What is Root Beer Made Of? Here’s the Recipe for You

Curiosity often strikes when we come across a distinct and delightful beverage known as root beer. Have you ever wondered, “What is root beer made of?”

Fleet Street Kitchen, too, have been intrigued by this question, eager to uncover the ingredients that contribute to its unique flavor profile. Root beer, a beloved and popular soft drink, has a rich history and an equally rich composition.

Join us as we embark on a flavorful exploration, delving into the depths of root beer’s ingredients, its brewing process, and the magical alchemy that gives it that signature taste.

What is Root Beer Made Of

What is Root Beer?

Root beer is a sweet North American soft drink that is typically non-alcoholic, caffeine-free, sweet, and carbonated. It is traditionally made using the root bark of the sassafras tree Sassafras albidum or the vine of Smilax ornata (known as sarsaparilla), which gives it its primary flavor.

History of Root Beer

The exact origins of root beer are not entirely clear, but it is believed to have been first made by Native Americans using the roots of various plants for medicinal purposes.

Later, in the 18th century, European settlers in America began to make their own versions of root beer using ingredients like sassafras, wintergreen, and birch bark.

Root beer became increasingly popular in the 19th century, and by the early 20th century, it was being produced on a large scale by companies like A&W and Hires. Today, root beer is enjoyed by millions of people around the world as a refreshing and nostalgic beverage.

Ingredients of Root Beer

The ingredients used to make root beer can vary depending on the recipe, but typically include a combination of the following:

Ingredient Description
Sassafras Root Bark Provides the primary flavor of root beer
Sarsaparilla Root Used to enhance the flavor of root beer
Birch Bark Used to provide a wintergreen flavor
Vanilla Used to provide a creamy flavor
Anise Used to provide a licorice-like flavor
Molasses Used to provide sweetness and color
Honey Used to provide sweetness and flavor
Cinnamon Used to provide a spicy flavor

Other ingredients that may be used include ginger, nutmeg, and clove. Some recipes also call for yeast, which is used to carbonate the root beer.

Root Beer Recipe


The ingredients needed to make root beer are:

10 cups water
1/4 cup sarsaparilla root
1/4 cup ginger root
1/4 cup licorice root
1/4 cup dandelion root
1/4 cup birch bark
2 star anise pods
1/4 cup sassafras bark
1 1/2 cups turbinado sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 teaspoon Champagne yeast


To make root beer, follow these instructions:

  1. Fill a large stock pot with 10 cups water, and then spoon in the sarsaparilla, ginger, licorice, dandelion, birch, and star anise. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes, and then stir in the sassafras bark, and continue simmering a further 15 minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat, and strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a large pot. Add the remaining 2 quarts water along with turbinado sugar and molasses. Stir until mixture is integrated, then cover.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, sprinkle yeast over the mixture, and stir gently. Cover the pot with a clean towel, and let it sit in a warm, dark place for 2 to 3 days.
  4. After 2 to 3 days, the root beer should be fizzy and ready to drink. Pour into bottles or jars, and store in the refrigerator until ready to consume.

Variations of Root Beer

Alcoholic Root Beer

Alcoholic root beer is a variation of traditional root beer that contains a small amount of alcohol. It is usually made by adding a small amount of vodka or rum to the traditional root beer recipe. However, some brands have started producing alcoholic root beer that contains up to 5% alcohol by volume.

Alcoholic Root Beer

Alcoholic root beer has gained popularity in recent years, particularly among young adults. It is often marketed as a substitute for beer, with a sweeter taste and lower alcohol content. However, it is important to note that alcoholic root beer is still an alcoholic beverage and should be consumed in moderation.

Sugar-Free Root Beer

Sugar-free root beer is a variation of traditional root beer that is made without the addition of sugar. Instead, it is sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, or stevia.

Sugar-free root beer is a popular choice for people who are watching their sugar intake, such as those with diabetes. However, it is important to note that some artificial sweeteners can have negative health effects if consumed in large quantities.

When choosing a sugar-free root beer, it is important to read the label carefully and choose a brand that uses a safe and healthy artificial sweetener.


In conclusion, we have explored the fascinating world of root beer and answered the question, “What is root beer made of?” Root beer is a delightful and complex beverage that combines a variety of ingredients to create its unique flavor profile.

It typically consists of a mixture of roots, herbs, spices, and sweeteners. The exact combination can vary depending on the recipe and the brand, but common ingredients include sassafras, sarsaparilla, birch bark, licorice root, wintergreen, anise, and molasses or cane sugar for sweetness.

These ingredients are carefully selected and blended to create the distinct taste that we associate with root beer. Whether enjoyed on its own or used as a base for floats and other concoctions, root beer continues to be a beloved and refreshing beverage that has captivated taste buds for generations.

Executive Chef | Website | + posts

Chef Michael Correll began his restaurant career near his home in his teens as a pizza cook, but soon moved to Philadelphia where he first landed at Jones, an acclaimed Stephen Starr restaurant on Chesntut Street.

It was also in Philadelphia that Chef Correll pursued his culinary education, graduating from the Art Institute of Philadelphia in 2008.

After school he worked for Chef Marc Plessis at Nineteen in the Park Hyatt Hotel before moving to Pinehurst, North Carolina to open the Carolina Room.

See what Baltimoresun.com and Baltimoremagazine.com say about him.

Leave a Comment