Sarsaparilla (soft drink)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
For decades, until the 2010s, the historical Sioux City sarsaparilla bottle was sold at retail in the United States.

Sarsaparilla is a soft drink originally made from the vine Smilax ornata (also called 'sarsaparilla') or other plants. In most Southeast Asian countries, it is known by the common name sarsi, and the trademarks Sarsi and Sarsae. It is similar in flavour to root beer.

In the US, traditional sarsaparilla is not made with the tropical sarsaparilla plant, but instead with birch oil.


Smilax ornata, a perennial trailing vine with prickly stems that is native to Mexico and Central America, is often used as the basis for the soft drink sarsaparilla.[1] Common names include sarsaparilla,[2] Honduran sarsaparilla,[2] and Jamaican sarsaparilla.[2]

It is known in Spanish as zarzaparrilla, which is derived from the words zarza meaning "bramble" (from Basque sartzia "bramble"), and parrilla, meaning "little grape vine".[3][4][5][6][7]


Sarsaparilla was popular in the United States in the 19th century. According to advertisements for patent medicines of the period, it was considered to be a remedy for skin and blood problems.[8] Ruth Tobias notes that it evokes images of "languid belles and parched cowboys".[9]

Sarsaparilla is sometimes considered to be a type of root beer. There are dozens of brands of sarsaparilla made by microbreweries, mainly in the United States.[10]


Sarsaparilla is not readily available in most countries, although many pubs and most major supermarket chains in the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Australia stock sarsaparilla-flavoured soft drinks, and sarsaparilla remains available in the United Kingdom as a legacy of the temperance movement. Australian sarsaparilla, produced by major manufacturers such as Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, has a different flavor than American root beer or sarsaparilla.[citation needed]

Sarsi is a sarsaparilla-based drink popular in Asia.[citation needed]

United Kingdom[edit]

Sarsaparilla is produced on a small scale in the United Kingdom. Baldwin's has produced a Sarsaparilla cordial continuously since 1844. It is produced in Walworth Road, London, and it is readily available in pie and mash shops in the East End of London, where it is popular, as well as being available in most Tesco supermarkets in the world foods section. In the North of England sarsaparilla is produced by Fitzpatrick's, Britain's last temperance bar, reflecting its former importance to the temperance movement there. Maine Soft Drinks, based in Northern Ireland, also produce the drink. American soldiers stationed in Northern Ireland during World War Two are said to be responsible for the drinks popularity.

United States[edit]

Classic U.S. sarsaparilla was not made from the extract of the sarsaparilla plant, a tropical vine distantly related to the lily. It was originally made from a blend of birch oil and sassafras, the dried root bark of the sassafras tree. In this context, sassafras should not be confused with common sassafras seasoning, filé, used in Cajun cooking and made from dried and ground sassafras leaves. Sassafras was widely used as a home remedy in the 19th century; taken in sufficient doses it induces sweating, which some people thought had health benefits. Sarsaparilla made its debut as a patent medicine, an easy-to-take form of sassafras, much as Coca-Cola was first marketed in 1885 as a remedy for hangovers, headaches and morphine addiction.[11] Besides the effects of the ingredients, sodas were popular in the United States at the time, due to the belief that carbonated water had health benefits.[12] In 1960 the FDA banned the use of sassafras oil in foodstuffs after evidence accumulated showing that the main constituent, safrole, was carcinogenic.[13] Safrole is also found in filé, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, anise, black pepper, and sweet basil, but in low enough concentration to be deemed safe.[14][15]

East Asia[edit]


HeySong Sarsaparilla (Chinese: 黑松沙士) is the most popular brand of sarsaparilla drink in Taiwan. It is manufactured by HeySong Corporation.[16]

It is available in three varieties:

  • Regular — regular sarsaparilla flavor.
  • Sweetie Energy — sweet and mellow, similar to A&W's cream soda, but with added guarana extract.
  • Salty — significantly saltier with a bitter aftertaste, like Barq's root beer in the US.

Southeast Asia[edit]


In Cambodia, sarsaparilla is one of the flavors sold under the Fanta brand, bottled and distributed by Cambodia Beverage Company Ltd., a unit of the Coca-Cola SABCO Group.[17]


There are two well known sarsaparilla brands in Indonesia, Badak (from North Sumatra) and Indo Saparella (from Special Region of Yogyakarta). Badak was established by a Swiss national named Heinrich Surbeck in 1916 in Pematangsiantar, North Sumatra and Indo Saparella was established in 1960 in Yogyakarta.[18] Both brands can be found in some local restaurants and stalls.


Hi-Mark by Green Spot[citation needed] was the domestic sarsaparilla drink in Thailand. It has been discontinued in the market in 2000. F&N Sarsi is currently available in Thailand, produced by Sermsuk Public Company Limited.


In Vietnam, sarsaparilla is one of the flavors (Xá Xị) sold under the Mirinda brand, bottled and distributed by Suntory-PepsiCo Vietnam Beverage (formerly, PepsiCo Vietnam).[19]. There is also a sarsi flavored soda (Huong Xá Xị) under the Fanta brand.[20] There are two local brands offering their own sarsi drink:

  • Sá Xị Chương Dương by Chuong Duong Beverages.
  • Wonderfarm Zizy by Interfood Shareholding Company.

Sarsaparilla-flavored sodas are easily available in the south of Vietnam and much more difficult to find in Hanoi and the north.

South Asia[edit]


Nannari, also known as "Indian sarsaparilla", is popular drink in South India and usually served with club soda and lime juice.

Sarsi (brand)[edit]

A can of F&N Sarsi from Malaysia


In the Philippines, Sarsi is a brand name for a sarsaparilla drink originally manufactured by Cosmos Bottling Corporation, a local company that is now a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc.[21] Cosmos Bottling Corporation was established in 1918 as Manila Aerated Water Company.[22] Sarsi was originally branded as Cosmos Sarsaparilla until the 1970s. The unique taste that separates the current version of Sarsi from other sarsaparilla-based soft drinks is attributed to the sugar substitute saccharin, even though its "regular" formula contains high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar.


In Malaysia, F&N Sarsi (originally branded as Sarsi) is a brand name for a sarsaparilla drink manufactured by the F&N Group. It is unrelated to the brand established in the Philippines.

Sarsae (brand)[edit]

Mainland China[edit]

A bottle of Asia Sarsae sold in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

In mainland China, the drink's introduction can be traced back to the 1920s, when A. S. Watson began producing its sarsaparilla drink in Shanghai and other Chinese cities. In the 1940s, Li Zhiyang (李智扬), Li Guanling (李冠玲), Huang Youtong (黄油桶), Liang Hanqi (梁汉奇), and Wang Zhensan (王震山) were among eleven people who had worked in Watson's Canton and founded Asian Waters in Guangzhou to continue producing Sarsae there and in other mainland Chinese locations.[23]

Asia Sarsae (亚洲沙示) is now produced by Xiangxue Pharmaceutical.

Hong Kong[edit]

In Hong Kong, Sarsae (沙示) is the most popular brand of sarsaparilla drink. It is manufactured and distributed by the A. S. Watson Group, which pioneered in carbonated beverages in Hong Kong.[24] The drink was the central plot device of a 1985 film called It's a Drink, It's a Bomb (starring George Lam, John Sham and Maggie Cheung), about a hand grenade disguised as a Sarsae cola. Its explosive power is activated once its ringpull is released.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ a b c "Sarsaparilla (soft drink)". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  3. ^ Sarsaparilla
  4. ^ Davidse, G. & al. (eds.) (1994). Flora Mesoamericana 6: 1–543. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, D.F..
  5. ^ Balick, M.J., Nee, M.H. & Atha, D.E. (2000). Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Belize with Common Names an Uses: 1-246. New York Botanic Garden Press, New York.
  6. ^ Espejo Serena, A. & López-Ferrari, A.R. (2000). Las Monocotiledóneas Mexicanas una Sinopsis Florística 1(9-11): 1–337. Consejo Nacional de la Flora de México, México D.F..
  7. ^ Nelson Sutherland, C.H. (2008). Catálogo de las plantes vasculares de Honduras. Espermatofitas: 1-1576. SERNA/Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
  8. ^ "Hood's Sarsaparilla". Lowcountry Digital Library. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  9. ^ Tobias, Ruth (2007). "Sarsaparilla". In Smith, Andrew F (ed.). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford University Press. p. 550. ISBN 9780195307962.
  10. ^ "Sarsaparilla Reviews".
  11. ^ Whatever happened to the soft drink sarsaparilla? December 16, 1977 by Cecil Adams, retrieved 2013-04-30
  12. ^ "Themes for Coca-Cola Advertising (1886–1999)". Archived from the original on January 24, 2001. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
  13. ^ Dietz, Birgit; Bolton, Judy L. (2007-04-01). "Botanical Dietary Supplements Gone Bad". Chemical Research in Toxicology. 20 (4): 586–590. doi:10.1021/tx7000527. ISSN 0893-228X. PMC 2504026. PMID 17362034.
  14. ^ Dietz, Birgit; Bolton, Judy L. (April 2007). "Botanical Dietary Supplements Gone Bad". Chemical Research in Toxicology. 20 (4): 586–590. doi:10.1021/tx7000527. ISSN 0893-228X. PMC 2504026. PMID 17362034.
  15. ^ "Real Food Encyclopedia | Sassafras and Filé". FoodPrint. Retrieved 2021-01-24.
  16. ^ Jinn's Publishers et al. "Omoshiro Temakan Meguri No.4: HeySong Soft Drink Museum". Nãruhodo The Taiwan. Vol. 235. October 2006.
  17. ^ ppp_webadmin (3 July 2011). "Coca-Cola celebrates 125th Anniversary". Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  18. ^ "Three Sarsaparilla Brands That Were Hits In Indonesia (2018)". Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  19. ^ "Mirinda". Archived from the original on 2017-03-28. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  20. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ Morales, Neil Jerome C. "Cosmos sets delisting from PSEi". Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  22. ^ "Philippine Daily Inquirer - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  23. ^ Judy. "亚洲(汽水)". Guangzhou Daily. Retrieved 15 August 2012.[dead link]
  24. ^
  25. ^ "It's a Drink, It's a Bomb (1985)". Retrieved 1 April 2017.