Does root beer have alcohol?

In this article, we will answer whether or not root beer has alcohol in it, what is it made up of and how is it manufactured commercially.

Does root beer have alcohol?

Root beer may or may not have alcohol in it. Some of the varieties have alcohol but the majority is a sweet and caffeine-free soda drink. Root beer is native to North America. This sweet soft drink has a distinctive thick foam on top and is equally popular among children and adults. Its flavor ranges from mild to strong and can be enjoyed with an ice cream scoop on top of the foam.

Why is it called root beer?

Root beer is called so because It is literally made by extracting flavourful oils from the root of the Sassafras plant. However, USFDA banned the use of sassafras plants to obtain safrole from it in 1960, so the industry had to shift to artificial flavors. The most popular artificial flavors are vanilla, licorice root, nutmeg, acacia, clove, honey, cinnamon, cinnamon, and molasses. Famous root beer brands are Barq’s, A&W, Hires, Dad’s, and Mug.   


The history of root beer dates back to the 16th century. The native Americans started making root beer for medicinal purposes. The written recipe for root beer was released in the 1860s. Soda became an ingredient of root beer in the 1850s. Initially, the beverage was sold as a syrup and people would usually buy it to treat their illnesses.

Charles Hires is known for giving the first written recipe for root beer. Charles Hires started selling out the sassafras root extract in the name of Tea in small dry packages from which It was supposed to be brewed just like tea. Later he started calling it beer instead of tea to improve its appeal to all types of consumers.

This took place just before the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition. Hires marketed his product by selling free brewed cups of the beverage in this exhibition and made an immense audience. This change of name proved to be an excellent marketing strategy because after that this drink became the talk of the town.

As many food historians believe, root beer first started out as “small beer” This brewed drink had alcohol in it from as low as 2% to as high as 12%. Tea and small beer had the same popularity back then in medieval Europe.

How is root beer made?

Traditionally, alcoholic root beer was made from a syrup of molasses in water and combining it with the root and bark of sassafras plant and wintergreen herb. This liquid was allowed to sit and undergo fermentation for at least 12 hours. This yields a root beer with a 2 % alcohol content. If allowed to ferment for longer, the beverage would contain more alcohol. Fermentation also produces carbon dioxide gas thus adding a sparkling effect to the traditional alcoholic beer.

Presently, root beer is made with sugar, artificial flavors and is carbonated under high pressure.

What does root beer contain?

Common artificial flavors used in the present-day root beer include vanilla, caramel, wintergreen, sarsaparilla root, nutmeg, acacia, anise, molasses, cinnamon, honey. Soya protein extracted from soybean is an important ingredient used to increase the volume of the root beer foam

Components added in the traditional root beers are coriander, juniper, ginger, wintergreen, sarsaparilla, spicewood, sassafras root, vanilla beans, dog grass, molasses, and licorice

 What is the difference between root beer and sarsaparilla?

Both of these are beverages but the difference lies in their composition and ingredients. While root beer is made by the roots of the sassafras plant, sarsaparilla is made by extracting flavors from the sarsaparilla plant 

While traditionally made root beer contained the sassafras extract combined with other ingredients, the only ingredient of sarsaparilla is a sarsaparilla plant extract. This makes this drink taste bitter and pungent. To neutralize the strong pungent taste, licorice is widely used.

Is root beer a risk for health?

The practice of using the Sassafras plant to extract its flavors was banned by USDA. It was because the oil present in the plant had been found to contain carcinogenic components. Today artificial sassafras flavorings are used because root beer cannot be made without the distinctive sassafras flavor.

The present root beer, categorized as a soft drink, has the same side effects as any other sweetened carbonated beverage. If consumed too much, the beverage can lead to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity. It can cause tooth decay in children and can be addictive.


In this article, we answered whether or not root beer has alcohol in it, what is it made up of and how is it manufactured commercially.


Sana Ameer

Hello, I'm Sana Ameer. I'm a student of Food Science and Technology at UVAS. I like to bake and I aspire to become a Food blogger.

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