Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recipe: Homemade Sarsaparilla Soda from Scratch

Ever wondered what a "sarsaparilla" is while watching classic cartoons/westerns?
Well, I wanted to know myself. I did manage to try one from a local grocery store(which I will review in the future), but I wasn't satisfied. Why? It tasted too much like root beer to me, and so i decided to make my own Sarsaparilla without using the same ingredients that would be used for root beer(sassafras, licorice root, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, wintergreen, clove, etc.).
It turned out really well, and this, along with my cream soda, has been my tastiest soda to date.
It's a short list of ingredients, and I'm finding with certain things this is best.

3 tbsp. Sarsaparilla(about 1 oz.)
1x 6 in. Vanilla bean-cut into many small segments
3 Cardamom seed pods
2 cups of sugar
1 tbsp. honey
1/8 tsp. Ale Yeast
1 gallon of water.

Bring 1/2 gallon of water to a boil in a stock pot with Sarsaparilla, vanilla bean and cardamom.
Let simmer about 20 minutes. Stir in the honey, and then remove from heat. Let steep another 20 minutes, covered. Stir in 2 cups of sugar until dissolved, then add 1/2 gallon of water to the brew. Let cool to 90 degrees.
Scoop about a little bit of brew water out into a small glass or coffee mug, add yeast and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
While letting the yeast get to work, strain the brew into another vessel. Add yeast, stir well, and bottle.
Remember to stir your brew as you bottle to ensure the most even distribution of yeast.
Bottle and let sit for about 36 hours(more time for cooler climates, less time for hotter climates).

The resulting brew was sweet, herbal, slightly spiced(from the cardamom), and very refreshing.
My daughters enjoyed the soda quite a bit, and a friend's children also each drank a bottle with no complaints. I didn't strain my batch incredibly well, so I got a few swigs that resulted in root pieces in the mouth, but it's not unlike getting some "tea shake" in your mouth if you're a loose-leaf tea brewer.
Sarsaparilla is entirely different than any root beer you've ever had before, and making it for yourself will allow you to experience it as an entirely new entity separate from it's more popular cousin.


  1. Did you use Green Cardamom seed pods like for tea, or black ones normally reserved for seasoning?

  2. sarsaparille extract or root and bark

    1. root and bark-dried and chopped-obtained from my local tea supply store.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. should this be refrigerated, does it go bad? and are glass bottles recommended or should i use something more flexible?

    1. It needs to be refrigerated after the carbonation is right, which can be up to a week or more depending on temp, and it will probably go bad after a month, but it probably won't last that long anyways. :-)

  5. do you know anything about brewing soda in a keg?

    1. Sorry for the incredibly late reply. Dry yeast will work, but it will be "bready" and a bit more sour and leave a lot more sediment in the bottom of the bottles. I know nothing.about kegs.

  6. Replies
    1. It works out to roughly 10.5 12 Oz. bottles. I usually use the "half" bottle as a tester. The other 10 are for.consumption. :)
      You can also get roughly 7-8 500ml bottles out of this, and just under 2 2liters.

  7. Thanks so much!!! All of the questions I wanted to ask have already been asked and answered! Thanks!

  8. Ricky,
    I am a professional brewer and the owner of a small brewery. Two cups of granulated sugar and a small amount of honey will produce a mixture that is at a specifica gravity of about 1.035. Adding ale yeast to a mixture of this nature will result in a final gravity of, most likely, about 1.010.

    The result of the yeast eating these sugars will be a very highly carbonated bottle (and possibly a bottle bomb (please google "brewing, bottle bomb" as they can be extremely dangerous)) as well as a drink with an alcohol content of approximately 3.5% by volume. That isn't far off from the 4.5% ABV of beers such as Bud Light, etc. A 16 ounce glass would be the rough equivilent of a 12 ounce can of beer.

  9. The only varying factors of how much alcohol would be in this recipe would be: length of time the mixture was left at room temp and length of time before it was consumed. If you are letting these sodas sit out for about 36 hours, you ARE producing alchohol but the yeast will not finish consuming all of the sugars and therefore you'll have something short of the 3.5% ABV.

    But... if these sodas are removed from refrdigeration and left to come up to room temp for any reason, fermentation WILL start up again and the result will be about a 3.5% ABV benverage. As I mentioned before though, the bigger concern is these bottles possibly becoming over-carbonated and exploding due to the resulting pressure (again... please google the situation if it sounds like I am exaggerating).

    As a brewer, I typically use about an ounce of sugar per gallon of water to carbonate beer bottles. You're obviously well over that amount and the result could be extreme pressure within the bottles.

    If the bottles are put in the refridgerator afer 36 hours (and fermentation stalls due to the temperature) and immediately consumed cold... there isn't a significant risk... although these sodas will still contact some alcohol... maybe 2%... but again, if these are left, by anyone, un-refridgerated for any real length of time, the full 3.5% ABV will result and I would be shocked if a few bottles didn't let go.