3 Refreshing Easy And Exotic Homemade Root Beer Recipes Plus A Few Soda Making Tips

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In a previous post, we gave you a couple of basic recipes for homemade root beer using sassafras and sarsaparilla root. Since then we’ve been doing more research and experimenting, and have found many ways to go beyond simple “one note” root beer recipes.

Root Beer Ingredients


Most every form of root beer will start with one or more base ingredients, which are, of course, roots. Some of the more popular are:

  • Sassafras – This is the flavor traditionally associated with root beer. Go easy on the sassafras if you are using other roots for flavor – a little too much can overwhelm everything else. A piece of root about 20 inches long, and the thickness of a pencil is a good start per gallon (maybe less if you want other flavors to shine through).
  • Sarsaparilla – To me, this root isn’t quite flavorful enough on its own to be the only ingredient but works great when paired with sassafras. 7 to 10 tablespoons of chopped root per gallon should work nicely.
  • Licorice – This will give your root beer a unique flavor and sweetness. Start with about a 2-inch piece of root.
  • Burdock – This is an old-time traditional ingredient that is said to eliminate toxins from the body, and has an essential oil that adds a small amount of flavor. Try about 1 tablespoon of chopped root in 1 gallon of liquid.
  • Dandelion – You should be able to find these growing anywhere you don’t want them to! You can try using the chopped root just like you do burdock (in fact, the two make a great combination by themselves), or even some of the yellow flowers.
  • Black Cherry – Here you want to use the bark, rather than the root, of the wild black cherry tree. The bark should be steeped in hot water and not boiled. Herbalists credit this bark with helping coughs and colds, as well as being a mild sedative.
  • Ginger – The basic ingredient in ginger ale and a small amount of this (in addition to your main root) will give your root beer just a little extra “bite”.








Once you have your basic blend, then it’s time to try some spices.

  • Allspice – I personally haven’t tried this (yet!), so I can’t say what it does to the flavor, but I’ve seen a lot of recipes that use it, so it’s on my list to try soon!
  • Chocolate – A little bit of good chocolate (milk or dark, whichever you prefer) will give you a flavor similar to a root beer cake.
  • Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Clove – All of these are ingredients in several types of commercial brews, so give them a try!
  • Wintergreen leaf – A couple of wintergreen leaves or a few drops of oil of wintergreen per gallon will give you a flavor similar to birch.
  • Vanilla – You can get vanilla root beer at a soda fountain, so why not try some on your own? If vanilla bean is too expensive, then you can use vanilla extract, but don’t boil it – add it when the mixture is cooling down.
  • Lime – Just a tiny amount will give you a nice “citrus-y” tang.
  • Star Anise – This works great with licorice root since licorice candy has the flavor of both the root and anise. Try about ¼ ounce per gallon.
  • Fennel seed – These will give you a slightly milder licorice flavor if you find anise too overwhelming.
  • Coffee – I’ve never tried it, and I’m not a coffee drinker, but I know people who have added it to their root beer and love it. Your mileage may vary!
  • Raisins – These will give you a nice fruity flavor, plus they have tannins to prevent cloudiness and add some natural yeast.
  • Sugar – The old standby. You can use with, brown or organic for slightly different results. It’s not worth spending the extra money on corn sugar – save that for the moonshine that needs a longer fermentation process!
  • Honey – You can use this to replace all or part of the sugar, and depending on the type of honey some nice subtle flavors can be added. It’s sweeter than plain sugar, so try using ¾ cup of honey in place of 1 cup of sugar.
  • Maple syrup – Make sure to check the ingredients – the cheap stuff is mostly high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavor. You can use 2 cups per gallon of mixture instead of sugar. Also, if you can find it, you can try using maple sap (not syrup) instead of water.
  • Molasses – I wouldn’t use very much of this, but a tablespoon or two will give your soda a rich, buttery taste and a nice brown tint.

What about the “dangers” of safrole?

In the 1960s, a study on lab rats led to the FDA banning safrole, the main ingredient of sassafras, due to possible carcinogenic effects. Of course, the lab rats were fed massive quantities, something equivalent to a human drinking about 32 12-ounce bottles of root beer per day. If you actually did consume that, the sugar would probably kill you long before the safrole had any chance to. By the FDA’s own reports, even if you drank a glass every day, you have much less risk for cancer than drinking a beer or a glass of wine.

You can purchase concentrated safrole flavoring, or even wintergreen extract (which has a similar flavor), but many of those contain propylene glycol. Personally, I prefer to use the tiny amount of safrole in natural sassafras than artificial chemicals, but you should make your own decisions.

Dry ice carbonation

We like to use yeast to carbonate our soda, but if you’re in a hurry, or just don’t want to deal with the fermentation process, there’s another method – dry ice. Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide, and instead of melting, it goes straight from a solid to a gas. As the gas passes through the soda, some of it dissolves, creating the tingle associated with root beer.

You’ll get a better fizz starting off with cold soda, so chill your mixture overnight. Use 1 pound of dry ice for every 1 gallon of soda, but don’t add it all at once – add it a pound at a time and stir until it’s completely gone. You’ll get more even cooling and carbonation this way.
You probably wouldn’t want to bottle a soda using this method of carbonation, but it’s great for parties, especially Halloween. Just make your mixture ahead of time and add the dry ice when ready to serve.



We’ve almost totally moved away from capped bottles and have gone to these bottles with swing-top lids. We even use these for the main fermentation process rather than old 2-liter bottles now. We put a small portion of the mixture into a 16-ounce water bottle, and the rest in the glass bottles. When the water bottle is firm, it’s time to move everything to the refrigerator to halt the fermentation. If you’re worried about too much pressure, these bottles can be “burped” to let out some of the excess, and you won’t need to re-cap them.

With 4 root beer drinkers in our family, we would regularly have to wash 4 bottles and throw away 4 caps. This method gives us only one bottle to wash, and we don’t have to buy new caps for each batch. Eventually, the swing-top seals will wear out, but they are easily replaced for about a dollar each.

Enough talk, on to the recipes!


As we discussed in the previous post, you’ll need to proof your yeast ahead of time and add it to the mixture when it has cooled to lukewarm. Don’t kill the yeast by adding it to liquid that is too hot!

Licorice Root Beer
  • 4 tablespoons chopped dried licorice root
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1/8 teaspoon ale yeast + ¼ cup lukewarm water

Simmer the licorice root, molasses, sugar and 2 quarts of water for about 10 minutes. Add the anise and let sit for another 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into the remaining 2 quarts of water, add the proofed yeast (when it’s cooled down enough), and bottle.

Rich Vanilla Root Beer
  • ½ cup sassafras root bark
  • ½ teaspoon wintergreen leaf
  • 1 cup unrefined organic cane sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Dash each of coriander and allspice
  • 2 teaspoons of natural vanilla extract, or a 4-inch vanilla bean
  • 3 quarts water
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ale yeast + ¼ cup lukewarm water

Bring the sassafras, wintergreen, cinnamon, coriander, and allspice to a boil (in all 3 quarts of water), then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain, then add the sugar and molasses to the warm liquid and stir until dissolved. Cool until lukewarm, add the lime juice and proofed yeast, and bottle.

Spring Strengthening Tonic

(This recipe is similar to the healing tonic recipes of days past. Whether or not you believe in its healing properties, it’s got a great taste! There are a total of 8 roots and 3 kinds of berries – some may be difficult to find if you don’t have a good herbal store, but you can safely leave out a couple without affecting the flavor too much. Just be sure not to leave out the sassafras!)

  • 4 quarts water
  • 5 ounces dried sarsaparilla root
  • 4 ounces dried dandelion root
  • ¼ ounce dried sassafras root
  • 5 inches dried Queen Anne’s lace root
  • 2 teaspoons dried chopped burdock root
  • 4 teaspoons dried chopped ginseng root
  • 4 teaspoons dried chopped chicory root
  • 4 teaspoons dried chopped licorice root
  • 4 teaspoons dried saw palmetto berries
  • 4 teaspoons dried dwarf sumac berries
  • 4 teaspoons dried crushed juniper berries
  • 1 ½ cups honey, or 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ale yeast + ¼ cup lukewarm water

Simmer the roots, berries, and sugar in 2 quarts of water over low to medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for another 30 minutes. Strain the mixture into the remaining water, let cool lukewarm, add the yeast and bottle.

I was going to get all fancy and calculate exactly how many combinations (or maybe it’s “permutations”, according to the math folks) of flavors you could create, but the math just hurt my head! Let’s just say that with the ingredients I’ve listed, you could experiment with many batches without repeating yourself!
Recipes adapted from “Homemade Root Beer Soda & Pop”.