History: It seems appropriate to name a sarsaparilla after a wild west saloon keeper, gambler, and gunslinger. Wyatt Earp was famous for his involvement in the 1891 shootout at the O.K. Corral. But did you know he has a living, breathing relative in Mukilteo, Washington? Mike Earp is the owner of Earp’s Western Foods, known for its steak sauce. He’s also a descendant of the legendary Wyatt Earp himself. Here’s an even bigger coincidence – Mukilteo, Washington is also the home to Orca Beverage, one of the biggest craft soda producers and distributors in the nation. Orca Beverage owner, Mike Bourgeois, and his team were actually developing a new sarsaparilla and they wanted a western name for it. He kept thinking of the imagery on the label of Earp’s Western Steak Sauce, which is a photo of Mike Earp resembling his famous relative. Because what goes better together than craft soda and steak sauce? Not literally. Although, that probably is some terrible variation of a Lester’s Fixins soda. “What better name for a great Western sarsaparilla than Earp’s Sarsaparilla?” asks Bourgeois. Earp agreed, humorously conceding, “Well, jeez, why didn’t I think of that?” The two companies formed a partnership and released the first batch of Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla in May of 2011. Aside from using pure cane sugar, Bourgeois notes that there’s a “slight smoky component” to the sarsaparilla flavor. We’ve got our boots on and ready to sample.
Where to get: Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla is a nationally distributed soda. You can purchase it online from Summit City Soda.
Nose: Kind of a funky smell. A little bit of mint and a lot of licorice.
Taste: Sarsaparilla; mint; mild bite. You’ll taste the mint first. The mint flavor seems to be different in Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla than it tastes in say, birch beer or root beer. It’s kind of has a mint tea flavor to it. Odd. The sarsaparilla taste here is pretty mild actually. It’s right up front with the mint as well. You’ll taste a noticeably sweet wintergreen bite near the end of the sip. These are your mint flavors. Herbal mint, traditional, yet mild sarsaparilla root, and sweet wintergreen with a bit of zip.
Finish: Wintergreen breath mints that linger along the sides of the tongue.
Rating: Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla is something someone could hand you if you requested a sarsaparilla and you wouldn’t blink an eye. It’s not bad, but it’s not elite. It has enough flavor to satisfy most casual soda drinkers, but the craft soda audience may long for a deeper gustation experience. The mint steals the show in this sarsaparilla, while the sarsaparilla root flavor itself is pretty light. There’s a little bit of a bite to this, like a root beer, but not quite to the level of most sarsaparillas. If you’re a big root beer or sarsaparilla fan, then this is probably one you’ll want to try if for no other reason than to check it off your list. Personally, this is probably my last endeavor with this particular brand. I think the signature sarsaparilla taste needs to be much bolder. The sweet wintergreen bite on the finish is nice, but it’s the second mint flavor you taste in the course of a few seconds. I’d just like to see more flavor variance. Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla is the nice, nerdy girl in the back of physics class without a homecoming date. You’ll ask her if you can’t find anyone else, but you’re probably trying to play in a different league before you go there.