The root beer made famous by the A&W Restaurants, is a non-alcholic, caffeine free, sweet, carbonated soft drink made using the root bark of the sassafras tree . A similar drink that tastes like root beer is made of the smilax vine, known as sarsaparilla. The main modern ingredients include filtered water, sugar, and safrole-free sassafras extract with added flavoring such as vanilla, caramel, wintergreen, black cherry, and licorice. My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, included a recipe for root beer in her book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines, published in 1909. The recipe includes a brief fermentation time so was probably slightly alcoholic. Photo Credit Wikipedia

Here is a recipe from 1909 in the words of my grandmother:

Take one and one-half gallons of molasses, add five gallons of water at 60 Fahr. Let this stand two hours; then pour into a barrel, and add one-quarter pound powdered or bruised sassafra bark, one-quarter pound powdered or bruised wintergreen bark, one-quarter pound bruised sarsaparilla root, one half pint yeast, water enough to fill the small barrel. Ferment for twelve hours and bottle.

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By Karen