How to Make the Best Root Beer Float

You can make a root beer float that's cool and creamy, with the perfect ratio of ice cream to root beer. Here's what to do!

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Everyone loves a root beer float—it’s a classic drink made with high quality root beer and rich vanilla ice cream. Of course, a mug of root beer tastes incredible by itself, but this ice cream drink is the best way to cool off after a hot day.

The History Behind Your Root Beer Float

On August 19, 1893, Frank. J. Wisner, the owner of Cripple Creek Brewing in Colorado, concocted the world’s first-known root beer float. Legend says that Wisner’s idea was born when he thought that the snowy peaks of Cow Mountain resembled ice cream floating in soda. The next day, he combined root beer and vanilla ice cream and dubbed it a “Black Cow.” Learn more about the origins of other iconic foods.

How to Make a Root Beer Float

The recipe for a root beer float is simple, as there are only two ingredients. The magic is in building the drink! Here are our secrets to root beer float perfection.

Ingredients

  • 1 can or bottle of root beer (We love Sprecher!)
  • 2-3 scoops vanilla ice cream

Editor’s Note: We taste tested vanilla ice cream to find the best brand.

Tools You’ll Need

  • We love this ergonomic ice cream scoop from OXO, which makes scooping out the perfect amount of ice cream so much easier.
  • These classic 16-ounce German beer mugs are great for enjoying a tall root beer float—or any cool drink, to be honest.
  • If you decide to use a straw, we recommend these colorful reusable straws, which are both environmentally-friendly and kid-safe!
  • To feel like you’re enjoying a root beer float at a soda fountain, pick up these gorgeous long-handled ice cream spoons.

Directions

Step 1: Frost the mugs

To make the mugs or steins extra frosty, chill them ahead of time for 10 to 20 minutes in the freezer.

Step 2: Add the vanilla ice cream

Scoop the vanilla ice cream into a mug or beer stein. Firmly press it down.

Editor’s note: There’s a lot of debate around what goes in the mug first: the root beer or the ice cream. Well, in order to prevent overflowing and get the perfect creamy texture, add the ice cream and then pour over the fizzy root beer.

Step 3: Pour in the root beer

Gently pour the root beer over the ice cream. You’ll notice that, after just a few minutes or after a good stir, the ice cream will start to float—hence the name of this glorious drinkable treat!

If you want a root beer float without the extra foam, take a page from the trusty bartender’s manual: Slightly tilt the mug or glass (about 20 degrees) while s-l-o-w-l-y pouring in the root beer. Just like frothy beer, this prevents a “head” full of bubbles from forming at the top of the glass.

How to Drink a Root Beer Float

Do you use a straw? A spoon? Chug it straight from the mug? So many options! But which is the proper way?

It all depends on preference, really. Root beer floats are actually quite drinkable with or without a straw once the ice cream and root beer melt together. But if your root beer float turns out like more of a shake than a drink, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat it with a spoon.

Root Beer Float Variations

  • Brown cow: Chocolate lovers will dig this twist. Use chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla!
  • Cola float: Use cola instead of root beer for a tangy, bubbly experience. Cherry cola tastes amazing, too!
  • Purple cow: Pretty purple drinks for all! Use grape soda in place of root beer for a fruity treat. You can also use strawberry, pineapple or lemon-lime soda.
  • Orange cream: Love creamsicles? Use orange soda instead of root beer. We like making ours with Sprecher Orange Dream.
  • Hard root beer float: This one is for adults ages 21 and over only! Use alcoholic root beer, such as Not Your Father’s, for an extra special libation.
  • Boston cooler: East Coasters know and love this medley of ginger ale and vanilla ice cream.
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Ceara Milligan
Ceara “Kiwi” Milligan is a professional marketing strategist and copywriter who is proud to call Milwaukee home. She loves baking, cooking, writing, listening to music, dancing, playing and hosting trivia, watching college basketball (Go Marquette!), telling lame jokes, and petting every dog that crosses her path.