Where Does Root Beer Get Its Flavor From? 

  • By: Max S.
  • Date: December 23, 2022
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Root beer gets its flavor from the root of a tree native to North America: sassafras. However, root beer flavors have been devised over time, and many root beer flavors are now widespread.

Root beer is mainly characterized by its sweet, minty flavor and bitter undertone. It is a delicious blend of herbs and spices on a base of a sugar-water mixture. Root beer is an unexpected mix of flavors, which is why it is also a favorite. 

But what does root beer consist of making it such a fan favorite? Let us take a look at its ingredients to find out. 

The flavor of root beer that made it such a cult classic is sassafras root–the key ingredient in root beer. The sweetness of sugar with carbonated water with the added zing and bitterness of sassafras root gives root beer a mind-blowing mix of flavors, making it a cultural staple.  

Through the years, root beer makers have introduced many flavorings of root beer, including ginger, licorice (the most famous), black cherry root, vanilla (another popular one), caramel, honey, cinnamon, et cetera.

As time went on, pure cane molasses were substituted with high fructose corn syrup, and artificial carbonation started being added, as was additional sassafras root for a more enhanced flavor. 

However, the base note of root beer remained the same: sassafras, which is still the key flavor note found in root beers today despite now being used as a synthesized safrole-free extract. 

Root Beer Ingredients

Traditionally, root beer was made from the root of sassafras, a North American tree, molasses (a type of liquid sugar) with water, wintergreen, and yeast. 

Today, the use of sassafras root isn’t permitted. Instead, an artificially made sassafras extract is used, which is safrole free, devoid of any carcinogenic properties, and labeled as “natural and artificial flavor” on root beer cans of most companies. 

According to EWG’s Food Scores, a can of root beer generally contains high fructose corn syrup, carbonated water, caramel color, sodium benzoate (to increase acidity, preserve and increase shelf life), citric acid, calcium disodium EDTA (preservative of texture, flavor, and color) and quillaia extract (foaming agent). 

How Many Root Beer Flavors Are There

Don’t be disappointed if you dislike the original root beer flavor. Instead, you’re most likely to find your staple flavor among the array of root beer flavors devised over the years. 

Root beer is a drink that is enjoyed by many all over the world. It is a staple in many people’s diets which is also why, despite the FDA’s ban on the use of sassafras, root beer companies produced a safrole-free sassafras extract, so root beer drinkers could still enjoy their favorite beverage.

Companies have come up with a number of them to cover all taste palettes, so it won’t be difficult to make your pick. 

Ginger, licorice, anise, cherry, nutmeg, vanilla, caramel, wintergreen, black cherry, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, nutmeg, anise, cinnamon, sweet birch, and honey are some flavors root beer is sold in. 

Caramel cream root beer is sweetened with pure cane sugar, vanilla root beer made with aged vanilla is the perfect combination, ginger root beer has the added zing of the ginger flavor (a must try!), while the black cherry root beer has more of a fruity taste and is made with black cherry root. 

Root Beer Types

Regarding flavor profile, root beer is of two types: creamy and spicy. 

Creamy root beer is sweet and smooth, with a round flavor. These root beers are mostly flavored with vanilla, cherry, caramel, honey, et cetera. A&W, Sioux City, and Sprecher root beers are good examples of creamy root beer. 

On the other hand, spicy root beers can be defined by the zing in their flavor profile. They are also sweet but have an added, complex flavor profile thanks to the spices. 

These root beers are mostly flavored with nutmeg, anise, cinnamon, licorice, et cetera. Dad’s root beer and Barq’s root beer are good examples. 

Are Root Beer And Sarsaparilla The Same

The question of sarsaparilla and root beer confuses many people, but the answer is simple. In Australia and NZ, root beer is sold under Bundaberg Sarsaparilla. Whereas in Canada and the US, the same recipe is sold under the root beer label.  

Some locals argue that Sarsapilla, native to Australia and NZ, has always been a carbonated soft drink, whereas the US and Canada version of root beer was previously uncarbonated. 

However, even today, it is relatively easy to find an uncarbonated bottle of traditional root beer, while in Australia and NZ, that’s not a thing! So, root beer can technically be an uncarbonated beverage in the US and Canada. But, on the other hand, in the regions of Australia and NZ, it will always be a carbonated soft drink everybody loves. 

It’s all just technicalities! No matter what root beer lovers on the opposite side of the globe say, carbonation or no carbonation, root beer will taste the same with just the difference of some fizz.

So if you’re traveling, don’t be afraid to grab a bottle of sarsaparilla to satisfy your root beer cravings; the taste won’t be much different! 

Root Beer With Vanilla

Root beer with vanilla is a famous flavor and a fan favorite. The creaminess of vanilla goes perfectly with the sweetness of root beer. As a result, root beer with vanilla has become a cultural staple. 

Aged vanilla provides a smooth taste, adds to the creaminess, and amplifies the herbal headiness of root beer. These characteristics of vanilla make vanilla-flavored root beer such a classic! 

A&W is a widely loved root beer brand made with aged vanilla. Whenever someone mentions root beer, an A&W root beer can is what shows up in our minds. Frostie vanilla root beer is also a thirst-quenching delight!

No matter what flavor profiles you’re into, it is pretty hard to pass on a root beer flavor that floats your boat. 

With the mention of “float,” root beer float is a popular cream soda. A tall, cold glass of root beer with a delicious, creamy full scoop of vanilla ice cream on top makes the perfect combination that tastes heavenly.

You surely do not want to miss out on that. If you want a suggestion, Dad’s root beer is the perfect combo for an ideal root beer float! 

Which Brands Of Root Beer Are Caffeine Free

Nowadays, we watch our caffeine intake to avoid its adverse effects. As a result, people tend to gravitate towards caffeine-free beverages, and rightfully so! Why compromise your health when you can be healthy and enjoy a delicious root beer? 

A&W root beer and A&W root beer diet are both caffeine free, and so are Mug root beer, Barq’s diet root beer, and Olipop Classic root beer. 

However, all root beers made at home are also caffeine free! So your homemade glass of root beer is caffeine free as it is perfect!

Which Brands Of Root Beer Have Caffeine

Traditionally, root beer did not contain caffeine. However, synthesized sassafras extract contains caffeine. Caffeine can be an added benefit or a con, depending on a person’s diet, but it poses no problem as adding caffeine to popular root beer brands can easily be distinguished. 

Barq’s root beer is notable for its caffeine content, with 22.5 milligrams per 12-ounce can. 

Which root beer brands are sugar-free

The quest for finding the perfect kind of food that fits your calorie intake is never-ending. Root beer is no different. However, one should not have to sacrifice their root beer cravings to stay healthy.

A couple of years ago, root beer came under fire for containing outrageously unhealthy amounts of sugar. A whopping 42 grams of sugar per bottle of root beer left people questioning their daily root beer intake.

To deal with the outcry, the most popular root beer brands came out with diet and sugar-free versions of our widely-loved fan favorite root beer. As a result, today, supermarkets stock diet and sugar-free versions of root beer as well as they do the classic. 

Now, we can enjoy our favorite root beer and stay healthy. 

The most famous diet root beer brands are A&W, Virgil’s zero sugar, Zevia zero sugar root beer, soda stream root beer, Shasta diet root beer, Bang energy root beer drink, and Barq’s diet root beer.

Plus, Fit soda natural root beer float, Dad’s old-fashioned root beer diet and Stewart’s diet root beer are all brands that now produce zero sugar/sugar-free or zero calorie root beers for us to enjoy freely!


Root beer’s lengthy history and considerable time in the market have urged producers to manufacture root beer according to and while considering the consumer’s needs. 

This, in turn, has left us with the blessing that we do not have to sacrifice our heavenly can of root beer to stay healthy! 

Also, we can now find root beer at our nearest supermarkets in various flavors, which is an added benefit. So change it up from time to time and still enjoy the taste of your favorite beverage!