In her book, Old Time Recipes for Home made Wines, my paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, gives a recipe for sarsaparilla mead that calls for Spanish sarsaparilla. Sarsaparilla belongs to the genus Smilax and could be S. ornata, S. regelii, or S. officinalis . These are all vines and are native to central and south America, not Spain. so the species meant by Grandmother is unclear. The root of the plants seems to be the most commonly used part but again Grandmother is not clear about the part of the plant meant in her recipe; perhaps it was common knowledge so she did not include it. Today, the term sarsaparilla refers to a soft drink similar to rootbeer.
Here is the recipe for sarsaparilla mead in the words of my grandmother:
One-half pound of Spanish sarsaparilla. Boil five hours, so as to strain off one gallon. Add eight pounds sugar, five ounces of tartaric acid. One-quarter of a wine-glass of syrup to one gill of water, and one quarter of a teaspoonful of soda water, is a fair proportion for a drink.