Food
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What is a Root Beer Float?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A root beer float is a beverage made with root beer and scoops of vanilla ice cream. The carbonation in the root beer causes the ice cream to foam up, creating a frothy, refreshing drink. As one might imagine, there are numerous variations on the root beer float featuring an assortment of sodas and ice cream flavors, and this beverage along with its relatives is a standard feature at ice cream shops, especially during the summer months.

Credit for the invention of the root beer float is difficult to determine. Most food historians agree that the soda drink was developed either by Robert Green or Fred Sanders. The drink was almost certainly invented in the United States, and since most records of it date back no further than the late 1800s, it is safe to assume that the drink was developed around this time. Whoever invented the soda must be pleased, as it became a runaway success, especially among youthful Americans.

Whipped cream is a popular topping for root beer floats.
Whipped cream is a popular topping for root beer floats.

In addition to being made with root beer, a soda float can be made with ginger ale, in which case it is sometimes called a Boston Cooler, or with cherry, orange, or vanilla sodas, among many others. Other ice cream flavors may be featured as well. The root beer float can also be topped with whipped cream, for people who are feeling particularly decadent, and it is typically served in a tall chilled glass with a spoon for manipulating the ice cream and a straw for drinking the soda.

The carbonation of the soda is what makes the ice cream in a root beer float foam up.
The carbonation of the soda is what makes the ice cream in a root beer float foam up.

It is very easy to make a root beer float at home. Start by pouring a moderate amount of root beer or your soda of choice into a tall glass; you may find that it helps to tilt the glass and the bottle of soda together so that the soda flows down the side of the glass as you pour it in, causing less foam. Then add several small scoops of vanilla ice cream, and pour soda over the top. Many people like to serve a root beer float with the remains of the bottle of soda so that consumers can top it off as needed.

The distinctive creamy, tangy flavor of the root beer float has spawned a number of desserts which integrate the taste, though rarely duplicate the texture. It is possible to find root beer float flavored ice cream, cheesecakes, and hard candies, and you can also make these desserts at home with the assistance of root beer extract and high quality vanilla.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

SarahSon

Root Beer soda has made the float very popular, but you can have a float with any kind of soda or ice cream. If you don't like RootBeer, use any kind of soda and ice cream combination you like.

Pepsi and vanilla ice cream are good together, and most kids love vanilla ice cream with strawberry or grape soda. You can't go wrong and can have a lot of fun experimenting with different flavors. There is nothing quite like a good float on a hot summer day.

honeybees

Whenever I think of a Root Beer float, I immediately think of our local A & W. That was always a treat in the summertime to stop and get one of their special floats.

These are so easy and fun to make at home. Any kind of root beer soda will work, we usually use Dad's rootbeer just because it is always at the store. Then just put as much vanilla ice cream in a cup as you want, and pour in the root beer.

The mixture of soda and ice cream make a very cold, creamy sweet treat that both kids and adults love!

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    • Whipped cream is a popular topping for root beer floats.
      By: Tsuboya
      Whipped cream is a popular topping for root beer floats.
    • The carbonation of the soda is what makes the ice cream in a root beer float foam up.
      By: Liv Friis-larsen
      The carbonation of the soda is what makes the ice cream in a root beer float foam up.