Is Sarsaparilla Alcoholic?

Sarsaparilla is a popular that has been enjoyed for centuries. However, there seems to be some confusion regarding whether or not sarsaparilla is alcoholic. In this article, we will explore the truth behind the content in sarsaparilla and shed some light on this topic.

To start, it is important to note that traditional sarsaparilla was indeed an alcoholic beverage. It was made by fermenting the roots of the sarsaparilla plant, which gave it a slightly alcoholic content. However, in times, sarsaparilla is typically produced as a soft drink.

The change in the alcoholic content of sarsaparilla can be attributed to the shift in manufacturing methods and regulations. In the past, the sarsaparilla plant was used to extract its flavors and create the beverage. However, due to concerns over the potential health risks associated with certain compounds found in the plant, such as safrole, the use of sarsaparilla as an ingredient has been significantly reduced.

Nowadays, most commercial sarsaparilla drinks are made using artificial flavors and ingredients, which eliminates any potential alcohol content. These artificial flavors are designed to mimic the taste of the original sarsaparilla, providing a similar flavor profile without the alcoholic component.

It is worth noting that there are some sarsaparilla products on the market that do contain a small amount of alcohol. These products are often marketed as “craft” or “artisanal” sarsaparilla, and they are typically made in small batches using traditional methods. These sarsaparilla variations may have an alcohol content of around 0.5% to 1%, similar to the alcohol content found in some non-alcoholic beers.

However, it is important to read the labels carefully and understand the specific product you are purchasing. If you are looking for a completely non-alcoholic sarsaparilla, it is advisable to choose brands that explicitly state that they are alcohol-free.

While traditional sarsaparilla did have an alcoholic content, most modern commercial sarsaparilla drinks are non-alcoholic. The use of artificial flavors and ingredients has replaced the need for fermentation, resulting in a soft and refreshing beverage that can be enjoyed by all ages. However, it is always important to double-check the labels and choose products that align with your personal preferences and requirements.

Is There Alcohol In Sarsaparilla?

There is no alcohol in sarsaparilla. Sarsaparilla is a soft beverage that is non-alcoholic in nature.

is sarsaparilla alcoholic

Why Was Sarsaparilla Banned?

Sarsaparilla has been banned due to the presence of safrole, a compound that has been found to have carcinogenic effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that safrole can contribute to the development of liver cancer in rats when given in high doses. As a result, the FDA has prohibited the use of safrole and products containing it, including sarsaparilla and sassafras. This ban is based on the potential health risks associated with the consumption of safrole-containing substances.

Is Root Beer Just Sarsaparilla?

Root is not the same as sarsaparilla. While both beverages have a similar taste and were originally made from different plant roots, they have distinct differences in terms of ingredients and recipes.

Here are some key points to understand the differences between root beer and sarsaparilla:

1. Ingredients:
– Sarsaparilla: Sarsaparilla was traditionally made from the roots of the Sarsaparilla vine (Smilax regelii or Smilax ornata). The vine's root extract was used to give sarsaparilla its distinct flavor.
– Root Beer: Root beer, on the other hand, was originally made from the roots of the sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum). The roots of the sassafras tree were boiled to extract their flavor and used in root beer production. However, it is important to note that modern root beer recipes no longer include sassafras due to health concerns.

2. Flavor Profile:
– Sarsaparilla: Sarsaparilla has a unique, slightly sweet and herbal taste. It is often described as having notes of vanilla, licorice, and wintergreen.
– Root Beer: Root beer has a distinct, sweet and complex flavor profile. It typically combines flavors of wintergreen, vanilla, molasses, and various spices. The specific blend of flavors can vary depending on the brand and recipe.

3. Health Concerns:
– Sarsaparilla: While sarsaparilla was once believed to have medicinal properties, it is important to note that the health benefits have not been scientifically proven. However, sarsaparilla is generally considered safe for consumption when used in moderation.
– Root Beer: The use of sassafras in root beer has been discontinued due to health concerns. Sassafras contains a compound called safrole, which has been found to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in high doses. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of sassafras in food and beverages.

Root beer and sarsaparilla are two different beverages with similar taste profiles. Sarsaparilla is made from the roots of the Sarsaparilla vine, while root beer was historically made from the roots of the sassafras tree. However, modern root beer recipes no longer include sassafras due to health concerns.


Sarsaparilla is a non-alcoholic beverage that derives its name from the medicinal plant it was originally made from. However, modern-day sarsaparilla no longer uses the plant itself but instead relies on artificial flavors to recreate its distinct taste. Unlike some other popular soft drinks like root beer, sarsaparilla does not contain alcohol. It is important to note that in the past, both sarsaparilla and root beer were made with ingredients such as sassafras, which contained a compound called safrole. Due to its carcinogenic effects, safrole was banned by the FDA, leading to the removal of sassafras from the recipes of both beverages. Therefore, it is safe to say that sarsaparilla, as it is commonly produced today, is an alcohol-free beverage.

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Thomas Ashford

Thomas Ashford is a highly educated brewer with years of experience in the industry. He has a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and a Master Degree in Brewing Science. He is also BJCP Certified Beer Judge. Tom has worked hard to become one of the most experienced brewers in the industry. He has experience monitoring brewhouse and cellaring operations, coordinating brewhouse projects, and optimizing brewery operations for maximum efficiency. He is also familiar mixology and an experienced sommelier. Tom is an expert organizer of beer festivals, wine tastings, and brewery tours.