Root beer is a mysterious thing. Even most who adore it can't identify which "roots" go into the concoction, or how exactly it gets its sweet, spicy and creamy flavor. Every store-bought brand has its own distinctive qualities, making it perfect for a HuffPost Taste taste test.
We blind-tasted 16 different brands of root beer, noting the ingredients and flavor profiles of each to help you find one that'll hit the spot. You may not necessarily agree with our winner (though we do think you'll agree with our No. 16 choice -- yuck), but you can use our handy tasting guide to fall in love with a new root beer you may not have tried. We noted some subtle (and not-so-subtle) flavor notes that reminded us of everything from raisins and cough syrup to Good & Plenties, Guinness, and bubblegum. The winner even reminded us of Tom Petty.
Before you read the taste test results, let's find out what exactly makes root beer taste like root beer. Here's a list of the key flavors:
Anise: Imparts a licorice flavor.
Sarsaparilla: When soda production began in the last 1800s, sarsaparilla claimed to have health-giving properties. The root lends a very bitter flavor.
Birch oil: Made from the sap of birch trees, it gives a flavor similar to teaberry.
Wintergreen: Just what you're probably thinking of -- the minty flavor often found in chewing gum.
Sassafras: Coming from the sassafras tree, this imparts a deep, bitter flavor.
Vanilla extract (Bourbon or Tahitian): This gives root beer its distinctive creaminess.
Click through the slideshow below to see the results of our taste test.
Which brand is your favorite? Leave us a comment below.