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behind the bar: anton nocito’s sarsaparilla strawberry float

by Kristina Gill

Am I the only one who thinks of Stuart Little when I hear the word sarsaparilla?  Maybe so…  And ever since I read that book as a little girl, I have always wanted to know what it tasted like.  I think root beer became my favorite soda when I was little because it was explained to me that sarsaparilla was kind of like root beer.  This week my dream has come true!  Founder of the P&H Soda Co., Anton Nocito, based in Brooklyn, New York, has shared his very own recipe for sarsaparilla syrup from his forthcoming book Make Your Own Soda, written with Lynn Marie Hulsman.   He jazzed it up with a scoop of strawberry ice cream, to make a sarsaparilla strawberry float.  I realize this is the Behind the Bar column, so we have included the recipe for a Sarsaparilla Jack from Anton’s book at the bottom of this post, though it is not pictured.  –Kristina

About Anton: Anton Nocito is the founder of P&H Soda Co., an all-natural soda syrup company located in Brooklyn.  Anton is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and was an executive sous chef within the Union Square Hospitality Group, as well as other restaurants in New York City and Long Island.

See Anton’s full recipe after the jump.

Sarsaparilla Strawberry Float


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 and 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 ounces dried sarsaparilla root
  • 1 ounce dried birch root
  • pinch of salt
  • Strawberry ice cream


In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the water and sugar to a boil.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the sarsaparilla root, birch root, and salt.  Steep for exactly 35 minutes.  (If it steeps any longer; it will taste too woodsy, but steeped any less and it will be thin.)  Strain immediately through a fine-mesh strainer, discard the roots, and let cool.  Store the syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

To make the float, follow the tips below using strawberry ice cream (or your favorite flavor)!  If you would just prefer to skip the ice cream float and just have a soda, fill a tall glass with ice.  Add 3 tablespoons of the Sarsaparilla Syrup, top with seltzer, and mix gently.

Tips on making the best ice cream soda.

  1. Start with a tall, frosty glass– a footed, tulip-shaped soda glass works best, if you have it.
  2. Measure 3 or 4 tablespoonfuls of your favorite syrup and drizzle it down the sides of the glass.
  3. Slowly pour in the seltzer to about 3 fingers below the top.
  4. Take a good-sized scoop of your favorite ice cream and secure it on the rim by pressing the ball of ice cream down firmly, and only releasing it from its scoop when it’s halfway sunk and anchored.  This will leave a gap into which the foam can expand.
  5. Serve with a bendy straw and a long-handled spoon.  For extra authenticity, add a dollop of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.

Sarsaparilla Jack

  • 1 and 1/2 ounces whiskey
  • 1 tablespoon Sarsaparilla Syrup
  • 3 fresh mint leaves
  • Seltzer
  • Lime wedge, for garnish
  • Fresh mint leaf, for garnish

Combine the whiskey, syrup, and mint leaves in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a lowball (old-fashioned) glass filled with ice.  Top with the seltzer, garnish with the lime wedge and mint leaf, serve.

Why Anton loves these recipes

I really like this combo, strawberry sarsaparilla was the first recipe I made with the sarsaparilla root. I added a little sarsaparilla to the strawberry syrup and people went bonkers for it. This float just kicks it up a bit with the creaminess of the ice cream. I think you are going to agree that the slight licorice flavor goes well with the strawberries!  The Sarsaparilla Jack is an adult way to enjoy sarsaparilla syrup, a flavor which is becoming popular in some bars lately.

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