Root beer

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A glass of root beer with foam.

Root beer is a carbonated, sweetened beverage, originally made using the root of the sassafras plant (or the bark of a sassafras tree) as the primary flavor. Root beer, popularized in North America, comes in two forms: alcoholic and soft drink. The historical root beer was analogous to small beer in that the process provided a drink with a very low alcohol content. Although roots are used as the source of many soft drinks throughout the world, often different names are used.

Ingredients[edit]

There are hundreds of root beer brands throughout the United States and it is produced in every US state. It is a flavor almost exclusive to North America, yet there are a few brands from other nations around the world, such as the UK, the Philippines and Thailand where the flavor often varies considerably from the typical North American drink.[1] There is no standardized recipe. The primary ingredient, artificial sassafras flavoring, is complemented with other flavors. The flavor in sassafras, safrole, has been banned by the FDA as a likely carcinogen. Common flavorings are vanilla, wintergreen, cherry tree bark, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, nutmeg, acacia, anise, molasses, cinnamon, clove and honey.

Although most mainstream brands are caffeine-free, there are some brands and varieties that contain caffeine.[2]

Homemade root beer is usually made from concentrate,[3] though it can also be made from actual herbs and roots. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic root beers have a thick and foamy head when poured, often enhanced by the addition of yucca extract.

History[edit]

The custom of brewing root beer goes back to the 18th century.[citation needed] Farm owners used to brew their own (then) light-alcoholic beverage for family get-togethers and other social events.[citation needed] During the 19th century, some pharmacists tried to sell their version of root beer as a miracle drug.[citation needed]

In 1876, dentist Charles Hires first introduced a commercial version at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.[citation needed] Hires was a teetotaler who wanted to call the beverage "root tea". However, his desire to market the product to Pennsylvania coal miners caused him to call his product "root beer" instead.[4] By 1893, root beer was sold as a bottled soft drink to the public. Especially during Prohibition, non-alcoholic versions proved to be commercially successful.

In 1960, a key ingredient (the sassafras root) came to be known as a carcinogen and its use was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[5] Following this ban, companies began experimentation with artificial flavors and preparation techniques to remove the unhealthy effects of root beer while preserving its flavor.

Main ingredients[edit]

Foam[edit]

Spices[edit]

Other ingredients[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Anthony's Root Beer Barrel
  2. ^ Root beers that contain caffeine
  3. ^ Root Beer
  4. ^ Funderburg, Anne Cooper (2002). Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains. Popular Press. pp. 93–95. ISBN 978-0879728540. 
  5. ^ Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations, Sec. 189.180: Department of Health and Human Services, 2013 [1977] 
  6. ^ Dietz, B; Bolton, Jl (Apr 2007). "Botanical Dietary Supplements Gone Bad". Chemical research in toxicology 20 (4): 586–90. doi:10.1021/tx7000527. ISSN 0893-228X. PMC 2504026. PMID 17362034.