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.
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.
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.