What are some old fashioned root beer recipes?

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Answered by: Dennis, An Expert in the 20th Century History - General Category
Root Beer’s Roots

Believe it or not, root beer actually started out as a medicine! It was always considered healthy to drink mineral water which was naturally bubbly. Many historians think that root beer was created in an attempt to find that “miracle cure” for the diseases of the day by adding certain roots and herbs to the mineral water. So the first Root Beer Recipes can be probably contributed to early pharmacists!

Did you know . . .

Root beer was really made out of roots at one time? It’s true! The first step in making root beer in the 1800s was actually gathering roots, tree bark, and other herbs. The root beer of early America tasted much different than the root beer of today. The following recipes will give you a pretty good idea of how those colonial concoctions may have tasted.

Old Fashioned Root Beer Recipes

This recipe was taken from The Book of Knowledge and Sure Guide to Rapid Wealth which was published by Hurst & Company, New York, in 1873.

“For 10 gallons of beer, take 3 pounds of common burdock root, or 1 ounce essence of sassafras; ½ pound good hops; 1 pint corn, roasted brown. Boil the whole in 6 gallons pure water until strength of the materials is obtained; strain while hot into a keg, adding enough cold water to make 10 gallons. When nearly cold, add clean molasses or syrup until palatable – not sickly sweet. Add also as much fresh yeast as will raise a batch of 8 loaves of bread. Place the keg in a cellar or other cool place, and in 48 hours, you will have a keg of first-rate, sparkling root beer.”


In the 1930s, natural sassafras was found to be a cancer causing agent. To be on the safe side always use a sassafras extract.

A Barrel of Facts about Root Beer

1.     Root beer dates back to the colonial settlers which made a beverage known as small beer.

2.     Unlike tea, coffee and chocolate, root beer does not naturally contain caffeine.

3.     Although sassafras roots and bark may contain natural foaming agents, additional foaming agents such as yucca, are often added to increase the froth of root beer.

4.     Wintergreen, not sassafras, is now the dominant flavoring in most root beer.

So, you don’t have time to go through all the trouble of making homemade root beer, but still would like to try some. Well, here is a quick and easy recipe that is fun for the whole family.

Root Beer Soda

From the Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook


2 cups sugar

1 cup water

1 tablespoon root beer extract

64 ounces carbonated water


1.     Stir 2 cups of sugar into 1 cup of water and just heat until all dissolves and is clear.

2.     Add 1 tablespoon of root beer extract to complete syrup.

3.     Place 2 ounces of syrup in a 12-ounce soda glass.

4.     Add a little ice and soda to fill: 8 ounces of soda to 2 ounces of syrup. Stir only once so that you don’t work out the carbonation.

5.     ENJOY!

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