Root Beer Float

The quintessential summer treat, a root beer float, with scoops of vanilla ice cream floating in bubbly foamy root beer.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Do you remember the first time you had a root beer float? I do. I must have been around 7 years old and we were visiting my grandparents in Phoenix, in the summer. Have you ever been to Arizona in the summer? Must be why I find Sacramento so tolerable. Let’s just say it’s hot. I still remember all of us greedy kids, still in our swim suits, having been cooling off in the pool all day, lined up in the kitchen, wide eyed as we watched my father scoop ice cream into tall glasses, and then slowly pour root beer over them. The concoction would start to foam up and sometimes spill over (of course we would lick the sides of the glass when that happened). The foam would eventually recede a bit and we would get another dose of root beer to top us off. Then we would poke at the ice cream with our straws until it dislodged from the sides of the glass and floated to the surface. Sometimes he added the scoops of ice cream to our root beers. But usually it was ice cream first, because then you could control the foam up more carefully. If you just add a scoop of ice cream to root beer, better be ready to catch all the foam as it comes erupting over the sides.

Next to a vinegar and baking soda volcano, a root beer float is God’s gift to chemistry experiments for kids. Not that we cared at all about the chemistry. Where does the foam come from? Little bubbles of carbonation sticking to the sides of the ice cream and attracting other bubbles until the bubbles get really big and float to the surface. (You can read all about it here.) And why does the ice cream float? Because it’s ice cream, churned with air and composed of a lot of fat, both which are lighter than water.

Now if you really want to get all Martha on us you can make your own root beer from scratch, and serve it with homemade vanilla ice cream. In many parts of the states sassafras grows wild, and you can easily make sassafras root beer from it. If you have access to sassafras, I highly recommend giving it a go!

Do you have a favorite childhood memory about root beer floats? Please let us know about it in the comments.

Root Beer Float Recipe



  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Root beer


Spoon a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream into a tall glass. Slowly pour root beer into the glass, allowing the foam to rise and then recede before adding more root beer.

Serve with straws and spoons.

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Sassafras and homemade root beer from Hank of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
Root beer float cupcakes from Deb of Smitten Kitchen
Root beer float cake from Joy the Baker
Where the bubbles come from
Origins of the ice cream soda
Reverse root beer float from Frozen Fix

Root Beer Float on Simply Recipes

Showing 4 of 21 Comments

  • terry lee

    We have the same thing in Australia,we call it a spider ;)

  • Tina

    For those of you REALLY into the icy, crunchy root beery crust that forms in root beer floats…
    I detest diet sodas & believe that full-fat ice cream is the only way to go but… during a stint with Weight Watchers, someone recommended making a float with diet root beer (I used A&W) and diet ice milk. The diet soda part was not so bad and the ice crusties were bountiful. My guess is the low-fat in the ice milk creates more crunchy goodness.

  • Betsy

    This is one of my favorites and one of the best desserts for those of us watching calories or sugar.

    For those of you with Diet restrictions, I use the low sugar Vanilla Ice Cream and Diet Root Beer, neither of which is great by themselves, but great in a float!

  • Banana

    A reply to Sandy, who said, “My only concern now is how hard it is to find rootbeer without HFCS – I’ve been using diet rootbeer but it’s not the same”

    Try Virgil’s Rootbeer, it’s made by Reed’s. You can find it at most supermarkets, and I know they sell it at Whole Foods. It’s sweetened with real sugar, no HFCS, and has such an incredible rootbeer flavor. They also make delicious ginger ale! :)

  • Laura

    try vanilla ice cream with orange pop!!! aaalmost better than a creamsicle.. almost! :)

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Root Beer Float