Today, there are hundreds of Root Beer brands all across america. Though there is no one recipe, this favorite soft drink flavor has definitely found its place in American history, and is a favorite of young and old.
This beverage really started as a two percentage low alcohol”small beer”. “Little beers” date back to the 13th century. Poor public sanitation led to water-transmitted diseases which often resulted in death. The daily consumption of small beer was one way to escape possible infection, as the alcohol helped to kill the germs. Historical documents note that Shakespeare had partaken of small beers, George Washington had a recipe for small beer, and Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography mentions that he sometimes had a little beer with breakfast.
In Colonial America, little beer was part of their diet. Since the colonists settled, they did not possess the crops of barley or other grains to use when making their little beer. They needed to use other sweeteners like cane sugar, honey and molasses. For bitterness, rather than jumps, they needed to discover which plants in the new world would provide the bitterness and flavor.
Many of those components are still used today with the inclusion of carbonation.
The invention of an actual Root Beer recipe may have happened by accident. Using a handful of roots, berries and herbs, an unknown pharmacist created a drink that was very medicinal. While the pharmacist was excited to create a miracle cure-all drug for the general public, it never really took off.
From the 1870s another pharmacist, Charles Hires, made a recipe for a delicious herbal tea. Later, the mixture of over twenty-five herbs, roots and berries was used to flavor his carbonated soda water. Being a pharmacist , Hires promoted his Root Beer as a good-for-you brew, and he called his new product”root tea”. But to appeal to a larger audience, he had been encouraged to call it Root Beer. The prevalence with this soft drink skyrocked as a consequence of Hires mass advertising, and this soft drink soon became as American as apple pie and baseball.