Root Beeris basically a carbonated beverage that is made by using extracts, which initially used to come from the sassafras plant. It comes in two forms: it can either be alcoholic in nature or it can be non alcoholic i.e. it can be treated as a soft drink. Root beer is a very popular drink in North American, where it also believed to have originated. As far as the history of root beer goes, we see that the beverage has always been mildly alcoholic and was often mixed with ginger. In fact, initially, it served as a traditional beverage and herbal medicine, mainly used for treating coughs and mouth sores.
Interesting Information on Background of Root Beer
Root beer seems to have its roots in the Shakespearian times. It is stated that Shakespeare used to have ‘small beers’, usually a collection of local beverages. The drink seems to have been emerged from the early Colonial American recipe, which contained variety of herbs, barks, and roots. It was considered a light social drink, which emerged along with the other beverages like the Birch Beer, Sarsaparilla Beer, and Ginger Beer.
It is believed that farmers of the 18th century used root beer in social occasions, as alcohol. Most of the historians believe that the invention of actual root beer recipe happened by a mere accident. The medicinal quality of the beer came around in the late 19th century. The drink tasted both bitter and sweet. Though it had the curing power, it was neither well marketed nor well received by the masses in general.
Around this time only, Charles Hires, a Philadelphia pharmacist, was on his honeymoon, when he discovered herbal tea. Taking the recipe of herbs, berries and roots home to Philadelphia with him, he began selling a packaged dry mixture to the public, made from many of the same ingredients as the original herbal tea. The drink was acknowledged and he was encouraged to develop a liquid concentrate blend, from more than 25 herbs, berries and roots.
Originally named ‘Root Tea’ the name of the drink was changed to Root Beer, so as to attract larger markets of hard-drinking Pennsylvania miners. The public loved the new drink and as a result, Hires introduced commercial root beer to the public in 1876, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. In no time, it became a popular drink of its day. The Hires family continued to manufacture root beer and in 1893, sold and distributed root beer in bottle, for the first time.
Another famous brand of root beer is A & W Root Beer, founded by Roy Allen and marketed in 1919. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of sassafras oil in 1960, classifying it a carcinogen. Root Beer makers began experimenting with new and improved recipes, which would not contain the sassafras oil, hoping to find a suitable tasting alternative. Not long after the ban, the root beer industry was saved when inventors discovered that sassafras could be treated to remove the oil content and then used in root beer.