Say, friend, got any more of that good sarsaparilla?
Sarsaparilla may be the father of root beer, but it doesn't get nearly the same attention. That's too bad, because there are some great brands out there. We sampled and ranked six of the more widely available bottles. Read on to find out what we thought of each one, and which took home the gold.
6. Jackson Hole
Not the most popular sarsaparilla of the bunch, but we still found some redeeming qualities. It gave off a very distinct scent of licorice, although some thought it went a little too far toward "Magic Marker." Tasters liked how the licorice was the dominant flavor. It was the most syrupy of the sodas we sampled, and also the least carbonated. Definitely for licorice lovers.
5. Baron's Boothill Sassparilla
One whiff of this and the notes of cola are unmistakable. This was probably the lightest of all the sodas we tried, but what flavor was there definitely fell into the "Pepsi or Coke" category. If you're trying to wean someone off either of those beverage behemoths, this is the sarsaparilla to start with.
4. Manhattan Special
Like the Jackson Hole sarsaparilla, Manhattan Special's soda boasted strong notes of licorice. What pushed it a couple notches higher on the rankings was the inclusion of caramel to the flavor profile, along with its crisp wintergreen scent. It was hard to find fault with this good all-around sarsaparilla.
3. Big Ben's
If you like butter, butterscotch, buttered popcorn, or buttered popcorn Jelly Bellies, then Big Ben's is the sarsaparilla for you. This very smooth-drinking soda also gave off notes of vanilla, though it should be noted that some of us didn't find the buttery-ness of it appealing. "Kind of like what I imagined butterbeer from Harry Potter to taste like," said one taster. But most of us praised it for setting itself apart from the rest of the pack.
2. AJ Stephans
AJ Stephans' sarsaparilla was the most polarizing among the test group. Its detractors thought it was "too medicinal, with a dirty aftertaste," and were not shy about saying so. But those who loved it really loved it. "Great balance," "delicious taste of licorice" and "just what I'd want in a sarsaparilla" were not uncommon remarks. This was also the fizziest soda we drank; AJ Stephans knows its carbonation.
1. Sioux City
For the definitive sarsaparilla experience, with bold wintergreen, caramel, and vanilla overtones, Sioux City is the one. The unanimous victor.