As the name goes, the source for the unique flavor of root beer is the root of a specific plant, called sassafras. It is a sweet, carbonated beverage basically prepared from roots and the bark of the same tree.
It is a highly popular drink in the western countries, especially in North America. Commercially sold root beer is available in two types, the non-alcoholic or soft drink version, and alcoholic version. And for preparing it at home, root beer extract and root beer concentrate are sold in grocery stores and brewing centers.
List of Ingredients
Previously, root beer extract was exclusively made from sassafras roots. But, scientific researches have shown that they contain traces of cancer causing agents, which are harmful for health in the long run. Thus, the FDA banned the use of sassafras root as a major source for foods and beverages in United States. Most of the extracts sold in the market contain a low percentage of the real root extract, and high amounts of artificial flavoring and complementary spices. Listed below are the various ingredients used in commercially sold extracts of root beer.
- Sassafras root
- Root beer plant
- Sweet birch
- Black birch
- Spruce (red and black varieties)
Spices and Foam Ingredients
- Cane sugar
- Yucca root
- Soapbark (or soap bark)
Another option is buying this extract online. Conduct a brief search on the Internet and you will come across many sites that offer root beer products at a discounted rate. Check the label carefully and the brand, before adding any of them in your shopping cart. A 2-ounce bottle of the extract may cost somewhere about USD 10 or more, based on the brand.
Making Root Beer at Home
Well-made, frizzy root beer is an all-time favorite drink to beat the scorching heat in summer. No summer party or backyard party would be complete without serving this delectable drink. So, many people keep a stock of root beer extract and concentrate before the arrival of summer. If available, the actual roots can be used for making this sweet beverage. In case of non-availability, you can still prepare tasty soft drink with the concentrate or extract. All you need is the extract, sugar, water and dry ice (for carbonation purpose).
As the extract is a concentrated form of flavoring, you need to add specific amounts of it. Or else, it overpowers other recipe ingredients and gives an altered taste. For making one gallon of homemade root beer, dissolve 1 pound of sugar in 1 gallon of potable water.
Stir in sufficient amount of extract (quantity depends on the strength of the extract), as per the directions given on the bottle. To this, mix 1 pound of dry ice and let the concoction sit for some time, or until dry ice is completely sublimated. Fill in a good quality plastic container and refrigerate it overnight before serving. For serving kids, add a scoop of ice cream on top of root beer.
So, try these beverages and drink recipes with different brands of extract and enjoy home-brewed root beer. Do not make the mistake of filling liquid concoction directly in a container and sealing it. Otherwise, pressure buildup by dry ice may cause bursting of the container. While storing root beer extracts, do not expose them to high heat or direct sunlight, as the rate of evaporation is very fast.