This section is from the book "A Treatise On Beverages or The Complete Practical Bottler", by Charles Herman Sulz. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise On Beverages.
The remedial powers of sarsaparilla are doubtless as effective in a carbonated beverage as in the many much-advertised nostrums with which the market is flooded, and the close attention of car-bonators is invited to a description and properties of the sarsaparilla plant, where it is grown, and how prepared for use, so that they may have a better understanding of the article, and be prepared to handle it more intelligently. Sarsaparilla is yielded by several plants of the smilax species, natives of Northern South America, New Granada, the whole of Central America, as far as the southern and western coast lands of Mexico, also in Jamaica. These plants are woody climbers, often ascending lofty trees by the strong tendrils which spring from the stem of the leaf. The medicinal species inhabit swampy, tropical forests, which are extremely deleterious to health, and can only be explored with great difficulty.
1Rose-leaves are preserved by being packed into suitable vessels with one-half their weight of common salt, otherwise they would soon undergo active fermentation and become useless. It is stated that in some laboratories the entire rose-flowers are used in the distillation of rose-water, and furnish a good produat.
The species of sar-saparilla known to commerce have a thick, short, knotty root, called by chemists chump, from which grows, in a horizontal direction, long, fleshy roots, from about the thickness of a quill to that of the little finger. These roots are mostly simple, forked only toward their extremities, beset with thread-like, branching rootlets of nearly uniform size. When fresh the root is plump, but as found in commerce, the dried state, it is more or less furrowed longitudinally, at least in the vicinity of the root. The presence or absence, in greater or less abundance, of starch in the bark of the root, is regarded as an important criterion in estimating the best quality of sarsaparilla. Some manufacturing chemists prefer the non-mealy roots as being alone suitable for the production of the dark fluid extract, which is supposed to figure in the preparation of medicines and beverages. Others esteem the variety which, when cut, exhibits a thick bark, and pure white within. The more or less plentiful occurrence of starch in the roots of sarsaparilla is a character which has no significance, and appears, indeed, to vary in the same species. The commercial varieties are grouped as mealy and non-mealy sarsaparillas. The Honduras, Guatemala and Brazilian belong to the first, and the Jamaica, Mexican and Venezuela (Caraccas) to the other class. Allied drugs are the China root of Asia, and the German sarsaparilla.
Dry sarsaparilla has not much smell, yet when large quantities are boiled, or when a decoction is evaporated, a peculiar and very perceptible odor is emitted, the taste of the root is earthy and not well marked, and even a decoction has no very distinctive flavor. A crystalline, neutral principle may be separated from the root, which has been called smilacine, salsebarine and parilline; the last being the oldest, is the generally accepted name; it appears to be related to saponine, and, like that, foams remarkably when a solution of it is shaken. Parilline forms brilliant scales, is almost insoluble in cold water, but dissolves in twenty parts of boiling water. It is also solube in twenty-five parts of alcohol, and much more abundantly in boiling alcohol. In both absolute alcohol or water parilline is less soluble than in dilute alcohol. Hence aqueous solutions are precipitated by absolute alcohol, and parilline, on the other hand, separates from alcoholic solutions on addition of cold water. Alcoholic solutions have a somewhat acrid taste. The nature of the dark extractive matter which water removes from the root in abundance, and the proportion of which is considered by chemists a criterion of excellence, has not been fully determined. The latter is obtained by a prolonged boiling of the root in water, and from it is obtained the preparations most in use.
Sarsaparilla is regarded by many as a valuable alterative and tonic and is much employed to recuperate a generally depraved condition of the system. It is given in the form of decoction and syrups. The drug has a popular reputation as a "purifier of the blood," above alluded to, and it is knowingly claimed immense quantities of quack medicines are sold bearing the name, but not containing a particle of sarsaparilla. The syrup dispensed at the soda fountain by druggists, under the impression that it is healthful, rarely contains any of the drug. Considering the favor in which sarsaparilla preparations are regarded by the public, car-bonators, in employing actually an extract of sarsaparilla in compounding the beverage, could make it a valuable tonic, pleasant as a drink, and mild in its medicinal effects.
Sarsaparilla is a standard drink with all bottlers, and its popularity never appears to wane. As prepared by the generality of carbonators, it is commonly a compound of the oils of wintergreen, sassafras, anise, and orange, occasionally with an addition of fluid extract of liquorice, seldom with fluid extract of sarsa-parilla. Leading bottlers, however, are bringing to the attention of the consumer the fact that their drink is manufactured from sarsaparilla, and therefore is a superior article. Sarsaparilla extracts are now offered, to the trade, whose merit rests upon their alleged medicinal properties.
The fluid extract of sarsaparilla prepare as follows: Sarsaparilla root, powdered, one pound; glycerine, four ounces. Mix the glycerine with a mixture of six fluid ounces of alcohol, and twelve fluid ounces of water. Moisten the powder with six fluid ounces of this liquid, pack it firmly in a percolator; then add the balance of the liquid to saturate the powder, and leave a stratum above it. When the liquid begins to drop from the percolator, close the lower orifice, and, having closely covered the percolator, macerate for forty-eight hours. Then allow the percolation to proceed, gradually adding the balance of the menstruum (the above mixture) and afterwards a mixture of alcohol and water in the proportion of one ounce alcohol, to two ounces of water, until the sarsaparilla is exhausted and sixteen fluid ounces of extract, or as much as desired, are obtained. This extract is miscible with aqueous liquids and yields clear beverages. The commercial extract is colored with sugar coloring. This sarsaparilla extract is never employed alone, but in conjunction with the "essence of sarsaparilla". The commercial essence of sarsaparilla, erroneously called "extract,"' is usually colored with sugar coloring.
This is generally solely a compound of the oils of wintergreen, sassafras, anise and orange, occasionally some fluid extract of liquorice root is added. The best formulae contain also fluid extract of sarsaparilla.
Oil of wintergreen, oil of sassafras, oil of anise, or oil of orange, each three drachms; alcohol 95°, eight ounces; water, eight ounces.
Oil of wintergreen, oil of sassafras, oil of anise, oil of orange, each two drachms; alcohol 95°, eight ounces; water, eight ounces. Fennel oil also enters sometimes into the composition.
Directions for Formulae 1,11. and III. - Cut or triturate the oils with sugar and powdered pumice stone, etc., add gradually the eight ounces of alcohol, agitate until all is dissolved; then add by degree the eight ounces of water, and continue to agitate; filter and refilter until bright, when a water-soluble essence of sarsaparilla will be obtained. This can be improved by the addition of extract of sarsaparilla in various proportions. A small quantity of fluid extract of liquorice or soluble extract of ginger is also recommended to be added. This addition is at the discretion of the carbonator, if he finds an improvement in it. The proportions of oil in Formulae may be altered to suit.