Sarsaparilla is a soft drink, originally made from the Smilax regelii plant,


Sarsaparilla is a soft drink, originally made from the Smilax regelii plant, but now sometimes made with artificial flavours.
Sarsaparilla was popular in the USA in the 19th century. According to advertisements for patent medicines of the period, it was considered to be a remedy for skin and blood problems. Ruth Tobias notes that it evokes images of "languid belles and parched cowboys. In Hollywood westerns from the 1930s to the 1950s, to order sarsaparilla in a saloon (instead of whiskey) is often met with mockery by the manly cowboys nearby. Now, however, sarsaparilla is sometimes considered a type of root beer. There are dozens of brands of sarsaparilla made by microbreweries mainly in the United States.
Root beer is uncommon in Australia, but sarsaparilla is more prevalent. Australian sarsaparilla has a different flavor from American root beer or sarsaparilla. Bundaberg brews sarsaparilla from "real sarsaparilla root, licorice root, vanilla beans and molasses."
Sarsi is a sarsaparilla-based drink popular in Asia.
U.S. classic sarsaparilla was not made from the extract of the sarsaparilla plant, a tropical vine distantly related to the lily. It was originally made from a blend of birch oil and sassafras, the dried root bark of the sassafras tree. Sassafras was widely used as a home remedy in the nineteenth century – taken in sufficient doses, it induces sweating, which some people thought was a good thing. Sarsaparilla apparently made its debut as a patent medicine, an easy-to-take form of sassafras, much as Coca-Cola was first marketed in 1885 as a remedy for hangovers and headaches.

all Photos by Christopher Stokes / © Christopher Stokes 2012
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