Root beer is a carbonated soft drink which was originally made using the root of the sassafras plant. Safrole, the oily liquid extracted from the root-bark of sassafras plants has been banned by the FDA as a likely carcinogen and is no longer used in U.S. based root beer. In addition to sassafras, other root beer flavorings include vanilla, wintergreen, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, nutmeg, acacia, anise, molasses, cinnamon, clove, and honey.
Sarsaparilla is a carbonated soft drink originally made from the native Central American plant smilax ornata. In Spanish the plant is known as zarzaparrilla. Associated with the Old West, sarsaparilla was popular in the United States in the 19th century. Sarsaparilla is now generally made with artificial flavors and is considered a type of root beer.
Birch beer is a carbonated soft drink made from herbal extracts of birch bark and birch sap. Birch beer comes in a variety of colors based on the species of birch tree. Colors include brown, red, blue, and clear (white). Birch beer is most common in the Northeastern United States. I had never tasted birch beer until I began my quest in search of the best root soda. I am very glad I discovered birch beer.