It appears that either you are a die-hard fan or you turn the other way at the mention of root beer. It is one of the most beloved soft drinks in America, yet many people do not like the flavor! There are dozens of flavors of root beer available from virtually every manufacturer. Therefore, just because you don’t like product A, doesn’t mean you won’t love product B!
The taste of root beer is sweet with hints of salt, with a bitter undertone. Mint is evident, but it’s more of a menthol-like, refreshing flavor. Vanilla, licorice, anise, cherry bark, nutmeg, cinnamon, acacia, and sweet birch are also typical flavor notes. We will explore exactly what you can expect from this popular soda today as well as how it changes based on how it is made.
What Is Root Beer?
There’s a good chance (depending on where you are in the world) you drink this refreshing drink on a weekly or monthly basis. However, you either enjoy it or not. Especially when it comes to root beer, its flavor has been a source of controversy. Some people love the taste, while others think it tastes like mouthwash! Regardless, let’s first have a look at root beer. This drink originated in North America. It is technically classified as a soft drink because it has been carbonated, sweetened, and artificially flavored.
It is traditionally made with the bark of the sassafras tree or sarsaparilla, but today most root beer products are made with syrup, extract, or essence – all artificial flavors. The foamy head on root beer makes it unique – just like real beer! However, root beer doesn’t taste like beer and is not usually alcoholic. There is nothing better than a cold, refreshing gulp of root beer on a hot summer day. Root beer is usually non-alcoholic, caffeine-free, and heavily carbonated.
How Is Root Beer Made?
As a matter of fact, root beer is mass-produced today in a similar way to other soft drinks. Since the flavor is entirely artificial, the process is relatively simple. Although root beer was originally a homemade beverage, a lot of people still make authentic root beer using these techniques. After boiling and cooling molasses and water, sassafras root and bark are added, as well as occasionally wintergreen.
There are also two fermentation stages in which yeast is added to the mixture leading to a low alcohol percentage of 2%. However, some people modify their recipes in order to make the drink more alcoholic. This method doesn’t involve any carbonation, but the yeast’s bubbles during fermentation make the drink fizzy. Try making homemade root beer with this video from Glen And Friends Cooking on YouTube!
What Does Root Beer Taste Like Today?
Since root beer is made by different manufacturers, its taste is very complex and much debated. Unlike cream soda or ginger ale, which have set recipes, root beer can be made in a variety of ways. There are people who absolutely love this flavor, and there are people who cannot get enough of it. The exact taste is almost impossible to describe. However, there are still a few general guidelines.
Initially, root beer is very sweet, but it has a noticeable salty and bitter taste as well. If you buy homemade root beer, you will naturally taste the bitter flavors of sarsaparilla. Salt adds the salty flavor, which is intended to help create a more balanced flavor and enhance the natural flavor of the food.
Most root beers contain mint and wintergreen as prominent flavors. Besides vanilla, cherry bark, licorice, nutmeg, anise, cinnamon, acacia, honey, and sweet birch, some manufacturers use these flavors as well. Despite its low percentage, alcoholic root beer will have a more yeasty flavor than regular root beer.
Does Root Beer Taste The Same For Everyone?
You can probably guess from the ingredients above that root beer does not have one particular flavor. So no, root beer will not taste the same for everyone. The first reason is that different root beers are made with different recipes and ingredients, so it’s impossible to compare their flavors. Person A may prefer one over another. We may never know why they differ in opinion. It may simply be that one ingredient in root beer makes them dislike it.
Root beer tastes differently to people depending on their taste buds, which is the second major factor. Compared to papaya, root beer tastes a lot like vomit. Some people say it’s rich, sweet, and tropical, while others say it tastes like vomit. In any food or drink, people taste ingredients differently. This applies to both foods and drinks. Although root beer has a similar flavor, taste buds differ. Even if the ingredients are the same, root beer will taste different to everyone.
Are There Other Sodas That Taste Like Root Beer?
The root beer industry has many manufacturers, but in general, root beer is considered to be a soda or soft drink. Because root beer has such a unique flavor, there isn’t much else like it. There are some slight differences between sarsaparilla soft drinks and root beer, as sarsaparilla is also used to make root beer. From our list of lesser-used ingredients above, you can see that sweet birch is also added to some root beer recipes. Therefore, some people might be able to make a comparison between the two.
Dr Pepper is another soda that is often compared to root beer, although the two are not made with the same ingredients. Dr Pepper contains vanilla, along with other spices that some brands of root beer may also contain. Therefore, it depends on the brand you’re talking about.
There is a wide variety of root beer-flavored drinks, but they cannot be considered sodas per se. They are more of a specific product, such as root beer flavored seltzer.
History Of Root Beer And How The Flavor Has Changed
This is not a matter of size – these are alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages made from berries, herbs, and bark. They used whatever they could find to make their small beers. Naturally, sassafras and sarsaparilla were among these. While the base ingredients remain the same, the accompanying flavors and production methods have changed throughout history.
There were a few different forms available back then, but all of them were mixed at home with sugar, water, and yeast. People eventually began mixing root beer extract with soda to make their own root beer drinks (you can do the same). Charles Elmer Hires, an American pharmacist, introduced commercially branded root beer in 1875.
In the beginning, he wanted to sell it as “root tea”, but coal miners preferred the name “root beer”. Hires root beer has been made continuously since 1876, when Keurig Dr Pepper began marketing it. To date, it is said to be the longest continuously made soft drink in the world.
After sassafras was banned in 1976, manufacturers had to find an alternative, yet similar source of this unique flavor. Enter wintergreen. In fact, wintergreen is the most common flavor most people taste. While many manufacturers attempt to mimic sassafras flavor, some simply use wintergreen extract.
Are All Root Beers Safe To Drink?
The United States banned the use of sassafras root for a while because it contained a toxin called safrole. Safrole is still prohibited in the manufacture of root beer. Root beer manufacturers and homemade producers began using cherry bark instead of sassafras root, which was later found to contain cyanide.
At the end of the day, many people believe that everything is poisonous in some way or another. Even sugar and artificial ingredients are considered poisonous. It’s up to you to make a conscious decision for yourself. Always read the label and make an educated decision.
Substitutes For Root Beer Flavor
Since root beer flavor is so complex, there’s no single substitute for it. It also depends on what type of flavor you use. When you add root beer soda to a recipe, your substitute must also be soda, but when you use an extract, your substitute can be an extract as well. The best substitute for root beer extract is root beer-flavored syrup, concentrate, or essence. These are all used to flavor recipes without affecting the consistency.
Usually we don’t make root beer substitutes at home since it takes too much time. However, if you want to give it a try, here are some ideas to get you started! You can also use licorice, or a similar flavored ingredient. Star anise, anise, and anise seeds all have licorice notes. Many professional bakers use orange blossom water (our favorite), ginger juice, and cherry extract. We also have a theory that cherry extract might work, since many manufacturers use it in their recipes.
The flavor can be enhanced with a little mint to give it that refreshing bite! A soda substitute can be made by mixing extracts into carbonated water or tonic water, or by choosing a root beer-flavored beverage.
Who Makes The Best Root Beer?
Which commercial root beer is the best? Who wins the flavor war with their own unique recipe? Answer: your vote counts! Each root beer manufacturer’s flavor depends on their unique recipe, and everyone’s taste buds are different, so declaring the best root beer is impossible. There are, however, some brands that have been around for quite some time.
It is safe to say that A&W is one of the most famous root beer manufacturers in the world, and its root beer is of exceptional quality. Barq’s Root Beer, Sprecher Root Beer, IBC, and Virgil’s Handcrafted Root Beer are also popular brands.
Can you describe the taste of a root beer float?
Like most floats, root beer floats are made by adding cold soda to a glass (preferably chilled) and topping it with vanilla ice cream. Overall, the flavor of the soda remains unchanged: minty, zesty, vanilla-like with undertones of licorice and cherries.
The ice cream adds creaminess and a stronger vanilla flavor to the root beer soda. As soon as the ice cream melts, the soda turns creamier and loses its fizz.
Does root beer contain any beer or alcohol?
Almost all root beer sodas and soft drinks contain no alcohol at all. In fact, very few root beer beverages contain alcohol at all. There are some people who like their root beer with a higher alcohol percentage than 2%. However, most homemade root beer drinks do not contain more than 2% alcohol.
Why does root beer foam on the top?
There is a difference between root beer foam and beer foam. Root beer foam is primarily caused by sassafras’ natural properties. Root beer made with wintergreen will not foam like root beer. The soda will foam once it comes into contact with the ice cream and releases the carbon dioxide bubbles trapped in the dairy. This results in a frothy, foamy drink.