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Root beer is a carbonated beverage popular in many countries, especially in North America. It comes as both an alcoholic drink and non-alcoholic soft drink, although nowadays the soft drink predominates.
Although root beers have existed for a long time, a Philadelphia pharmacist, Charles Hires, first commercially produced them in the late 19th century. He created a combination of over twenty-five herbs, berries and roots that he used to flavour a carbonated soda water drink, which he introduced in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition. He began selling bottled root beer in 1893
The drink takes its name from the fact that it was historically made using the root of the sassafras plant as the primary flavour. However this has been replaced by artificial sassafras flavouring along with a number of other flavours, including vanilla, wintergreen, cherry tree bark, liquorice root, sarsaparilla root, nutmeg, anise, cinnamon, and cloves and honey. In addition, although root beer is carbonated, natural extracts such as yucca or quillaja are often added as additional foaming agents to increase root beer's froth or ‘head’.