As summer heats up, there are few things more refreshing than the fizzy, frosty goodness of an old fashioned ice cream soda. The retro treat goes so well with the season, the ice cream soda powers-that-be have even declared June 20 National Ice Cream Soda Day.
Today, most of us are lucky to find an occasional root beer float on a diner menu but when the idea of combining carbonated drinks with creamy ice cream first bubbled up in the late 1800s, it was such a hit that inventors across the country fought to claim the concoction as their own. One legend has it sweet cream soda vendor Robert McCay Green ran out of sweet cream at a Philadelphia exhibition in 1874 and swapped in ice cream. Another backstory claims Green employee George Guy spilled soda water into an order of ice cream and liked the result. Candymaker Fred Sanders is said to have used ice cream in place of sweet cream at his Detroit shop, and confectioner Philip Mohr said he used ice cream to keep his soda water cooler in New Jersey. But no matter who actually came up with the recipe first (Green even went so far as to have his tombstone inscribed with the feat), there’s no question that a frozen favorite was born.
And while America’s Main Streets are no longer lined with charming soda fountains, the humble ice cream soda in all its iterations is still worth celebrating (and perhaps reviving). Below are 10 recipes sure to cure your craving.
Homemade Syrup Sodas
1. CHOCOLATE SODA
If you want to get extra serious about your homemade soda, a la making your own syrup as well, Food Network goddess Ina Garten has you covered. Her recipe calls for combining cocoa powder, coffee, sugar, and vanilla to boil your own sweet sauce, then whisking in club soda and topping with your choice of chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry ice cream and a splash more soda.
2. RASPBERRY SODA
Homemade raspberry syrup takes a little longer, but if your sweet tooth leans fruity, it sounds well worth the wait. This recipe has you combine fresh raspberries, lemon, and sugar and let it sit for a few hours or overnight. The strained liquid from the mix is what you combine with soda water and your choice of ice cream.
3. BLACK COW
Although there are regional variations, this vintage soda fountain classic is usually just another name for a root beer float, though depending on the region, it might use cola with vanilla ice cream instead of root beer. For variety, a Brown Cow replaces the vanilla ice cream with either chocolate ice cream or chocolate syrup, and vanilla ice cream, although some places use the name Brown Cow to just mean a cola float. Variations add a little extra flair like sprinkles, whipped cream, and cherries on top.
4. PURPLE COW
This cousin of the Black and Brown Cows replaces the root beer with grape soda. The original recipes called for grape juice, ginger ale, and ice cream, which would give it a nice extra kick.
Circa 1957. Getty
5. ORANGE CREAM
If you’re looking to capture the essence of the Dreamsicles of your youth without having to hunt down an ice cream truck, an orange cream float can do the trick. Just mix a glass of orange soda with a few scoops of vanilla and you’re good to go.
6. SHIRLEY TEMPLE FLOAT
To take your cherry-flavored favorite up a creamy notch, combine ginger ale or lemon lime soda with cherry-flavored syrup like grenadine (or even fruit brandy like this recipe calls for), and add vanilla or cherry ice cream—and plenty of maraschino cherries, of course.
7. NEW YORK EGG CREAM
Made with neither egg nor cream, this confusing concoction actually just involves chocolate syrup, seltzer water or club soda, and milk or half-and-half. Some argue, however, that the New York drink started as a version of old fashioned milkshakes and used ice cream instead of milk.
Circa 1955. Getty
8. RUM AND COKE FLOAT
For a more playful take on a standard cocktail, mix Coca-Cola with spiced rum, a few scoops of ice cream, and toppings like whipped cream and a real cherry or two. If you’re serving a crowd, the blogger behind this recipe suggests using mini old fashioned Coke bottles stuck into each glass as a garnish.
9. BOOZY ROOT BEER FLOAT
Alcoholic root beers have been turning up all over the country in recent years, which means making an adult version of a childhood favorite just got a lot easier. Add ice cream to a glass of your favorite hard root beer, like Not Your Father’s or Coney Island Brewing Co., and voila! Whipped cream and chocolate syrup optional.
10. CARAMEL APPLE CIDER FLOATS
This mouthwatering recipe for apple cider floats uses vanilla ice cream, ginger ale, caramel syrup, and plain old non-alcoholic cider, but who says you can't replace the virgin cider with something a little stiffer? Cheers!