Can You Get Drunk off Root Beer?

Root beer is a delightful soft drink cherished by many worldwide, thanks to its sweet, rich flavor and unique carbonated feel. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that the root beer market size was worth USD 759.6 million in 2022 and is expected to bring in an impressive USD 1.09 billion by 2030

A large portion of root beer lovers consumes the beverage to hydrate. Others are more interested in its medicinal benefits since it’s known to ease nerve pain and minimize digestive distress. 

However, while some root beer enthusiasts savor the sweet drink, they worry it might get them drunk. If you’re in that lot, we’ve written this article for you. 

Read on to learn whether root beer can make you drunk and get more valuable details about this flavourful beverage. 

Can You Get Drunk Off Root Beer?

Traditional root beers don’t contain alcohol since their ingredients don’t produce intoxicating levels of ethanol.  Therefore, they cannot get you drunk. 

Nonetheless, some people maintain that you can get drunk from drinking too much root beer. Factually, the beverage contains less than 0.5% ABV, meaning you’d have to take a whopping 20 cans or more to become intoxicated. And that’s not even a guarantee since your body’s chemistry and weight will come into play when determining whether the drink will affect you. 

At the same time, some root beer brands’ ABV is above 0.5%, increasing their chances of making you drunk upon consumption.

Root Beer: The Basics

Certainly, learning about root beer’s origin and components can provide valuable insight into why the beverage will likely not make you drunk. Let’s fill you in!

The Origin of Root Beer

Tracing its lineage back to the early 18th century, root beer has been a popular North American beverage since colonial times. European settlers initially made the beverage as an herbal tonic and medicinal drink brewed with ingredients like: 

  • Sassafras root
  • Sarsaparilla bark
  • Licorice root
  • Burdock root
  • Wintergreen berries 

The Standard Recipe and Components of Root Beer

The base of every root beer recipe is filtered water, sugar for sweetness, and safrole-free sassafras extract for its rich taste and aroma. Some brewers add molasses or brown sugar to enhance the drink’s flavor profile. 

Other common ingredients are herbs and spices like licorice root, sarsaparilla, ginger root, birch bark oil, nutmeg oil, and wintergreen leaves. 

Root beer is then carbonated with pressurized carbon dioxide before bottling. Depending on preferences and branding decisions by manufacturers, this classic beverage may be sweetened with high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar cane.  But either is present in trace amounts of alcohol due to natural fermentation processes used to brew the drink. 

Traditional root beers do not contain any alcohol. The preservatives that make it block fermenting proteins such as yeast, resulting in reduced calories. 

The Alcohol Aspect: Is Traditional Root Beer Alcoholic?

Examining the Ingredients in Root Beer

Traditional root beer doesn’t contain alcohol, as ingredients such as sassafras extract and birch bark syrup are used instead of yeast, which is handy for fermentation.

The sassafras gives root beer its distinctive flavor and aroma. You can derive the spice from the sassafras tree that grows in North America.  While licorice adds sweetness to the beverage, nutmeg gives it a much-needed aromatic touch.

Most root beer brewers also use molasses, which adds complexity to the drink’s overall flavor profile and boosts its mineral content. 

Additionally, most alcoholic root beers include additional components, such as an added source of sugar (like high fructose corn syrup), an extract from hops or different grains for its fermentable sugars, and fermented beverages (like wines ) for alcohol content, respectively.

These ingredients are pasteurized at a much higher temperature than regular soda drinks to kill off any live remaining yeast before packaging. That allows the drinks to retain their carbonated bubbliness longer due to lack of further fermentation once in the bottles. 

Why Root Beer Doesn’t Contain Alcohol

Modern root beers contain no alcohol because their production doesn’t involve the typical fermentation process that renders beverages alcoholic. 

But that wasn’t always the case. Traditional root beer versions contained a little alcohol as the recipe brewers added some ethanol as a flavoring. The sugars were also converted to small trace amounts of alcohol, around 2% ABV. 

Comparing Hard Root Beer to Other Alcoholic Beverages

Typically, hard root beer’s alcohol content is comparable to a light beer, but it has less sugar than beer and wine. Still, you must consider factors such as alcohol content, taste, and popularity when comparing these drinks. 

Let’s dive into the major differences between hard root beer and beer. 

Hard Root BeerBeer
Typically has an ABV of 5-6%, with some reaching up to 8% (higher than Miller Lite’s 4.17% ABV).Generally has an ABV of 4-6%, with some light beers having a lower ABV and stronger beers having a higher ABV.
Sweet, creamy flavor profile derived from a blend of spices, herbs, and natural flavors that mimic traditional root beer.Wide variety of flavor profiles, ranging from hoppy and bitter to sweet and fruity, depending on the type of beer.
It often appeals to those who prefer sweet beverages or are looking for an alternative to traditional beer.Popular among a broader range of demographics, with countless styles and flavors to cater to various tastes.
Complex root beer gained national popularity only a few years ago and is produced by established breweries like Mission Brewery.Beer has a long-standing history and is consumed worldwide, with countless breweries producing various styles and flavors.

Hard Root Beer Vs. Wine

Comparing hard root beer to wine reveals critical differences in alcohol content, flavor profile, and popularity. Here’s a table providing a detailed comparison between these two types of alcoholic beverages:

Hard Root BeerWine
Has an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 5-6%, similar to many beers.Has a higher ABV, ranging from 9-16%, depending on the type of wine.
The flavor profile is sweet and spicy, evoking the classic taste of root beer with added carbonation and subtle notes of spices.Flavor profile varies greatly depending on the type of wine, from sweet and fruity to dry and earthy.
Has gained popularity in recent years, with the first nationally produced hard root beer emerging only a few years ago.Has been popular for centuries, with a well-established market and a wide variety of styles and regions available.
It uses spices and roots instead of traditional beer ingredients like wheat and barley.It is produced from fermented grapes, with different grape varieties and production methods contributing to the diverse range of wine styles.

Hard Root Beer Vs. Spirits

Hard Root BeerSpirits
It boasts an alcohol content of 5-6% Alcohol content ranges from 35-60% or higher
Flavors reminiscent of traditional root beer with added sweetness and a slight alcoholic tasteA wide range of flavors, from the smokiness of whiskey to the botanical notes of gin
Often consumed as a standalone beverage or mixed with ice cream for a complex root beer floatCommonly used in a variety of mixed drinks and cocktails
Appeals to drinkers who enjoy sweet, non-traditional alcoholic beveragesPopular among a diverse range of drinkers with varying flavor preferences

Factors Affecting Alcohol Absorption

These are the factors that affect your body’s capability to metabolize alcohol: 


Generally, women become intoxicated quicker than men due to the differences in body composition and levels of enzymes responsible for breaking down alcohol. 

Additionally, men have more body water than women with the same body weight. That allows them to achieve lower alcohol concentrations of alcohol in their blood, even after consuming the same amount of alcohol. 

Weight & Body Fat Percentage

Larger people typically metabolize alcohol faster than smaller individuals as there is less tissue volume per unit of alcohol absorbed. On the other hand, those with higher levels of body fat tend to absorb more alcohol since the fatty tissues hold onto some of the alcoholic molecules within them.

Stress & Mood

Some people believe that increased stress levels or a negative mood can affect how quickly we process certain substances like alcohol. It could lead us to become intoxicated faster, even after consuming only a small amount. 

Again, stress emotions like anger, anxiety, and depression may change our stomach enzymes, impacting our alcohol tolerance. 

Food Intake Before Drinking

Eating before drinking reduces peak blood-alcohol concentrations as food helps lower the rate at which it’s absorbed into our bloodstream. That’s why people who drink before eating become intoxicated faster and cannot manage their drinking. 

How You Consume the Alcohol 

If you consume alcohol rapidly at the beginning of your drinking session, it’s processed more quickly, so you’ll be drunk after a short duration.

Conversely, taking time between sips allows means it’ll be a while before the alcohol kicks in. 

Medication Use

Taking various types of medicine, such as antibiotics, while consuming alcohol affects your metabolism rate. It could lead to heightened intoxication symptoms,  delayed absorption onset, or reduced severity observed after ingesting a relative amount. 

The Effects and Risks of Overconsumption of Hard Root Beer

Due to its higher amount of alcohol content, overconsumption of complex root beer can lead to a variety of physical and mental health risks, including hangovers, altered decision-making, memory loss, liver damage, and addiction. Hence, we must be mindful of how much hard root beer we consume to avoid these considerable risks. 

Let’s delve deeper into these adverse effects of overconsumption of hard root beer. 

Impact on Physical Health 

Overconsumption of complex root beer can immediately impact physical health. For starters, it triggers hangovers, which occur when a person’s blood alcohol level drops significantly after drinking too much. Unfortunately, the unpleasant experience can last for up to several days, causing symptoms like: 

  • Headaches 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Extreme fatigue and sleepiness 
  • Dizziness 
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach pain 
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Irritability 

Alcohol Poisoning 

Excessive consumption of root beer puts you at significant risk of alcohol poisoning, whose symptoms include confusion/stupor, seizures, slow breathing, blue-tinged skin color (in lighter-skinned individuals), and blackouts.  If you or a friend or relative exhibit these signs of alcohol poisoning, seek medical attention immediately. 

Impact on Mental Health 

Binge-drinking hard root beer can also affect your brain function, consequently impacting your mental health and decision-making. 

Therefore, you might display weakened self-awareness, diminished judgment skills, impaired motor coordination, and difficulty learning new things or remembering prior knowledge.

Regrettably, all these effects affect your personal and professional relationships. They might also trigger symptoms of serious mental health conditions like depression, psychosis, anti-social behavior, and anxiety. 

Health Issues Related to Chronic Alcohol Consumption 

Chronic alcohol consumption causes various health issues, including high blood pressure, stroke, addiction, stomach ailments, cancer, and brain damage. 

Additionally, it increases your risk of developing significant memory loss and cirrhosis of the liver, an irreversible condition that scares the vital body organ and sparks its failure. 

We recommend constantly regulating your drinking habits to avoid these life-changing conditions.  Set limits on the cans or bottles of hard root beer you should consume weekly. You can also prevent your ‘triggers’ or people or things that prompt you to drink excessively. 

If you’re addicted to alcohol, seek help and support immediately. 

Social and Legal Repercussions (DWI/DUI, Impact on Relationships)

Alcohol-impaired driving, commonly known as DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), is a serious criminal offense with severe legal consequences. Beyond that, drunk driving can have wide-reaching impacts on personal and professional relationships.

When it comes to the legal repercussions of driving under the influence, potential penalties may include:

  • Temporary driver’s license suspension
  • Monetary and non-monetary fines
  • Higher insurance premiums
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device in one’s vehicle
  • Probation or court-ordered alcohol programs
  • Jail time of mandatory service hours
  • Loss of employment or professional licenses due to conviction
  • Long-term damage to one’s personal and professional reputation
  • Suspension of student loans or deferred payments for those currently enrolled in school

Additionally, the consequences of a DUI conviction go far beyond fines and legal issues. It can lead to devastating physical accidents with serious injuries or death, financial hardship from medical bills, and property destruction. 

You could also experience feelings of loneliness and shame, leading to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. 

Avoid drunk driving by designating a driver when out with friends. Also, consider setting up ride services like Uber ahead of time, avoiding peer pressure to drink more than you can handle, and always wearing a seat belt whenever you’re behind the wheel.

FAQs on Can You Get Drunk Off Root Beer

Is it possible to get drunk off root beer?

No. Most root beer varieties either have no alcohol or only contain trace amounts incapable of intoxicating you.

Are there alcoholic versions of root beer?

Some brands make alcoholic versions of root beer by combining malt liquor with traditional root beer flavoring and increasing the carbonation levels. However, these drinks still have a lower alcohol content than regular beers. Hence, they’re not as potent as drinks like wine and spirits.

What are the risks associated with drinking alcoholic root beers?

Drinking too much alcoholic root beer puts you at risk of developing alcohol dependence later in life. If you drink hard versions of this beverage, you could suffer from serious health problems, including heart disease and liver cirrhosis. 
Other issues of drinking complex root beer include memory and learning difficulties and poor school and work performance.

Final Take on Can You Get Drunk Off Root Beer

Root beer is a delicious, refreshing soft drink countless people worldwide enjoy. Traditional versions of this beverage can’t get you drunk since they’re alcohol-free. Even so, complex root beers contain between 4% -10% ABV, which may intoxicate you.

Therefore, don’t throw caution out of the window when enjoying hard root beer. Never drink on an empty stomach; always drink slowly to avoid becoming intoxicated too soon. Setting a drinking goal also goes a long way in preventing excessive consumption of hard root beer.

Dan Smullen Beer is my life profile

Hi, I'm Dan, founder of BeerIsMyLife. I've been an avid homebrewer for over ten years, and beer is my true passion. I've traveled all over the world, visiting breweries, tasting beer, as well as making my own batches. I set up this blog to share that experience with you.