Picture this. An ice-cold, dark brown soda fizzes quietly in your cup. You take a sip, and your tongue is coated with a sweet vanilla flavor as the carbonation of the soda bubbles in your mouth. You take another sip and realize that this beverage, root beer, is the best soda in existence.
Before the die-hard Dr. Pepper fans quit this article in anger, allow me to explain. The perfection that puts root beer above every other soda begins with its flavor. Root beer isn’t just sweet, it has a distinct and complex flavor that makes it taste almost like a dessert in your mouth, while the carbonation keeps it as refreshing as any other cold soda. Other sodas also have unique flavor profiles, but it’s the particular type of sweetness in root beer that sets it above the rest. Think about, for example, the difference between Coke and Pepsi. Both are sweet, similarly flavored beverages, but one is clearly better than the other (and if you’re thinking Pepsi right now, I’m sorry to say that you’re wrong). The difference is less in the level of sweetness than it is in the type of sweetness and the accompanying flavors. For root beer, both of these characteristics complement each other wonderfully, making its special flavor particularly delicious.
If it were just a matter of flavor, it would be hard to argue that root beer is the best soda, but, as someone who overthinks everything, I’ve discovered plenty of other factors that prove that root beer is, in fact, the best. One of these factors is the impeccably balanced level of scarcity. Root beer can’t be found everywhere (although luckily for me, TAP sells it). It’s just scarce enough that you can find it on enough occasions to satisfy a craving for it, while not being common enough for you to get sick of it. This balance makes it feel special when you see root beer on the menu or at a soda fountain. And here I’m just referring to “regular” root beer made by either of the two companies vying for control of every beverage we consume: Pepsi and Coca-Cola (I say vying for control, but when Coca-Cola owns over 500 brands, is it really a competition?). Craft root beer is even better.
Anyone who has tasted root beer made by a company that doesn’t own a horrifying percentage of the things you consume can understand that this is an entirely different experience. It’s like magic, but you can drink it. The flavors are so rich, varied and unique, and while regular root beer is delicious, it honestly pales in comparison to the good stuff. This means you can get a great, regular soda experience, or an even better, fancy soda experience, and everything in between, all from one type of soda. Just another reason why root beer is pure perfection.
But wait, there’s more! Root beer floats. Not Coke floats. Not Dr. Pepper floats. Root beer floats. Why is this classic delicious treat traditionally made with the best soda? The sweetness and nuanced flavors of root beer work perfectly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The vanilla flavor is plain enough that the root beer adds complexity, and the root beer flavor is sweet enough in the same way as the ice cream that it doesn’t confuse your taste buds (if you want some really confused taste buds, I recommend a grape soda float — some things were never meant to be).
Finally, I want to shout out root beer as an equally attractive non-alcoholic beverage (EANAB). My own choices to consume or not consume alcohol aside, having root beer as an option for an EANAB (especially of the glass-bottled variety) is an easy way to have a non-alcoholic beverage that actually feels equally appealing. It has a unique draw that a regular can of Coke or Sprite doesn’t, not necessarily because of its aesthetic alone, but because it’s an interesting beverage that you don’t get to drink all the time.
Honestly, there’s nothing like overanalyzing how perfect root beer is to make you crave it. If you’re not convinced, try some root beer next time you have the chance, and maybe you’ll understand how wonderful this beverage is. Incidentally, the worst soda is 7 Up. Why? Because a random Grind writer said so.
Contact Kiara Harding at kiluha ‘at’ stanford.edu.