The source of the delicious flavor in this drink is a perennial vine, and the flavor is in the roots.
The botanical name for the plant is Smilax ornata.
S. ornata vines have long prickly stems and shiny leaves, and numerous reddish-brown roots. It is the deep roots of this plant that are harvested and prepared for brewing this delicious drink, or tonic, with the flavor similar to root beer, but with the distinctive flavor of anise. People enjoyed this beverage before another popular root-based drink was developed, Root Beer, which used to be made from Sassafras and Sarsaparilla root until a chemical in Sassafras was found to be poisonous.
The vine grows in tropical areas, temperate zones, places like Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America or Central America. It is native to Mexico and Central America.
Sarsaparilla has been used historically, and by some currently, to support the circulatory system and the liver with claims to it's ability to purify the blood. It is called a "Spring tonic" by some because of it's cleansing properties, and Spring is a popular time for health enthusiasts to do internal cleansing and detoxification of the body. It also has tonic properties and has been used traditionally for skin support. It may also promote normal digestion and appetite. One popular site that offers Sarsaparilla encapsulated (affiliate link - use search feature) offers it as Glandular System support.
How to Make Sarsaparilla Soda at HomeeHow.com offers a simple way to make some Sarsaparilla Soda at home. It skips the process of extracting the flavor and beneficial properties from the roots by suggesting that you use Sarsaparilla extract. You will also need sugar and sparkling water or club soda. For the full recipe and how to make Sarsaparilla Soda at home, visit this link.
Here is a link to >> another recipe that uses more traditional means of getting the "fizz" into the soda, which included using ale yeasts. This recipe uses Sarsaparilla, when I try to make it, I would probably use the encapsulated form of the plant mentioned above.
The following video gives you a recipe for craft brewed root beer, which also contains Sarsaparilla. You will want to pay close attention to the alternative to Sassafras, and if you have high blood pressure, use natural Licorice with caution or don't use it at all.
Image Credit: Free to use Image by makamuki0 on Pixabay
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