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10 Major Differences Between Root Beer and Sarsaparilla Updated

Filed in Education by on December 3, 2020

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10 Major Differences Between Root Beer and Sarsaparilla.

Difference Between Root Beer and Sarsaparilla: Sarsaparilla and root beer are similar in a lot of ways. The two beverages taste vaguely the same and the second similarity is that root beer uses sarsaparilla in its preparation. Modern root beers do not contain sassafras because of the potential health risks of the plant.

10 Major Differences Between Root Beer and Sarsaparilla

Root Beer

It was Charles Elmer Hires who introduced the first commercial brand of root beer in the year 1875. However, he wanted to name the product “root tea,” he branded it as “root beer” to sell it among the coal miners of Pennsylvania.

By 1893, root beer was available all over the United States, and its nonalcoholic versions became very popular during the period of Prohibition.

Root beers are either alcoholic or nonalcoholic and are available in carbonated or noncarbonated forms. The preservative used in almost all brands is sodium benzoate. The modern root beers are flavored with artificial sassafras and are usually sweet, foamy, carbonated, and nonalcoholic.

In addition to sassafras, other flavors of root beers are anise, burdock, cinnamon, dandelion, ginger, juniper, sarsaparilla, vanilla, wintergreen, etc. For sweetening, the ingredients used are aspartame, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, and sugar.

“Safrole,” the root-bark extract of sassafras, is banned by the FDA for making root beer in the USA. Even though production of root beer is centered in America, countries like the Philippines and Thailand also produce their versions of root beer.

The tradition of brewing root beer might have originated from the fact that fermented drinks with low alcohol content added to medicinal and nutritional ingredients would improve health. The recipe for making root beer is by boiling molasses syrup and water.

The cooked syrup is allowed to cool for three hours, and ingredients such as sassafras root, sassafras bark, along with yeast. After fermenting it for 12 hours, it is strained and rebottled for secondary fermentation until a 2% alcoholic beverage is obtained. Subsequent fermenting may lead to getting a higher percentage of alcoholic content.


The term “sarsaparilla” is derived from the Spanish word “zarzaparrilla,” which stands for “brambly vine.” The Spaniards came to know about the plant from the Native Americans and took it to Europe.  It is believed that people started using it long before root beer, and the dislike of sarsaparilla by some people led to the original creation of root beer.

However, sarsaparilla has continued its journey as a drink to the present time. Varieties of the plant can be seen in tropical and temperate parts of the Western hemisphere. The sarsaparilla vine has small, greenish, and dark purplish-red berries.

The extract made from its root tastes slightly bitter. Ingredients like licorice and wintergreen were often used to reduce its flavor.

Sarsaparilla contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, and D and minerals such as iron, manganese, silicon, copper, zinc, iodine, etc. The plant has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and toxic properties. It is an aphrodisiac as well as a blood purifier and is used in the treatment of skin diseases.

During the period from the 15th century to the 19th century, the extracts of the American sarsaparilla were used for the treatment of syphilis. And, hence, they were exported to other countries. Despite its usefulness against the disease, it was questioned throughout.

However, sarsaparilla has only positive effects upon individuals; and today, the sarsaparilla root beer has only one flavoring ingredient—and that is the sarsaparilla itself.

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CSN Team.

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