What is the “seven” in “7 UP?” What is the “root” in “root beer?”

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Root beer and 7 Up are carbonated, sweetened beverages with peculiar names. What root is found in root beer? Burdock? Daikon? And what does the “7” represent? Good luck?

The primary flavor of root beer was originally made using the root (or bark) of the sassafras plant. Sassafras is native to the Americas and was supposedly discovered by the Spanish in 1528.  It is believed that the word may represent a lost Native American name that sounded similar to the Spanish saxifraga.

The following are some of the herbs and spices that typically comprise a root beer formula:

There are many more.

7 Up is a brand of a lemon-lime flavored soft drink. (What does the “soft” in “soft drink” refer to? Read about that here.)

St. Louis resident Charles Leiper Grigg invented the formula in 1929 and gave it its first (unmarketable) name: Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda. Remarkably, the original formula contained the drug lithium citrate (the substance is used in the treatment of manic-depressive illness and mania.) The beverage was advertised as a cure for hangovers, and it’s still considered a folk remedy for an upset stomach.

As for the meaning behind the “7,” there are a number of guesses. According to one myth, the drink got its name because it lacked a pH over seven, which isn’t true. Another claim says that there were only seven ingredients in the drink, while another says that the original bottle was seven ounces.

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