Root Beer Float:
An ice cream float or ice cream soda (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and East Asia), coke float (United Kingdom and Southeast Asia), or spider (Australia and New Zealand), is a chilled beverage that consists of ice cream in either a soft drink or in a mixture of flavored syrup and carbonated water. When root beer and ice cream are used together to make the beverage, it is typically referred to as a root beer float(the United States and Canada).
The ice cream float was invented by Robert McCay Green in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1874 during the Franklin Institute’s semicentennial celebration. The traditional story is that, on a particularly hot day, Mr. Green ran out of ice for the flavored drinks he was selling and used vanilla ice cream from a neighboring vendor, thus inventing a new drink.
His own account, published in Soda Fountain magazine in 1910, states that while operating a soda fountain at the celebration, he wanted to create a new treat to attract customers away from another vendor who had a fancier, bigger soda fountain. After some experimenting, he decided to combine ice cream and soda water. During the celebration, he sold vanilla ice cream with soda water and a choice of 16 flavored syrups. The new treat was a sensation and soon other soda fountains began selling ice cream floats. Green’s will instructed that “Originator of the Ice Cream Soda” was to be engraved on his tombstone.
There are at least three other claimants for the invention of ice cream float: Fred Sanders, Philip Mohr, and George Guy, one of Robert Green’s own employees. Guy is said to have absent-mindedly mixed ice cream and soda in 1872, much to his customer’s delight.
Regardless of its origins, the beverage quickly became very popular, to such a degree that it was almost socially obligatory among teens, although many adults did not like it. According to some accounts, it was banned, either entirely or on holy days, by some local governments, giving rise to a substitute treat, the sodaless ice cream sundae. As carbonated drinks were marketed as a miracle cure, they were often considered a substance that required oversight and control like alcohol, another controlled substance that could not be served or purchased on Sundays in many conservative areas. Many soda fountains had to figure out a way to turn a profit on Sundays when selling their product was considered illegal. The solution was to serve ice cream on these days, as it is merely a food product and not a controlled substance. Soda fountains then coined the term “Sundaes” for the ice cream concoctions that they served on “soda’s day of rest”.
A lime spider
In Australia and New Zealand, an ice cream float is known as a “spider” because once the carbonation hits the ice cream it forms a spider web-like reaction.
In the UK and Ireland, it is usually referred to as an “ice-cream float” or simply a “float”, as “coke” is often used generically to refer to any cola in the United Kingdom, and “soda” is usually taken to mean soda water, sweetened carbonated drinks instead being collectively called “soft drinks” or “(fizzy) pop”.
In Mexico, it is known as “Helado flotante” (“Floating Ice Cream”) or “flotante”. In El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Colombia it’s called Vaca Negra (Black Cow), while in Puerto Rico is referred to as a “blackout”.
In the United States, an “ice cream soda” typically refers to the drink containing soda water, syrup, and ice cream, whereas a “float” is generally ice cream in a soft drink (usually root beer).
Variations of ice cream floats are as countless as the varieties of drinks and the flavors of ice cream, but some have become more prominent than others. Some of the most popular are described below:
Chocolate ice cream soda
This ice cream soda starts with approximately 1 oz of chocolate syrup, then several scoops of chocolate ice cream in a tall glass. Unflavored carbonated water is added until the glass is filled and the resulting foam rises above the top of the glass. The final touch is a topping of whipped cream and usually, a maraschino cherry. This variation of ice cream soda was available at local soda fountains and nationally, at Dairy Queen stores for many years.
A similar soda made with chocolate syrup but vanilla ice cream is sometimes called a “black and white” ice cream soda.
Root beer float
Root beer float, a type of ice cream soda
Also known as a “black cow” or “brown cow”, the root beer float is traditionally made with vanilla ice cream and root beer, but it can also be made with other ice cream flavors. The similarly flavored soft drink birch beer may also be used instead of root beer.
In the United States and Canada, the chain A&W Restaurants are well known for their root beer floats. The definition of a black cow varies by region. For instance in some localities, a “root beer float” has strictly vanilla ice cream; a float made with root beer and chocolate ice cream is a “chocolate cow” or a “brown cow”. In some places, a “black cow” or a “brown cow” was made with cola instead of root beer. In some areas, for example, Northeastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, “black cow” is said to mean a root beer float where a portion of the vanilla ice cream and root beer have been mixed together before filling the glass with scoops of vanilla ice cream and root beer.
In 2008, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group introduced its Float beverage line. This includes A&W Root Beer, A&W Cream Soda, and Sunkist flavors which attempt to simulate the taste of their respective ice cream float flavors in a creamy, bottled drink.
A coke float can be made with any cola, such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi, and vanilla ice-cream.
A Boston Cooler is typically composed of Vernor’s ginger ale and vanilla ice cream.
The origin of the term “Boston Cooler” lies in Detroit, Michigan, the city in which Fred Sanders is credited with inventing the ice cream soda. The name is a mystery, having no apparent connection to Boston, Massachusetts, where the beverage is virtually unknown. One theory suggests that it was named after Detroit’s Boston Boulevard, the main thoroughfare of what was then, according to the theory, an upper-class neighborhood a short distance from James Vernor’s drugstore. Boston Boulevard, however, did not exist at the time. The streets and subdivision that became the Boston-Edison neighborhood, approximately five miles from Vernor’s drugstore, were not platted nor incorporated into the city until 1891, and its first homes not constructed until 1905, nine years after Vernor closed his drugstore.
It is known that by the 1880s the Boston Cooler was being served in Detroit, made with the local Vernors. Originally, a drink called a Vernors Cream was served as a shot or two of sweet cream poured into a glass of Vernors. Later, vanilla ice cream was substituted for the cream to make Vernor’s float. Unlike a float, however, a Boston Cooler is blended like a thick milkshake. Both Sanders soda fountains and Michigan-based Big Boy restaurants (which had Boston Coolers as a signature item until the Elias Brothers sold their franchise to new ownership in the 1980s) used their milkshake blenders to prepare the drink.
It can be found most often in the Detroit region’s many Coney Island-style restaurants, which are plentiful because of Detroit’s Greektown district influence. National Coney Island is one of the few restaurant chains to list the Boston Cooler in its menu. The Kerby’s Koney Island chain lists a Boston Cooler on its menus, but that variant is actually Vernor’s float, as the ice cream is not blended. It is also found at the Detroit-area Dairy Queens and at Halo Burger, a Flint, Michigan based fast food chain.
A Boston Cooler is also available on the menu at the Chow Food Bar in San Francisco.
A glass of butterbeer
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park serves “Butterbeer”, a cream soda and butterscotch drink with a creamy foam topping.
A Snow White is made with 7 Up or Sprite and vanilla ice cream. The origin of this variation is unknown, but it is found in some Asian eateries.
In the context of ice cream soda, a purple cow is vanilla ice cream in purple grape soda. The Purple Cow, a restaurant chain in the southern United States, features this and similar beverages. In a more general context, a purple cow may refer to a non-carbonated grape juice and vanilla ice cream combination.
The American Friendly’s chain also had a variation known as a “sherbet cooler,” which was a combination of orange or watermelon sherbet, vanilla syrup, and seltzer water. (At present, it is billed as a “slammer”.)
At least in Brazil and Portugal, a non-alcoholic ice cream soda made by combining vanilla ice cream and coca-cola is known as vaca-preta (“black cow”).
In Brazil, a vaca dourada or golden cow is an ice cream soda combination of vanilla ice cream and guaraná soda.
In Mexico, the most popular version is made with coke and lemon sherbet.
An orange float or orange whip consists of vanilla ice cream and orange soft drinks.
A beer float
Guinness Stout, Chocolate ice cream, and espresso. Although the Shakin’ Jesse version is blended into more of a milkshake consistency, most restaurant bars can make the beer float version. When making at home, the beer and espresso should be very cold so as to not melt the ice cream.
A flavor popular in New Orleans and parts of Ohio made with a syrup consisting of equal parts almond and vanilla syrups mixed with sweetened condensed milk and a touch of red food coloring to produce a pink, opalescent syrup base for the soda.
Melon Cream Soda
Cream soda with melon flavor (クリームソーダ) is a common drink in Japan. Melon soda is served with ice and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.