Root Beer Float

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Root Beer Float—the quintessential summer treat! with scoops of vanilla ice cream floating in bubbly foamy root beer.

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 my father 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

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  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 root beer float

Ingredients

  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Root beer

Method

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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Links:

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 ;)

  • Sarah

    I grew up in my parents’ ice cream store, so I am a root beer float pro!
    The secret to my root beer floats is to mix a tablespoon of ice cream and root beer at the bottom of the glass, and then add the scoops of ice cream and root beer. Always delicious.

  • Sandy

    My first rootbeer floats were enjoyed with my brother’s Little League team at the A & W in our little town. Everybody climbed into the back of someone’s pick-up after a hard fought victory. No baseball for the girls back then, but the taste of a rootbeer float was almost as sweet as my brother’s win. Even today, rootbeer floats with the grandkids are a highlight and treat during those dog days of summer!

  • Ben

    The biggest secret to great RB floats is chilled glasses. Put your glass mugs into the freezer for 30-60 mins before preparing. You get nice root beer ice shards.

  • Peggy

    My childhood memory is the NYC Egg Cream. You take an 8oz. frosted Coke glass and pour 1″ Fox’s U Bet Chocolate Syrup and 1″ Milk, stir and then add Seltzer. It will fizz up, just like the Root Beer Float, but it is proper to sip it fast, before the fizz of the seltzer goes flat. No, there are no eggs or cream in this, but that is the original NYC Egg Cream. Try it, I guarantee you will love it…..

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Root Beer Float