Nowadays, there are hundreds of Root Beer brands all across the United States. Though there’s 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-fat”small beer”. Poor public sanitation resulted in water-transmitted diseases which often led to death. The daily consumption of small beer was one way to escape possible infection, since the alcohol helped to kill the germs. Historical documents note that Shakespeare had partaken of small beers, George Washington had a recipe for little beer, and Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography mentions that he sometimes had a little beer with breakfast.
In Colonial America, little beer was part of the diet. As the colonists settled, they didn’t have the plants of barley or other grains to use when producing their small beer. They needed to use other sweeteners such as cane sugar, honey and molasses. For bitterness, instead of jumps, they needed to discover which plants from the new world would provide the bitterness and flavor.
A lot of these components are still used today with the inclusion of carbonation.
The invention of an actual Root Beer recipe may have occurred by accident. Using a handful of roots, herbs and berries, an unknown pharmacist came up with a beverage that was very medicinal. While the pharmacist was eager to make a miracle cure-all medication for the public, it never really took off.
From the 1870s a different pharmacist, Charles Hires, made a recipe for a tasty herbal tea. Later, the mixture of over twenty-five herbs, berries and roots was used to flavor his carbonated soda . Being a pharmacist , Hires encouraged 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 was invited to phone it Root Beer. The popularity for this soft drink skyrocked as a result of Hires mass marketing, and this soft drink soon became as American as apple pie and baseball.