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

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The primary flavor of root beer was originally made using the root (or bark) of the sassafras plant.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.

What do you think?

53 Comments

  1. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  November 19, 2013 - 6:14 am

    Maybe 7 was his favorite number. Altho Kristen is probably right…
    I already knew that root beer came from sassafras roots. But I never knew chocolate was in root beer. I love, love, love chocolate. <3 St. John's Wort is a natural herbal remedy for all kinds of things. I thought sarsaparilla was a kind of candy. The Warrior cats use burdock root to treat rat bites. (Warrior cats rule! Go ThunderClan! If someone turned me into a cat forever, I'd go and join ThunderClan. Cinderpelt/Cinderheart is my favorite Warrior cat.)

    Reply
  2. Kristen -  October 18, 2012 - 7:41 pm

    The 7th element in the periodic table is lithium therefore since 7up contained lithium that’s where the 7 was derived from

    Reply
  3. Ferret -  November 13, 2010 - 8:56 pm

    The name 7 up may have originated from the game…but perhaps not. Does anyone know which came first?

    Reply
  4. Monster -  November 9, 2010 - 12:35 pm

    Ever heard of the 7 heavens / 7 skies? Funny how this article decided to not bring up such a crucial clue to 7 up…

    Research will get you far…

    Reply
  5. totally lollipop -  November 6, 2010 - 12:52 pm

    i wanna go to that (AKA Raymond Kenneth Petry)

    *U to Lila

    *Tess- don’t leave a frking comment!

    MMMMMMMMMHMMMMMMMMMMM

    Reply
  6. manikandan -  November 5, 2010 - 10:29 pm

    I wonder it might have took seven days to put the formulae for this soft drink,which eventually became a part of the name..

    Reply
  7. Kate -  November 5, 2010 - 9:50 am

    Root beer party! At ‘Raymond Kenneth Petry’s’ house!! :D

    Reply
  8. molli -  November 4, 2010 - 3:47 pm

    i loooooooooooove soda!! OMG! but i couldn’t care less…no ofense

    Reply
  9. smoothius -  November 4, 2010 - 2:39 pm

    in addition to the effects of coke that alias stated you can also use it to clean off corroded battery terminals works instantly just pour it on and that stuff comes right off. however pepsi actually works even better i don’t know why. perhaps our resident chemist R K P could tell us if his posts weren’t blocked

    Reply
  10. Dix -  November 4, 2010 - 8:47 am

    Maybe they wanted to keep the name of the softdrink “Lep” and l got printed upside down as “7″ and they rolled with it. hehehhe!

    Reply
  11. louis paiz -  November 4, 2010 - 7:16 am

    7-up got its name from it’s bottle zise wich used to be seven inches high used to be be a green glass bottle and it’s cost was seven cents and the flavor more limonish how good it was to have seven cents and enjoy one of those. thank you

    Reply
  12. WHIMPER | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  November 4, 2010 - 6:49 am

    [...] bar-tending days — is cubed ice and some brown whiskey with a splash of soda and Gingerale or 7-UP in different ways — A “WHIMPER” or mayhap “ULULATE” for the GOLDEN [...]

    Reply
  13. Steve -  November 4, 2010 - 4:20 am

    Why write this blog? you wasted my time and didn’t answer any questions. fail.

    Reply
  14. ali -  November 4, 2010 - 1:08 am

    I believe it comes from the number of ingredients.

    Reply
  15. Alias -  November 4, 2010 - 12:16 am

    Hmm Original formulas of 7 Up contain Lithium, Cocaine in Coca Cola, and Sassafras oil can be used as a precursor for making MDMA i.e. Ecstacy!

    P.S. BTW did you know that Coca Cola has phosphoric acid which is the main ingredient in Mag wheel cleaner!!! check it out…get a grubby silver coin and leave it in a glass of coke overnight…it will come out sparkly clean…also if you leave a tooth in it it will not be there in the morning.. and it wont be the tooth fairy!!!!

    Reply
  16. Rajendar Menen -  November 3, 2010 - 11:08 pm

    Maybe, it takes you to seventh heaven!!

    Reply
  17. Windy -  November 3, 2010 - 3:16 pm

    7-Up actually got its name because it used to contain lithium whose atomic mass is 7. The ‘up’ part is due to the effects of lithium, meant to stabilize the mood of the drinker. Of course, they soon stopped adding lithium because of questionable side effects…

    Reply
  18. Andy -  November 3, 2010 - 12:56 pm

    Most people don’t realize that root beer was actually a beer first. And there still is alcoholic root beer around the world. It’s actually illegal to some extent in the US because root beer is such a kid’s related beverage.
    It was a beer made from the sassafras root and other ingredients, eventually becoming the non-alcoholic beverage we now know and love.

    Reply
  19. 7up sp1 -  November 3, 2010 - 12:09 pm

    @Rooti: You did noticed there is A&W Root Beer without vanilla flavor, right?

    Interesting post, thx for the info :)

    Reply
  20. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  November 3, 2010 - 12:00 pm

    STILL DELETING MY POSTS………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Reply
  21. sl7vin -  November 3, 2010 - 11:56 am

    I believe the 7 comes from the defenition of pH. check it out
    the symbol for the logarithm of the reciprocal of hydrogen ion concentration in gram atoms per liter, used to express the acidity or alkalinity of a solution on a scale of 0 to 14, where less than 7 represents acidity, 7 neutrality, and more than 7 alkalinity.
    in other workd it’s not too sugary or acidic, 7 represents neutrality in 7up. my question is, what does “up” represent in 7up?

    Reply
  22. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  November 3, 2010 - 11:53 am

    1. re: “What does the “soft” in “soft drink” refer …”

    Soft, [the explanation was not on that page] means sweetness: heavy sugar content instead of alcohol (which has a sticky-sweet odor: I’ve never tasted it: Chemists ‘waft’ odors, they don’t drink them). However, some people assume, soft, refers to the softness of the water itself, lower mineral content (like the water softeners people use at home to yield more bubbles when bathing). I drink soft milk (from cow’s milk).

    2. And, re Saf on November 3, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Sarsparilla aka Sarsaparilla aka Sasparilla (from Sassa[p]ras) was fairly common in California back in the ’70′s, in draft form … but then, so were Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlors.

    3. And, re Tintin on November 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm:

    WD-40 was originally going-to-be “MD-40, Moisture Dispersant” but they couldn’t accept the “MD” so they changed it to “WD, Wetness Dispersant.”

    Ray.

    Reply
  23. Blake -  November 3, 2010 - 11:20 am

    I Wonder if 7 up could be a combination of 7 different formulas. Kind of like Honey Bunches of Oats.

    Reply
  24. smoothius -  November 3, 2010 - 11:19 am

    will seven up cure a root beer hangover?

    Reply
  25. Dara -  November 3, 2010 - 10:51 am

    Maybe it was named after Chilsung in Korea? Chilsung was first sold in the 50s under that name, which means ‘seven stars’. They’re both essentially the same product. Dunno when 7-up was first called 7-up, so the connection might have gone the other way either.

    Just a guess…

    Reply
  26. Opi8 -  November 3, 2010 - 10:50 am

    There were other variations of this fad, such as asking for a 5-up, or 6-up (referring to drinks of corresponding size), but the “7-UP” version caught on, as it not only referred to the most popularly asked for quantity, but had the advantage of the number 7′s good reputation as a lucky number.

    This didn’t all happen one morning, as might be inferred from the example, but did get its initial “spark” from such an occasion, and grew, over a short time, to become “the (popular) thing”…this way of placing one’s order for his morning soda.

    When a marketable name was sought for the invention, it had seemed the natural choice.

    Reply
  27. i banged ^ v -  November 3, 2010 - 10:48 am

    this is awsom and i did u by the way

    Reply
  28. Victoria (Miami Beach) -  November 3, 2010 - 10:05 am

    Now I know why I love root beer so much! Birch beer is pretty awesome too.

    Reply
  29. Rooti -  November 3, 2010 - 9:41 am

    A&W Root Beer states on its label that is is made with “Aged Vanilla”

    Reply
  30. Smarmy_Schoolmarm -  November 3, 2010 - 9:25 am

    @ Storm: 7-UP didnt start putting their drink in cans until the late 50′s. Production began around 30 years earlier.

    Here’s an article that discusses the evolution of the name.

    http://www.snopes.com/business/names/7up.asp

    Reply
  31. Malisyn -  November 3, 2010 - 9:22 am

    On the Jack Daniels it’s “Lucky No. 7″ actually. Maybe that’s how many combinations they went through before the realized the perfect combination of soda and alcohol is Jack and 7UP. That’s what I’m gonna tell people anyway.

    Reply
  32. Chris McClellan -  November 3, 2010 - 9:21 am

    When I was a kid, back in the 30′s, Every spring, we would go out to dig up sassafras roots to make tea. My mother always baked suaar cookies and the wonderful memories of sassafras tea and sugr cookies(you could dunk) still lingers on my mind. Several years later, I rediscovered the taste in root beer.

    Reply
  33. Saf -  November 3, 2010 - 7:57 am

    @ after thought

    “Up” is indeed bar terminology. It’s short for “Straight up,” meaning chilled but with no ice (usually by shaking it with ice and then straining it out into a stemmed glass). Not-quite-interchangeable with “Up” is “Neat,” which simply means a single alcohol with no ice, water, or mixers (i.e. a shot poured straight from the bottle into a shotglass or highball glass), although a lot of people (incorrectly) use both terms to just mean “no ice.”

    If someone were to order a “7-Up” in my bar, it would possible that they want a shot of Seagram’s Seven Crown (which is commonly mixed with 7-Up, incidentally… or maybe not so incidentally, since PepsiCo owns both labels), chilled and strained. But I’d probably assume that they meant the soft drink, or otherwise give them a funny look — the people who order whiskey straight usually don’t drink cheap, blended crap like Seagram’s 7.

    On an only-tenuously-relevant note, I used to buy Sioux City Sarsaparilla. Can’t find it anymore, but I remember liking it better than any root beer I’d ever had.

    ~Saf

    Reply
  34. Allen -  November 3, 2010 - 7:41 am

    I think if its a cure to a hangover its good and seven is gods number so if you drink it for a hangover cure let it remind you where it came from.

    Reply
  35. Nathan Hunter -  November 3, 2010 - 6:45 am

    I LLLLLOOOOOOOOVVVVVVEEEEEE ROOOOOOTTTTT BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRR.
    The root beer I knew about, but the 7-up I did not. The name is a mystery like Jack Daniel’s 7 sauce or something like that, you know what I mean. The mystery of the 7 never may be solved.

    Reply
  36. Jan -  November 3, 2010 - 6:32 am

    What is the “beer” in root beer? Is there any similarity in the manufacturing process between Hires and Bud?

    Reply
  37. L -  November 3, 2010 - 6:31 am

    7-Up as a name, may be people just thought it sounded hip.
    But it does seem that people are attracted to different numbers and colors (E.g. white usually seems to some people meaning “pure” or “devoid” or “all of one thing”; Purple; royal, etc etc) and the number 7 does have it’s pros as an “attractive number”.
    Although I bet it’s either the size of the origonal bottle or how many formulas it too as Storm and Vicki say above :P

    Reply
  38. Starfire -  November 3, 2010 - 5:51 am

    DUDE! NO WAY! THERE’S CHOCOLATE IN ROOT BEER! I LOVE ROOT BEER!

    Reply
  39. Derf -  November 3, 2010 - 5:30 am

    Who cares?

    Reply
  40. kristine -  November 3, 2010 - 5:21 am

    the root beer part is right, because when i went camping, we found a sassafras plant and the root smells just like root beer, it was surprisingly cool and when we got back to our camp site, we boiled the roots and it tasted like non-carbonated root beer. pretty cool. idk about the 7 UP history though.

    Reply
  41. BUTTER -  November 3, 2010 - 12:53 am

    um i just want to say I♥♥ them both!!!

    Reply
  42. Stuart -  November 2, 2010 - 11:34 pm

    Brands use numerology and symbology in their products to communicate with other companies and to assist sales. Numbers and colours represent different things.

    Ever wonder what the ’3′ was in 3-mobile? their advertisments says it all :

    “3′s the magic number, something in that ancient mystic trinity”

    A rudimentary knowledge of numbers and symbols is essential to survive in international buisness.

    Reply
  43. after thought -  November 2, 2010 - 10:48 pm

    I wonder if it has anything to do with a bar phrase at the time? Perhaps it evolved or was a popular mixing drink in its time. Just musing, but it struck me as a possible thing to say when ordering a cocktail, or maybe a term for buying several drinks for buddies.

    Reply
  44. Tintin -  November 2, 2010 - 10:35 pm

    Isn’t it WD-40 that has the number of formula attempts on its name?

    Reply
  45. hanni -  November 2, 2010 - 10:23 pm

    i think it took seven years to get it right.

    Reply
  46. Greg Deras -  November 2, 2010 - 10:11 pm

    I love rootbeer but i guess if i love drinking it I got to know my history of it.

    Reply
  47. Storm -  November 2, 2010 - 9:55 pm

    The seven in 7 up refers to the original size of the can, When it first came out it was in a 7 ounce can, the up refers to the way the carbonated bubbles flow. :))

    I dont know about the root beer….

    Reply
  48. Cyberquill -  November 2, 2010 - 9:35 pm

    Wikipedia reports that 7 Up was created by Sir sup [sic] who launched his St. Sup-based company The Howdy Corporation in 1920.

    The identity of this “Sir sup” remains unexplained, but it is not a big stretch to go from Sir Sup to Seven Up.

    Reply
  49. hard drink after work -  November 2, 2010 - 9:07 pm

    A regular can of soda contains sugar as equal intake of a day. Drinking too much soda is not good for you but sugar is natural. Diet drink is far less calories but I wonder if it is really safe for a long duration intake of synthetic stuff.

    Reply
  50. Vicki -  November 2, 2010 - 8:55 pm

    I think it was the number of formulas they went through before getting it just right.

    Reply

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