“Cronk Is Good” and the Story Behind 2020’s Oddest Drink Revival

A 19th century sarsaparilla beer may be the tipple of summer, thanks to a tweet

Pornchai Jaito / EyeEm / Getty Images

If you haven’t tried Dr Cronk’s Compound Sarsaparilla Beer, it’s probably because it was last popular in the 19th century. And then it disappeared.

But University of Calgary researcher Paul Fairie has revived interest in the obscure, possibly alcoholic beverage after he tweeted about some unusual drink advertisements he found in a Calgary newspaper from 1882. The ads? One-line pleas to “Buy Cronk,” that “Cronk is Good” or “Cronk is the drink” and, more simply, “Dr. Cronk” and even just “Cronk.”

The drink was first mentioned in an ad from Syracuse, NY, and it’s apparently the invention of a man named Warren Cronk. The drink’s disappearance in the late 19th century was probably due to a series of economic depressions. But Fairie’s tweets have garnered over 11,000 retweets and 1.4 million views, reviving interest.

And now Calgary brewery Cold Garden is reviving the beverage, the first new batch in 120 years. (And yes, this recipe will have alcohol.)

So what is Cronk? The brewery is using a recipe with sassafras, sarsaparilla, hops, chamomile, cinnamon, ginger, green tea and molasses. “I think it’s going to taste like a spicy root beer. I’ve never really used molasses and there’s a lot of ginger in there, so it’ll kick,” as Blake Belding, head brewer at Cold Garden, tells The Guardian.

Apparently, it’s a good drink for summer. “Warm weather is expected about these days, and Dr. Cronk’s delicious and healthful beverage will be in great demand,” notes one advertisement from an 1848 Cleveland newspaper.

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