Here’s the tricky thing about root beer: No two people like it for the same reasons.
The defining flavor of root beer is sassafras root — actually artificial sassafras flavoring, these days. But there are so many other flavors that can and do guest star in various recipes. Common flavors include vanilla, anise or licorice, wintergreen, sarsaparilla root, or molasses. And dozens of others are possible: birch bark, cherry, juniper, clove, dandelion root, burdock root, and more.
When my nine-year-old root-beer-fiend daughter gave me the idea for a tasting panel on root beer, I figured we’d assemble a bunch of fans, taste a bunch of root beers, and declare the best root beer on the market.