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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    The History of Root Beer

    The posts about ginger beer, and an off-board inquiry I received about sarsparilla, have made me wonder about the history of root beer. Based on the name, I'm guessing "root beer" was originally the generic term for any "beer" made from roots, such as ginger and smilax vine (Sarsparilla), but somehow evolved into a particular preparation. Anybody know more?

    <A target="_blank" HREF=http://cowdery.home.netcom.com>--Chuck Cowdery</A>

  2. #2
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    Re: The History of Root Beer

    I found this on a section about spices:

    http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katz...?Sass_alb.html

    "The essential oil of sassafras (obtained from the root) is, after removal of safrole, used for flavouring a concoction called root beer in the USA, which is a truly US-american beverage dating from the 19.th century. The original recipe was a lightly fermented mixture of water, sugar (or molasses) and plant extracts, but today's root beer is completely free of alcohol, being made from sugar, aromatic plants and carbonated water alone. Thus, root beer is not a beer at all, but an ordinary soft drink."

    That tallies with what I remember from making root beer from scratch, and since I harvest some every spring, I can verify that the taste and smell of fresh sassafrass roots will be familiar to any root beer fan.



  3. #3
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    Re: The History of Root Beer

    I recently bought a bottle of sassafras concentrate for making hot or cold teas. I have only used it once, as an iced tea, but it was quite good.

    Let's see, it is "Pappy's Sassafras Concentrate Instant Tea".

    Tim


  4. #4
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    Re: The History of Root Beer

    Pappy's is quite good hot, I don't think I've ever tried it cold. One nice thing about Pappy's sassafras extract, they've removed the Saffrol, the 'dangerous' ingredient of a sassafras root. I grew up drinking freshly dug sassafras and haven't died from it yet, and a spring tonic of boiled root sassafras tea once a year hasn't killed my 87 year old Granny, either. But if I want more than that one ritual batch of freshly dug root tea, I use Pappy's.

    With the good whiskey I drink, and the once a year tonic, I'll probably live to be 316 years old, and get shot by my jealous 22 year old sweetie pie for running around with 19 year old blond twin swimsuit models.


  5. #5
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: The History of Root Beer

    Behold the power of positive drinking!

    Linn Spencer

    Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

  6. #6
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    Re: The History of Root Beer

    Hi folk!

    I read somewhere that the founder of the Hires Root Beer company was a pharmacist who began brewing up batches of root beer commercially as an alternative to regular beer for either coal miners or steel workers, who were drinking it because of occupational dehydration and were having alcohol-related job accidents (something like the reason the Royal Navy stopped serving rum onboard warships in 1970). My details may be off here - perhaps someone can straighten them out.

    I can still remember my uncle Will, who was burned to death earlier this year, stumping up the hill on our orchard with a galvanized bucket of steaming sassafras tea - roots and twigs still floating in it - sweetened with wild honey. I am absolutely sure he's in Heaven now, if only for his knowledge of how to make people happy from the fruits of the land. He'd have made good bourbon, too, if that had been in his tradition.

    Ralph


  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: The History of Root Beer

    Thanks, all, for the information. I had forgotten about sassafras. How many times in old cowboy movies has someone called for a "sassafrassy" or "sarsparilly"? Presumably, sassafras was the most popular of the "root beers" and the names became synonymous, with that and ginger ale being the only survivors.

    Anyone know any other root beverages?

    <A target="_blank" HREF=http://cowdery.home.netcom.com>--Chuck Cowdery</A>

  8. #8
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: The History of Root Beer

    I'll be kind. No Chuck, no I don't.

    Linn Spencer

    Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

  9. #9
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    Re: The History of Root Beer

    I'd have to look thru a 'yarb book' or list of herbs and roots, but off the top of my head, ginseng and wild ginger are the only other roots I can think of that I'd use in a tea or beverage, I'm sure there are more but not in my experience. But there's always Birch Beer and Spruce Beer, I think those are made with 'above ground' ingredients, bark, twigs, needles, etc...


  10. #10
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    Re: The History of Root Beer

    How about chicory or dandelion root "coffee"? And I seem to remember an old recipe for carrot and/or beet wine...

    Ralph


 

 

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