History: Bickford’s is a brand rooted in tradition. Since 1874, the South Australian company has been producing its famous cordials. The company makes a whole host of other products too, including its Bickford’s Old Style Soda line of seven different flavors. One of the most popular is sarsaparilla. Says Bickford’s Brand Manager Beverley Reeves, “Sarsaparilla is the fastest growing in some of our overseas markets perhaps because the flavors are different from those that consumers there would normally be familiar with.” According to Reeves, the soda’s recipe is still the same as it was decades ago. Like America, the Australian soda scene continues to evolve. Reeves adds that there is a “shift from mainstream to more differentiated flavours and brands with a story.” In the end, it’ll always come down to taste and Bickford’s Sarsaparilla was designed with a bold licorice flavor in mind. Knowing that, I wouldn’t expect this to be particularly fluffy on the palate. Previously, we reviewed their creamy soda that has a touch of raspberry. So Bickford’s definitely seems to be a company that makes traditional flavors with nontraditional tastes. A fan favorite in its native country, Reeves gave us the inside scoop that Bickford’s is soon coming to America and will debut in October. We’ll keep you posted when and where as soon as details become available. In the mean time, there’s ice cold sarsaparilla waiting for you.
Where to get: In Australia, you can find Bickford’s Sarsaparilla at “most major supermarkets and convenience stores,” according to its website. Now you might pay some hefty shipping outside of Australia, but you can also buy Bickford’s Sarsaparilla online via Sippify.
Nose: Strong black licorice; anise. There’s a mild hint of root beer on the nose, but this smells very, very rich in licorice. Pucker up.
Taste: Licorice; anise; sarsaparilla root. This is definitely more of a botanical sarsaparilla as opposed to a creamy one with lots of vanilla. You’ll really notice the sarsaparilla root flavor in this drink. It’s bold and very herbal. There’s a semisweet sensation encapsulated by frothy bubbles that coats the tongue as the sarsaparilla flavor fades. At brief points in the soda, there’s even a little bit of a cola flavor, but this is a sarsaparilla anchored by strong sarsaparilla root, sassafras, and licorice flavors. The licorice isn’t as pronounced in the flavor profile as it is on the nose, but really shows up in the aftertaste. Definitely black licorice flavor, but not overly strong.
Finish: Tart sarsaparilla root with lingering notes of licorice.
Rating: Bickford’s sarsaparilla is a stark departure from American takes on the flavor, utilizing a strong herbal flavor profile instead of a smooth, creamy one. The tasting notes that stand out most are unmistakably sarsaparilla root and licorice. The sarsaparilla flavor is stronger, but the licorice is particularly noteworthy. Coming in near the end of each sip along with a wave of champagne-like bubbles; it’s a commendable use of a flavor that often overpowers the soda experience. Another aspect that stands out is the tartness on the finish. It’s a crisp herbal reminder that reinforces you’re definitely drinking sarsaparilla and not root beer. I could’ve used a sign like that during my second engagement If you’re not a fan of botanical sodas, you’re not going to enjoy Bickford’s Sarsaparilla. This is a soft drink for the slightly more adventurous soda connoisseur. It isn’t particularly sweet and relies more on its herbals flavors to impress its drinkers. The sugar, while lower in the flavor profile, is noticeably crisp. Bickford’s Sarsaparilla should be a hit with lovers of botanical sodas and die-hard sarsaparilla drinkers. It won’t be for everyone, but this soda knows its niche and leaves an Australian footprint in the sarsaparilla marketplace.