pennsylvania-based brand has been brewing since 1996 and quickly became a fan favorite among root beer enthusiasts. 

It has a sweet and spicy flavor profile that is refreshing. The wintergreen gives it a minty taste, while the vanilla adds a creamy sweetness to the overall taste.

7. Barq’s Root Beer 

Barq’s root beer has been a classic brand since 1898. Its recipe features a blend of natural flavors, including sassafras and vanilla, which gives it a classic and refreshing taste. 

This Mississippi-based brand is known for its smooth and creamy texture that pairs well with the distinct taste of sassafras. The added vanilla enhances the overall taste with its rich and creamy flavor, making Barq’s root beer a popular choice among soda enthusiasts.

8. Saranac Root Beer 

Saranac Brewery has been brewing since the 1800s, and its root beer is a standout in its craft soda collection. Made with pure cane sugar and a blend of spices, including clove and anise, Saranac root beer has a unique and satisfying taste. 

The clove and anise give the root beer a spicy kick, complemented by the sweetness of the pure cane sugar. Its rich and creamy texture provides a smooth finish, making it a favorite among those who enjoy a bold and complex flavor.

9. Wild Bill Root Beer 

Made in the Rocky Mountains, Wild Bill’s root beer is a craft soda that is brewed with pure cane sugar and a blend of natural flavors, including sarsaparilla and vanilla. 

The sarsaparilla gives it a distinct herbal taste balanced by the vanilla’s creamy sweetness. This Colorado-based brand is popular among those who appreciate a smooth, creamy texture and a bold, complex flavor.

10. Boylan Root Beer 

Boylan’s root beer is a classic craft soda made with pure cane sugar and a blend of natural flavors. This New York-based brand has been brewing since 1891 and is known for its smooth and creamy texture that pairs well with the satisfying, classic taste. 

The natural flavors, including sassafras, vanilla, and anise, give it a bold and complex flavor profile that is sweet and spicy. Its smooth finish makes it a popular choice among soda enthusiasts who appreciate a classic root beer taste.

11. Sioux City Root Beer 

Sioux City has been crafting its signature root beer since 1987, and it is known for its bold, spicy taste. Made with a unique blend of natural flavors, including cinnamon and vanilla, Sioux City Root Beer has a complex and satisfying taste that differentiates it from other root beers.

12. Maine Root Beer

Brewed in the charming city of Portland, Maine, Maine Root’s root beer is made with fair trade organic cane sugar and a carefully crafted blend of spices, including wintergreen and clove. With a smooth, creamy texture and a bold flavor, Maine Root’s root beer is a crowd-pleaser among soda enthusiasts.

13. Hosmer Root Beer

With over 100 years of experience brewing craft sodas, Hosmer is a beloved brand among soda enthusiasts. Their root beer is made with pure cane sugar and a blend of natural flavors, including sarsaparilla and vanilla, giving it a classic and satisfying taste that stands the test of time.

14. Bundaberg Root Beer

Bundaberg, an Australian brand with over 60 years of experience in crafting unique and complex flavors, uses real sarsaparilla root and a blend of spices in their root beer, resulting in a taste that is both bold and satisfying. Bundaberg’s root beer is a unique and refreshing option for those looking for something different.

15. Refreshe Root Beer 

Refreshe Root Beer is made with natural flavors, including sarsaparilla and vanilla; this budget-friendly root beer is sold at many grocery stores and is a great choice for those looking for a refreshing drink without breaking the bank.

There are many great root beer brands and flavors, each with its unique taste and history. Whether you prefer a classic brand like Boylan or a bold brand like Sioux City, there is a root beer for everyone to enjoy.

Factors To Consider While Choosing The Root Beer 

When choosing a root beer, there are several factors to consider, including

Taste: Root beer can have a wide range of flavors, from sweet and creamy to bold and spicy. It’s important to consider your personal preferences when choosing a root beer.

Ingredients: Root beer can be made with various ingredients, including sugar, herbs, and spices. Some people prefer root beers made with natural ingredients, while others may not mind artificial flavors.

Texture: Root beer can vary in texture, from creamy and smooth to carbonated and fizzy. Some people prefer a thick, creamy root beer, while others prefer a lighter, more carbonated texture.

Brand: Before choosing a root beer, it’s a good idea to research and read reviews about different brands. Some brands have been around for a long time and are known for their great taste and quality.

Price: Root beer can range in price from inexpensive to expensive, depending on the brand and the ingredients’ quality. So pick up the root beer which is in your budget.

How To Make Your Root Beer: A Step-By-Step Guide

Root beer is a classic and beloved soda that has been around for centuries, and people love to make it at home. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make your root beer:


  • 1 cup chopped sassafras root bark
  • 1 tablespoon chopped wintergreen leaf
  • 1 tablespoon chopped licorice root
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger root
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-gallon water
  • 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast


  • Large stockpot
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Funnel
  • Bottles with tight-fitting caps

Step 1: Boil the Herbs and Spices

In a large stockpot, bring the sassafras root bark, wintergreen leaf, licorice root, and ginger root to a boil with 1 gallon of water. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the vanilla bean and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Step 2: Strain the Mixture

After simmering the mixture, remove it from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh strainer to remove the solids.

Step 3: Add Sugar and Yeast

Stir in 2 cups of sugar until it has completely dissolved. Let the mixture cool until it reaches room temperature, then add 1/8 teaspoon of active dry yeast and stir well.

Step 4: Bottle the Root Beer

Using a funnel, pour the root beer mixture into clean bottles with tight-fitting caps. Leave about 1 inch of headspace in each bottle to allow for carbonation.

Step 5: Carbonate and Chill

Let the root beer sit at room temperature for 2-3 days to carbonate. Once the desired level of carbonation is reached, transfer the bottles to the refrigerator to chill before serving.

Once chilled, serve the root beer over ice and enjoy!

Tips for Making Your Root Beer:

Here are some tips for making your root beer:

Start by gathering your ingredients – you’ll need root beer extract, sugar, and a carbonated beverage like sparkling water or club soda. You can add other flavors like vanilla extract, molasses, or honey.

For the most traditional taste, use pure cane sugar; however, alternative sweeteners, such as agave syrup or maple syrup, can be used if desired.

To make the root beer taste smoother and reduce any bitter flavor from the extract, mix it with some hot water and stir until all of the granules have dissolved. Then allow it to cool before adding other ingredients.

Measure out one cup of cold carbonated liquid and blend it with a quarter cup of root beer extract and three-quarters cup of sugar (or your preferred sweetener). Stir until blended well enough that no gritty residue remains in the bottom of the container.

If desired, add flavors like vanilla extract or molasses for a richer taste. Start with small amounts and adjust according to personal preference – just be sure not to overpower the root beer flavor too much!

Pour your mixture into individual bottles or pitchers and leave them open overnight to fully allow the flavors to develop and carbonate naturally at room temperature (this will take about 18-24 hours).

When ready, cap each bottle tightly and store it in a cool place away from direct sunlight until ready to drink! Enjoy your homemade root beer!

How To Drink Root Beer And With Which Meal It Taste Better?

Root beer is a popular sweetened beverage with a distinctive taste that can be enjoyed in many ways. Whether you’re sipping it straight from the bottle, over ice cream or floats, or mixed it into cocktails – root beer provides a unique flavor to any drink.

One of the most classic and traditional ways to enjoy root beer is in an ice-cold float. This delicious treat combines the bubbly sweetness of root beer and creamy vanilla ice cream and makes a perfect summertime treat. Ice-cold root beer floats are especially great when paired with your favorite burgers or hot dogs for a delicious meal!

Another fun way to enjoy root beer is by mixing it up into some creative cocktails. Root beer can make for an exciting spin on classic cocktails like Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, or Whiskey Sours. For something a little lighter in alcohol content, try mixing up a Root Beer Moscow Mule – combine vodka with fresh lime juice and ginger beer topped off with Root Beer for an unexpected twist.

If you want to increase your root beer experience, why not add other flavors? A simple blend of root beer and cola makes an amazing cherry vanilla blast that’s sure to pleases any soda lover. Or you can mix things up by adding more unusual flavors like orange soda or cranberry juice for something truly unique. Add some whipped cream and cherries on top and you’ve, got the perfect summer indulgence!

Finally, why not get creative with food pairings? Root Beer has such an interesting flavor profile that it goes perfectly well with almost any cuisine. Try pairing it with Mexican dishes like tacos or enchiladas for depth of flavor; combine it with BBQ chicken or ribs for sweetness; mix it into desserts like cheesecake or brownies for a fun twist; or just enjoy it alongside classic American dishes like hamburgers or hot dogs for a fun twist!

The possibilities are endless regardless of how you enjoy your root beer drinks and meals! With its unique taste and versatility, root beer can make any meal special – give it a try today!

Root Beer FAQs 

What are the ingredients in root beer?

Root beer typically contains a blend of sassafras root bark and other herbs and spices such as wintergreen, anise, and cinnamon. Additionally, sugar, water, and yeast are commonly added to the mixture.

Is root beer an alcoholic drink?

Generally, commercially produced root beers are non-alcoholic. However, historically, some varieties of root beer did contain a small amount of alcohol due to the fermentation process.

Can root beer expire?

Like any consumable item, root beer can spoil if not stored properly. Most commercially produced root beers can last several months, but checking the expiration date before consumption is advisable.

Is root beer gluten-free?

Most root beers are gluten-free, but it’s important to review the ingredient list to verify that no gluten-containing substances, such as wheat, are present.

Does root beer contain caffeine?

Most root beers are caffeine-free, but a few brands may contain it as an ingredient. If you’re seeking a caffeine-free alternative, inspecting the label is best.

Can root beer be used in cooking?

Root beer can be used as a flavor enhancer in cooking. It’s commonly used in marinades, barbecue sauces, and baked goods.


Root beer is a delicious and fascinating beverage with a long and varied history. Whether you prefer classic brands or artisanal varieties, there is a root beer for everyone. So why not try a new root beer today or make your own? You might just discover a new favorite soda.

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