The Interesting Reason Root Beer Is Called Root Beer

Root beer, made from the sarsaparilla root and blended with a variety of flavors like vanilla, caramel, nutmeg, molasses, wintergreen, and licorice root, will quench your thirst, satisfy your sweet tooth, and deliver a burst of refreshment. In fact, the drink may do a lot of things, but there is one thing this "beer" won't do: Get you drunk. It doesn't contain any of the traditional ingredients required to make a beer, like hops or grains, and while it might be "brewed," it contains no alcohol. It is even caffeine free, so you are really not likely to get any type of buzz off this beverage. 

It is really not much of a beer at all, which may leave its fans wondering how on earth the beverage got such a misleading name. The answer is all in the marketing. It turns out even Charles Elmer Hires, the drink's very own founder, didn't think it was much like beer, either. He originally wanted to call his new invention "Root Tea," but even back in the 19th century, tea just didn't sound as sexy as beer. According to Bundaberg, when he launched his new company, Hires Root Beer, in 1875, Hires realized it would be lucrative to appeal to Pennsylvanian coal miners, who might want a refreshing drink after working hard all day, so he decided to give it a more familiar name, "root beer."

Hires marketed root beer as a 'temperance drink'

Hires took advantage of the growing temperance movement, marketing his new beverage as a great alternative to alcohol, calling it the "temperance drink," according to Today I Found Out. His savvy marketing tactics worked, and by the turn of the century, Hires was selling his drink to individuals and soda fountains as well selling "root beer kits" to people who wanted to make their own root beer at home. 

If you've been wishing there was some way to turn this faux-beer into a stronger beverage, never fear. There are dozens of recipes out there full of creative ways to turn this temperance drink into a tasty cocktail. Root beer is the main ingredient in everything from root beer rum creams and a Tito's Twist to boozy root beers floats, which can be made with root beer, two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and just about any liquor of your choosing, including whiskey, vodka, rum, or even Fireball. So, no matter if you are a strict teetotaler, or you like to imbibe from time to time, root beer is a great drink for just about any occasion.