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Friday, July 31, 2009

Sioux City Sarsaparilla

Recently, a reader of this blog* made some suggestions. His primary one--a black cherry soda which is rumored to have non-Euclidean taste properties--still eludes me, although there is a chance that I will be able to find it at the Galco's Institute of Weird Soda Research later this month. However, he also mentioned a birch beer and sarsaparilla made by Sioux City, and I did locate the sarsaparilla at BevMo the other day.

I've always been a bit confused by sarsaparilla. First, the spelling. I've always heard it pronounced as "sasparilla", and yet it seems to be spelled with an "r". Perhaps it's like "February". Does anyone actually pronounce it "Feb-roo-airy?"

On the other hand, perhaps The "Sasparilla" pronunciation is incorrect, or at least a dialect-based corruption of the original. Perhaps it really should be pronounced "Sar-sa-pa-rilla". However, that makes it sound like someone trying to pronounce "Salsa" with their mouth full of beans, in which case (since, given that it involves salsa and beans, it is likely a Mexican food) the double l should be pronounced as an English "y", making the correct pronunciation "Salsa-pariya".

I think that's how I'l pronounce it from now on, and I'll inform everyone else that they're saying it incorrectly. Being pedantic is so much fun, especially when you're wrong.

But in any case, the other thing which confuses me about sarsaparilla is what, exactly, it is supposed to be. The Sioux City bottle label proclaims it to be "The Granddaddy Of All Root Beer". The image reinforces this, depicting a mustachioed cowboy moseying between batwing saloon doors. The positions of his hands and wrists, though, make him seem somewhat effeminate. Which seems appropriate, if he's going up to the rough-and-tumble saloon/brothel bar, laying his pistol down on the counter, and ordering sarsaparilla.

Well, pardner, time to saddle up and quaff off into the sunset.

Where and when: purchased July 2009 at BevMo, Oceanside, CA
Color: Pretty standard dark brown, like root beer.
Scent: like a light, sweet root beer. Lacks the sharpness of most root beers.
K-i-C: "I like it. Very...earthy."
Taste: A little more tart than the smell. Much like a root beer, a bit lighter than most, with some citric tang. Some spiciness. The initial taste has an interesting, very slight--almost undetectable--tinge of clay-ish taste to it. Pleasant. I like it a bit more than most root beer--but it is, effectively, a root beer.
There is a slight hint of the mint taste I associate with birch beer, so maybe sarsaparilla is somewhere between the two.
K-i-C: "It has that cure-for-stomach-ailments thing about it." Apparently, this is a more or less neutral comment.

Quaff rating: 3.5. Nice, enjoyable.
Cough rating: 0.5. That mint is just a bit off-putting, but not bad.

*Cameron, in case you want to know. Thanks, Cameron!


  1. My favorite soda. I think of Sioux City's Sarsaparilla as old-fashioned root beer, or, just early soda pop. Not for everyone, but more for me.

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