Category Archives: Sarsaparilla

Tyler the Kid Sarsaparilla

Tyler the Kid Sarsaparilla

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Website: http://rocketfizz.com/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Camarillo, California

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

Tyler the Kid Sarsaparilla is one of several root sodas made by the gourmet soda pop and candy shop mega-store Rocket Fizz.  Its label shows a closeup head shot of a young boy (Tyler the Kid) in one of those old time wild west pictures tourists get in a Virginia City saloon.  Putting the picture of a little boy on the label did not give me much confidence that Tyler the Kid Sarsaparilla would be a hit.  I figured this cutesy label was covering up a shoddy soda.  That wasn’t the case.

Tyler the Kid Sarsaparilla has a thick head.  It also has a decent root flavor.  Regrettably, I was distracted from the flavor by an apparent lack of carbonation.  The soda was carbonated, and I could detect carbonation as it went down my throat, but on my tongue this sarsaparilla was flat.  As a result, Tyler the Kid Sarsaparilla tasted syrupy, which diverted my attention from the base flavor of the soda.  I do think if this soda had danced on my tongue a little, it would have been quite good.  Either way, it was better than expected.

Overall Score: 6 of 10.

Reading Draft Sarsaparilla

Reading Draft Sarsaparilla

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Website: http://www.readingdraft.com/

Sweetener: Pure Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Reading, Pennsylvania

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

Reading Draft Sarsaparilla, like all Reading Draft sodas, is triple filtered to remove sediment and double carbon filtered to provide the purest taste.  That means Reading Draft Sarsaparilla is quintuple filtered.  All this is to say that Reading Draft strives for quality.

Unfortunately, despite the quintuple filtering, Reading Draft Sarsaparilla misses the mark.  This soda does not have a traditional sarsaparilla flavor.  Instead of a hearty root flavor, Reading Draft Sarsaparilla tastes like creamy syrup that is slightly off.  This is one drink you can feel comfortable skipping.

Overall Score: 3 of 10.

Avery Sarsaparilla

Avery Sarsaparilla

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Website: http://www.averysoda.com/

Sweetener: Sugar or Corn Sweetener

Bottled at: New Britain, Connecticut

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

Sherman F. Avery began making soda in a red barn in New Britain, Connecticut during the summer of 1904.  He delivered his Avery’s Sodas by way of a horse pulled wagon.  Today, Avery’s Beverages are still made in small batches in that same New Britain, Connecticut red barn.  Avery’s  Beverages has quite a repertoire of sodas, with 25 classic flavors, 8 diet flavors, 6 specialty and seasonal flavors, and 8 “Totally Gross Sodas.”

Avery Sarsaparilla has an old time two-tone label.  The label does not specify the flavor of the soda.  Instead,  the type of soda is identified on the bottle cap.  Later, when looking for the list of ingredients, I realized the ingredients were also found on the cap and not the label (as for the nutrition facts, they were not on the label or the bottle cap).  This allows Avery to use the same label for all of its sodas.  Only the bottle caps differ from flavor to flavor.

Avery Sarsaparilla is light in color and in flavor.  Its color is that of a light colored cream soda.  Its taste is that of a mild root beer mixed with ginger ale.  The flavor is good, although not as strong as I would like, but lasts just a brief moment.  Avery Sarsaparilla is also highly carbonated.  It bubbled all the way down my throat, feeling like little carbonation bubbles were sticking to my throat.  It was a unique carbonation feeling.  In the end Avery Sarsaparilla was good, but lacked a little flavor.

Overall Score: 6 of 10.

Jackson Hole Soda Snake River Sarsaparilla

Jackson Hole Soda Snake River Sarsaparilla

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Website: http://jacksonholesoda.com/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Jackson, Wyoming

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

There is not a ton of information available about Jackson Hole Soda.  For example, the “JHS History” page on Jackson Hole Soda’s website does not say anything about the history of Jackson Hole Soda.  The short paragraph on that page under the heading  “Where we come from and who we are” ignores that topic altogether, explaining instead that Jackson Hole Sodas are delicious, refreshing, and varied.

Jackson Hole Soda Snake River Sarsaparilla has an Old West look.  The label shows a black and white photo of two 19th century women, likely outlaws Marge Cassidy and the Sundance Girl, holding fishing gear and three recently caught fish that in all probability they stole at gunpoint from an impoverished father of ten children, who was trying to obtain supper for his underfed and famished family.  Those were the breaks in the Wild West, but at least that father was able to return home to his starving family and drown his sorrows in a mug of fine home-brewed Sarsaparilla.

Snake River Sarsaparilla tastes like a cola-root beer hybrid.  It took me a minute to put my finger on the cola, but there it was, mixing with an herbal root flavor.  I am not a big cola fan, but this mixture was just right for a good Old West sarsaparilla.  I can only hope that poor father who failed to bring home sustenance for his family enjoyed a sarsaparilla this good.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla

Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla

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Website: ?????

Sweetener: Fructose

Bottled at: Glendora, California

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla is a mystery drink.  It has no website, and I am not exactly sure where the soda is made.  In a barely readable microscopic font, the label states that Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla is distributed by Specialty Bevarages, Inc. of Glendora, California, but the birthplace of the soda is not disclosed.  The mystery theme continues with the ingredients for Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla.  Its sweetener is fructose.  Sugar cane derived fructose?  Sugar beet derived fructose?  Corn derived fructose?  It is a mystery.

Even the taste of Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla is something of an enigma.  It is a light and refreshing drink, but is it a sarsaparilla?  I recognized three different soda flavors in Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla.  First, the crisp, fresh taste of ginger ale came to the fore.  Later, the predominant flavor was cola.  All along, there was a hint of sarsaparilla, but it certainly was not strong or the main flavor.  So is it a sarsaparilla?  I guess a soda with a hint of sarsaparilla can claim to be sarsaparilla.  The important thing is that despite the mysteries of Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla, it tastes pretty good.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

Kutztown Sarsaparilla

Kutztown Sarsaparilla

Kutztown Sarsaparilla Kutztown Sarsaparilla Cap

Website: http://www.kutztownbottlingworks.com/

Sweetener: Pure Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Kutztown, Pennsylvania

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

Kutztown Sarsaparilla is the third, and perhaps last, Kutztown soda to be reviewed in this site.  In addition to Kutztown Root Beer, Kutztown Birch Beer, and Kutztown Sarsaparilla, Kutztown makes a white birch beer and a diet birch beer.  However, Kutztown White Root Beer is sold only in  plastic bottles, and Kutztown Diet Birch Beer is, well, a diet soda.

I must say that even though all three Kutztown beverages have the same label, albeit in a different color for each soda, I still really like the label.  The German tone set by the lettering and overall look of the label just makes sense for root beer, birch beer, and sarsaparilla.  Moreover, using the German phrase “Nix Besser,”  translated to “Nothing Better” or “None Better,” on the label was a brilliant decision, regardless of whether the phrase is accurate.  Like the other two Kutztown soda’s reviewed here, there is a short poem or jingle found on Kutztown Sarsaparilla’s label which states:

Ward off your thirst with an ice cold mug of Kutztown Sarsaparilla…always a sign of good luck and good taste anytime it’s enjoyed.  Ach now, don’t that drink good?

Does it drink good?  Kutztown Sarsaparilla tastes like root beer.  It has a strong herbal root beer bite.  The root beer bite is capped of with a cola flavor.  The result is a soda that tastes more like root beer than sarsaparilla.  Like other Kutztown sodas, Kutztown Sarsaparilla is satisfactory, but is nothing to write home about.

Overall Score: 6 of 10.

Earp’s Sarsaparilla

Earp’s Sarsaparilla

Earp's Sarsaparilla Earp's Sarsaparilla Cap

Website: http://earps-sarsaparilla.com/

Sweetener: Pure Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Mukilteo,  Washington

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

Did you know the gun fight at the O.K. Corral was all about keeping the formula for Earp’s Sarsaparilla out of the hands of the bad guys?  It’s true, according to the makers of Earp’s Sarsaparilla.  After the gun fight, the survivors likely sat down together, made peace, and enjoyed some Earp’s Sarsaparilla.  After all, as the bottle explains, “After a hard day of gun fight’n, nothing beats a real Sarsaparilla.”  Now, this old-timey sarsaparilla is available to bring Wild West adventure to your mundane life.

Earp’s Western Foods teamed up with Orca Beverages to produce Earp’s Sarsaparilla, which pictures Mike Earp, owner of Earp’s Western Foods and a real-life descendant of legend Wyatt Earp, on the label.  Sporting an eighteenth century suit and a modified handlebar/horseshoe mustache, and holding a long barreled revolver, Mike Earp easily passes as slightly aged version of his famous ancestor Wyatt Earp.

Earp’s Sarsaparilla is a mild and creamy sarsaparilla.  Earp’s does not have the strong wintergreen flavor found in many other sarsaparillas.  In fact, nothing about Earp’s Sarsaparilla is particularly strong.  Earp’s has a simple, moderate flavor, but is not watery.  Although not very eventful, Earp’s Sarsaparilla has a good flavor.  It qualifies as a fine every day root beer treat.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

Manhattan Special Sarsaparilla

Manhattan Special Sarsaparilla

Manhattan Special Sarsaparilla Manhattan Special Sarsaparilla Cap

Website: http://www.manhattanspecial.com

Sweetener: Pure Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Brooklyn, New York

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

A Manhattan Special is a cold espresso flavored soda from Brooklyn, New York.  The once iconic New York drink was created in 1895 by an Italian immigrant with the help of an osteopath and a friend who treated people with bone deformations.  At some point since 1895, other Manhattan Special sodas were introduced, including Manhattan Special Sarsaparilla.  Manhattan Special Sarsaparilla has a unique look.  The clear glass bottle is unique primarily due to its small size, 10 ounces as compared to the typical 12 ounces.  I could not help but feeling cheated out of 2 ounces.

What is contained in the small bottle is a quite tasty sarsaparilla.  It is difficult to explain, but the sarsaparilla has a nutty flavor combined with anise overtones.  Although it contains a relatively low 27 grams of sugar, its sweetness is spot on.  This is one of the better Sarsaparillas I have tried, but I still want those extra 2 ounces.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

AJ Stephans Sarsaparilla

AJ Stephans Sarsaparilla

AJ Stephan's Sarsaparilla AJ Stephan's Sarsaparilla Cap

Website: http://www.ajstephans.com/AJStephans/pages/flavors.htm

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Fall River, Massachusetts

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

AJ Stephens Sarsaparilla is the first AJ Stephans beverage I have had the opportunity to review.   This Massachussetts drink, around since the prohibition days of 1926, advertises itself as “New England’s Best Tonic.”  Does that mean this sarsaparilla has medicinal properties?  Will it give you restored strength and increased vigor?  Medical study results are inconclusive.

We can report conclusively on whether AJ Stephens Sarsaparilla is an upper echelon root soda.  For starters,  AJ Stephens has very nice carbonation.  It has a moderate level of carbonation, but its extremely small bubbles make the drinking experience a smooth one.  As for its flavor, it has a light malt and sassafras flavor.  For me, AJ Stephens Sarsaparilla was slightly too malty.  I would have liked this soda to include another layer of complexity and display a few more flavors.  In the end, only malty sassafras is identifiable.  That is enough to classify AJ Stephens Sarsaparilla as an okay soda.

Overall Score: 6 of 10.

 

Watson’s Sarsae

Watson’s Sarsae

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Website: http://www.aswatson.com/eng/html/news_centre/asw_tv_brand_26.html

Sweetener: Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup

Bottled at: Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Purchase Location: Given to me by my sister

I am breaking my own rule.  Generally, this website is dedicated to reviewing only root beverages from glass bottles.  However, I thought an exception should be made for a soda making its way to me all the way from China.  I should be accommodating to my international guest, shouldn’t I?  My sister recently spent some time teaching English in China, and was kind enough to bring this soda home for me.

Sarsi is a sarsaparilla soft drink available in most Asian countries.  Sarsae is a brand of sarsi, the most popular sarsi drink in Hong Kong.  Sarsae is made by the A.S. Watson Group, which is the largest health and beauty retail group in Hong Kong.  It has over 11,000 stores worldwide, and serves over 27 million customers per week.    

Sarsae has a distinct flavor from sarsaparilla found in the U.S.  It has a a deep brown sugar and molasses flavor.  The flavor reminded me a lot of the concentrated and unrefined clump of sugar known in Mexico as piloncillo (I just learned that piloncillo is called panela in English). I am not a huge fan of piloncillo, and I was not a huge fan of Sarsae.  Sarsae has very little carbonation and its deep, dark flavor is slightly bitter.  I found myself hesitant to take large sips of Sarsae.  I ended up not finishing the drink.  It was not terrible, but I would be more than happy to never drink it again.

Overall Score: 3 of 10.