The name “Sarsaparilla” is often mixed interchangeably with root beer these days, and from a mainstream perspective, the ingredients that make it tend to be the same. However, true sarsaparilla has origins in a plant by the same name. Today, take some sassafras flavoring and mix it with other oils and flavors, and boom, you have root beer. So what does Sioux City Sarsaparilla taste like?
Essentially, if this drink didn’t have the “sarsaparilla” name on the front, you’d think it was root beer. It’s sweet, thanks to use of cane sugar, but doesn’t have any of the authentic flavorings one would associate with sarsaparilla. In effect sarsaparilla is a grandfather to root beer, with the former being more minimalist with a bitter flavor, while the latter rounds out the flavor by adding elements like wintergreen, vanilla, anise, and the like.
Sioux City, which is a subbrand from White Rock Beverages launched in 1987, claims that this drink is “The Granddaddy of All Root Beers.” Their packaging and branding hint at an Old West theme and the rustic origins of the flavors (for example, saloon doors on this product). Our 12 oz brown bottle features graphics that were printed right on the surface, giving this a upscale look.
This drink has the look and scent typically associated with root beer; it’s dark brown, but doesn’t feature much of a foamy head. As far as taste, it’s pretty much root beer, with a slight mint influence (especially noted in the scent). While sweet, the midtaste does reflect a bitter bite, albeit slight.
I love the origins and backstory of sarsaparilla, as well as how Sioux City attempts to connect to that history. Still, what they have produced seems like just another iteration of root beer with a slightly different flavor profile. This drink should satisfy both root beer and general beverage enthusiasts alike. Just don’t expect a substantially unique flavor experience.
Sioux City Sarsaparilla
Purified carbonated water, pure cane sugar, carmel color, citric acid, sodium benzoate (as a preservative), natural and artificial flavor
A 12 oz bottle contains 170 calories, 45 mg sodium, and 42 g carbs (42 g sugars).