What Is Root Beer Supposed To Taste Like?

  • By: Max S.
  • Date: October 17, 2022
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Root beer is a non-alcoholic, caffeine-free, carbonated soft drink primarily famous in North America. This fan-favorite beverage became popularized around the 1890s and was especially cherished during the Prohibition era. 

However, since root beer is famous mainly in North America, people from all over the globe wonder what root beer is supposed to taste like.

To answer curious minds, the flavor profile of root beer is sweet with hints and undertones of various ingredients, which combine to give a uniquely fresh and herbal flavor.

Traditionally, root beer was prepared by cooking the root and bark of a North American tree called Sassafras with wintergreen in molasses (liquid sugar) and water, along with yeast. After that, the mixture was left to ferment, which yielded a beverage with an alcohol content of about 2%.

Molasses are what made it sweet, as sugar water served as a base of this beverage. The sassafras root gave it an earthy, bitter flavor with a slight ginger-like spiciness, while the sassafras bark enhanced the earthy flavor of the drink. 

Sassafras was eventually found to have carcinogenic properties by the FDA and was thus replaced by Wintergreen, which gave the root beer a minty, menthol undertone. 

Is Root Beer an Acquired Taste

Most people who didn’t grow up drinking root beer tend not to enjoy it at all. Therefore, root beer is an acquired taste and largely unknown outside Canada and the US. 

Although the origins of root beer are exclusive to North America, people from all over the globe try the cultural drink due to its popularity. However, it turns out that there aren’t many who like this drink. Most describe it as in-the-face sweet and something only Americans can relish. 

Due to the beverage’s unpopularity in different regions around the globe, it’s difficult to find root beer in a store close to you. 

Is Root Beer Black Licorice

After FDA banned sassafras due to its carcinogenic properties, brands started using black licorice as a root beer flavoring. The use of black licorice made the most sense as sassafras, and black licorice tasted similar, were both roots, and were extracted the same way. 

People still loved root beer despite its new taste, and black licorice became a permanent root beer flavor.

However, root beer is not entirely black licorice. In the present-day, root beer could be black licorice flavored, which is a delicacy and can easily be made at home!

Plus, candies with flavorings of root beer licorice are pretty popular too.

Why Do I Hate Root Beer

Many people dislike root beer for several reasons. It is a concoction of some intense flavors which don’t seem to go together. Root beer is both sweet and bitter, has undertones of mint and thick consistency, and weirdly, has an oily aftertaste too.

Root beer doesn’t have too many fans worldwide due to its peculiar taste. Plus, let’s face it, for those who haven’t tried this beverage before, it takes time for their tastebuds to get used to it. So if you hate root beer, you’re not alone. 

However, if you want to uncover the mystery behind root beer, you can get a mixed case of premium root beers from different brands on Amazon, and you might just find the perfect beverage! 

Why Does Root Beer Taste Like Mint /Mouthwash/Toothpaste

root beer soda next to mouth wash

Okay, you might be thinking: “Mouthwash? Really? Who would ever want to drink this?”

As odd as it might sound, root beer does taste a bit like mouthwash because of its minty undertone.

One of the main ingredients in a root beer, wintergreen, is a common ingredient in Listerine mouthwash, which is why the flavor profile of mouthwash in root beer might stand out to some people. 

Why Does Root Beer Taste Like Medicine

This might be surprising news to you, but after Coca-Cola, root beer is another famous soft drink that used to be considered a medicine. According to the Dr. Pepper Museum, root beer was marketed and sold as a cure-all in the 1800s.

Root beer tastes like medicine because one of its main ingredients, the sassafras herb extract, was used to treat various ailments, such as nose and throat swelling. However, even after sassafras was banned, companies mimicked the taste of the plant extract. 

Root beer companies also use flavorings such as wintergreen leaf and licorice root, ginger, and cherry bark, which are common herbal remedies and are often used in medicines. These common ingredients are what might make root beer taste like medicine.

Why Does Root Beer Taste Like Licorice

Although the original root beer did not contain licorice, today, licorice is used by companies as a popular root beer flavor. After the discontinued use of sassafras as the vital ingredient in root beer, many other tastes, including licorice, came to light. 

So if your root beer tastes like licorice, it is because black licorice root is one of its key ingredients!

Also, non-licorice-flavored root beer might have an undertone resembling licorice’s flavor. This is because the sassafras extract and licorice are both derived from roots of herbs and have similar notes. 

Root Beer Is Too Sweet

Root beer drinkers describe root beer as a sweet carbonated beverage, and most people who try it for the first time dislike root beer for its intense sweetness. 

Unfortunately, root beer indeed has high sugar content. Root beer contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and has a whopping 64 grams of added sugar per 6.9-oz single serving bottle, according to a study by Michigan State University. 

Sugar is added to mask the overpowering bitterness and earthiness of the root, but sugar gives root beer its smooth and velvety mouthfeel. Sugary soft drinks are a favorite worldwide; it is just root beer that is a bit more intense. 

However, if you enjoy root beer and want to be healthy simultaneously, there’s some good news: Diet and zero sugar versions of this fan favorite drink are also available. 

Root Beer Is Too Acidic

All carbonated drinks are acidic, but in this case, root beer is found to be the least acidic of the bunch! Root beer has the lowest acidity levels on the pH scale than any other soda: an average of 4 and 5. For example, A&W root beer has a pH level of 4.75.

So, no, root beer is not too acidic. On the contrary, the acidity in the root beer makes it light and enjoyable, and therefore, a couple of cans of this delicious drink won’t make you worry about your tooth enamel. How great is that? 

Root Beer Is Too Salty

root beer soda nutrition label

Sodium Content in Root Beer

Right off the bat, root beer is considerably sweet, but as the various flavors melt in your mouth, it also has a bitter taste that can jump right at you.

An average can of root beer contains 48 grams of sodium

Salt is a natural flavor enhancer, and the mix of savory and sweet has made root beer popular. However, if an overpowering salty flavor profile does not please your palate, you might want to delve into other root beer flavors that are not too salty for your liking.

If you’re making root beer at home and accidentally add too much salt, don’t worry! You can always make more root beer to add to the overly salty root beer. The more, the merrier, right? 

Root Beer Is Too Old

In terms of history, root beer is about 200 years old. It started to be sold in stores as early as the 1840s and never really left the shelves after that. It is an old but traditional drink. 

In terms of the aging of root beer cans, root beers, if unopened, can last 6 to 9 months later than the expiration date. On the other hand, refrigerated cans can last up to two years after expiration. Therefore, your can of root beer cannot be too old if stored properly. 

So a nice cold can of your favorite root beer is never too old to drink. 

On the other hand, if root beer has gone bad, it might taste funny and overly sour. In that case, throw it out and grab yourself another can from a fresh batch!

Root Beer Is Too Thick 

root beer soda in frosty mug

Usually, root beer is characterized by a thick and foamy top. The consistency of the drink itself is velvety and frothy and tastes smooth due to the added sugars. 

If the root beer you made feels a tad bit too thick, it might be because you cooked it too much! 

Also, artificial carbonation of root beer affects the amount and size of bubbles in a freshly poured frosty mug of root beer. It produces a large number of tiny bubbles and is what gives root beer its characteristic thick, foamy top.

A root beer’s thick, velvety consistency comes from the drink’s base, molasses, and water. During the cooking process, high fructose syrup and water are combined and cooked for a long time. This extended process yields a thick sugary liquid that serves as a primary mixture, and other ingredients are added to make this delicacy!


Even though the taste of root beer has evolved over the years, a few things have stayed consistent: the signature sweet, earthy flavor with undertones of root bitterness and mint with a hint of salt makes this cold beverage a cult classic. 

So what are you waiting for? Grab a root beer now and see if you’re a fan or not!