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Kirks Big Sars Sarsparilla

Sarsaparilla is a soft drink ori­gin­ally made from the Smilax regeli plant but now often made with arti­fi­cial fla­vours. D intro­duced it to me a dec­ade ago and it’s since become a favour­ite soft drink for us. It’s been pop­u­lar in the United States since the 19th cen­tury as a pur­por­ted cure for many med­ic­al con­di­tions, but we appre­ci­ate its pleas­ant medi­cin­al fla­vour with hints of vanilla, car­a­mel, win­ter­green and liquorice.

Kirks Big Sars Sarsparilla is the first in a series on the fla­vour of the brands avail­able in Sydney. This was a sur­pris­ing find. All stores of major super­mar­kets stock Bundaberg’s sar­sa­parilla, but this one appears only on the shelves — but not the web­site — of a less-vis­ited Woolworths store in west­ern Sydney. The spelling of sar­sa­parilla on the label is miss­ing the second ‘a’ although it’s unclear wheth­er this was inten­tion­al.

The bever­age is lightly car­bon­ated and made with nat­ur­al fla­vours — not brewed — and a dark­er brown-black col­our than Bundaberg. It has a sweet vanilla and liquorice nose, as you’d expect from sar­sa­parilla. The taste, though, could not be more dif­fer­ent. Consumed ice-cold, very sweet notes of car­a­mel and vanilla come through in the head with a faint liquorice under­tone in the body before giv­ing way to a sweet minty vanilla fin­ish that lingers on the pal­ate. While the bever­age retains its effer­ves­cence through­out, the minty notes of win­ter­green that were absent in the Bundaberg are over­whelm­ing here. The sweet minty vanilla fin­ish isn’t entirely unpleas­ant, but it’s odd — like sweet minty tooth­paste — and bal­anced poorly by the overly subtle liquorice under­tones that usu­ally brings the pleas­ant medi­cin­al sharp­ness.

While we can get used to the fla­vour, it’s not what we look for in sar­sa­parilla so we’re unlikely to repur­chase.

This bottle of Kirks Big Sars Sarsparilla con­tained 1.25 litres. It was bottled in Australia and was pur­chased in Sydney, Australia in 2017