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What is sarsaparilla?

classic soda fountain history of soda

Remember Sunday morning cartoons when Yosemite Sam walks into a bar and orders a SAS-pa-RELla? Ever wonder what that is? Or maybe you're lucky enough to have tried a refreshingly cold mug of sarsaparilla at some point. Maybe you thought it tasted a heck of a lot like root beer. Well, it basically is a type of root beer. Sarsaparilla is made from the root of Smilax ornata, a vine native to parts of Central and South America and the Caribbean. Root beer can be made from numerous plants, though most modern flavors use winter green extract combined with other flavors such as licorice and vanilla.


The  tuberous roots of the sarsaparillla plant has been used medicinally for centuries by indigenous cultures. WebMD states that the herb can be used to treat many ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and even leprosy. It can also be used to combat inflammation as well as protect the liver. It is widely used to cure upset stomach and indigestion.

Sarsaparilla is a great example of the medicinal history of soda. These concoctions were originally made with real ingredients, herbs and sweeteners and mixed with carbonated or mineral water to help with general ailments. Small craft bottlers are reverting back to the old fashioned way of making sarsaparilla. Visit here to see our selection of sarsaparillas and root beers.

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