Pour 4 cups root beer into 13x9x2-inch baking pan; freeze until set, about 4 hours or overnight.
Meanwhile, boil remaining 4 cups root beer in large saucepan until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 30 minutes. Cool root beer syrup.
Using tines of fork, scrape frozen root beer into icy flakes, then mix gently in pan to blend. Spoon 3/4 cup root beer granita into each of 6 clear glasses or dessert cups. Top granita with scoop of ice cream. Drizzle each with 4 teaspoons root beer syrup and serve.
Campfire Root Beer Floats
When I think summertime, it conjures up all sorts of happy memories of days spent outdoors in the swimming pool or at the lake and nights spent chasing fireflies or laughing around the firepit. We never took "fancy" vacations, instead we would pile into the car, arm-crank those windows down, and set out on roadtrips. We wound up anywhere from the fishing pond to a drive-in movie theater.
For us, summer was a time for the simple things and small indulgences like an impromptu trip to the beach or pulling up to the speaker of the root beer stand. These are all experiences that I try to replicate with my own kids now that I'm an adult. Instead of worrying about expensive trips and getting time off of work, my husband and I aim for easy solutions to keep the family entertained.
We're really lucky have full access to our neighbor's pool, which is where we spend a lot of our summer days. But a couple of things that are few and far between these days are drive-in movie theaters and root beer stands! I always got butterflies when the waitress roller skated over and hooked a tray to my window before setting down a cold, frosty root beer float.
Fortunately, we can make our own floats at home by picking up a 2-liter or a 12-pack of A&W® Root Beer when I'm at Meijer grabbing groceries, a new lawn chair, or a new bathing suit to replace the threadbare one drying on the fence.
Now, I love a classic root beer float—cold root beer poured over vanilla ice cream. The "crunchy" spots in the foam were always my favorite bits (I'm weird like that). But it's also fun to mix things up a bit, so we turned a summer night around the campfire into inspiration for the floats I'm sharing with you today!
Basically it's S'more meets Root Beer Float. Oh. YES! We started by filling our mugs with S'mores ice cream and putting them in the freezer until we were ready to toast the marshmallows, then brought the mugs with us around the fire, filled them up with cold root beer, and topped them off with a gooey, toasted marshmallow. Be sure to h ave some crushed graham crackers and mini chocolate chips ready for anybody who feels like sprinkling!
These fun root beer floats are sure to spark nostalgia in the adults and plant the seed for the kids. It's the simple things that stick with us.
Root beer float muddy buddies
If I’m going to drink soda, my drink of choice will always be a Fountain Diet Coke. That said, I weirdly enjoy foods that are “root beer flavored”:
It was this last recipe that required the purchase of something called root beer concentrate.
And in thinking about what else I could use this little bottle for, of course my mind went to my #1 favorite snack.
All I had to do was figure out how to execute. Which wasn’t hard at all because, what is a proper root beer float anyway, except for root beer and (really good) vanilla ice cream?
And so – as I do – I made 2 batches of muddy buddies – one flavored root beer, the other vanilla bean.
I tried to figure out how to add the cherry but it didn’t quite work (any suggestions?).
What’s your favorite summertime treat?
For the Root Beer Muddy Buddies
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
6 ounces (1 cup) white candy melts or chocolate chips
2 tablespoons root beer concentrate
4 cups Corn Chex
For the Vanilla Bean Muddy Buddies:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces (1 cup) white candy melts or chocolate chips
4 cups Corn Chex
Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper.
Make the Root Beer Muddy Buddies: Place the confectioner’s sugar in a gallon-size ziploc bag. Melt the candy melts and root beer concentrate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring constantly. Remove bowl from heat, add the cereal and fold to thoroughly coat. Transfer mixture to the ziploc bag, close and shake to coat all of the cereal evenly. Spread out on one of your baking sheets to set. Wash and dry the bowl.
Make the Vanilla Bean Muddy Buddies: Place the confectioner’s sugar in a gallon-size ziploc bag. Using the blunt end of a small knife, scrape out the grains from both halves of the vanilla bean into your cleaned bowl (take a look at the picture in this post if you need help visualizing). Add the vanilla extract and candy melts, and set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring constantly till melted. Remove from heat and add the cereal, folding to thoroughly coat. Transfer to the ziploc bag, close and shake to coat evenly. Spread out on the other baking sheet to set.
Mix both cereals together and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Root Beer Float Waffles (Gluten-free, Vegan)
Let’s just imagine for a second that you can have waffles, that taste like a root beer float! Uh, I KNOW! Welcome to my brain that can mash up waffles and just about any other dessert to make them into a darn good treat that can toe that line between breakfast/brunch/dessert and still be vegan AND gluten-free. Can you say YASSSS?!
This post is sponsored by Zevia. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this space possible!
Can you tell that I looooove waffles? They are kind of my all-time favorite breakfast food and when given the choice between pancakes and waffles, I’m going to choose waffles 99% of the time. So many nooks and crannies for syrup and (in this case) ICE CREAM! Plus, I’ve totally nailed my ultimate crispy and easy vegan waffle recipe that happens to be gluten-free, so I feel kind of like a waffle champ at this point.
One of the really big keys to crispy waffles is gluten-free flour, which is TOTALLY not usually in my wheelhouse! I don’t usually make a huge effort to make things gluten-free, simply because it adds a whole other layer of difficulty onto vegan baking. The ratio of flours and wrench it throws into my usual baking logic are something that I’m starting to tackle but haven’t quite gotten to just yet. But, it turns out that in waffles, gluten-free flour blend is the way to go! It gives these vegan waffles a really light and airy texture, without weighing them down or giving you that really weird not cooked yet feeling in the middle. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve pulled apart waffles, only to find half cooked batter in the middle. With these root beer float waffles, they work each and every time, PLUS get an extra boost of fluffiness from the Zevia Ginger Root Beer that is whisked right into the batter! I kind of feel like we should all be putting fizzy drinks into our waffle batter from here on out.
If for some reason, putting ice cream on your waffles isn’t quite your thing, these would be amazing with a dollop of vegan butter and a drizzle of maple syrup! Or if you’re feeling really ambitious, you could reduce down the ginger root beer into a syrup, pour it over your waffles, and consider yourself the luckiest person on earth. Either way, if there are waffles in your future, you’re really doing this whole breakfast thing right!
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Root Beer Granita Float - Recipes
How do you make something you already love better? Add Lindy’s Italian Ice to it. It basically turns anything that’s good into something that’s “ooooh, soooo gooood”.
Recipe Serves 2-3
Nothing is better than sipping a cold, frozen drink on a hot, sweltering day. It will surely whisk your mind away to a lounge chair on a white, sandy beach!
3 6oz cups Lindy’s Strawberry Italian Ice™
1 cup strawberry rum (or white rum)*
1/3 cup lime juice concentrate (or fresh-squeezed lime juice)
1 1/2 cups of ice
Place Lindy’s Strawberry cups in microwave for 30 seconds to thaw. Pour all contents into blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with lime slice and a tiny umbrella.
Banana Mango Smoothie
Recipe Serves 2
Lean almond milk keeps it light, while banana and chia seeds provides soluble fiber and protein. Plus, it feels like a tropical vacation in a glass.
2 6oz cups Lindy’s Mango Italian Ice™
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups of ice
Place Lindy’s Mango cups in microwave for 30 seconds to thaw. Pour all contents into blender and blend until smooth and vacation-y.
Recipe Serves 2
It’s electric – boogey woogey woogey. Turn your tongue blue while you turn your mood anything but.
2 6oz cups Lindy’s Blue Raspberry Italian IceTM
5 oz UV Blue VodkaTM*
1 cup lemonade
1 1/2 cups ice
Place Lindy’s Blue Raspberry cups in microwave for 30 seconds to thaw. Pour all contents into blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with a sprig of mint and lemon slice.
Recipe Serves 2-3
Take the marg out of your margarita. This take on a south-of-the-border classic will take your day at the pool to a whole new level.
3 6oz cups Lindy’s Lemon Italian IceTM
1 cup silver tequila*
1/4 cup lime juice concentrate (or fresh lime juice)
2 tbsp simple syrup
Lightly dip rim of glass in lime juice and roll in rock salt. Place Lindy’s Lemon cups in microwave for 30 seconds to thaw. Pour all contents into blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with a lime slice.
Black Forest Protein Shake
Recipe Serves 2
Chocolate covered cherries are not a breakfast food. However, add almond milk and protein powder to Black Cherry Italian Ice and you can take on the day with the same feeling you’d have if you did have chocolate covered cherries for breakfast. Oh yeah, plus energy and vitamins from the protein.
2 6oz cups Lindy’s Black Cherry Italian Ice™
1 1/2 cups chocolate almond milk
2 scoops chocolate protein powder
Place Lindy’s Black Cherry cups in microwave for 30 seconds to thaw. Pour all contents into blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with shaved chocolate to make it even chocolatier.
Raw Orange Vanilla Cream Cake
Raw cake always seems to be too good to be true. Healthy cake!? This one tastes like a creamsicle, but the ingredients are barely more than nuts, honey, and fruit. No matter how many times I make a raw cake, I am always surprised that it can taste this good and be this good for me. And remembering to soak the cashews is the only prep-time. Making the cake only requires about 10 minutes total. So if you are looking for an easy dessert that is healthy enough you could eat it for breakfast, look no further.
Perfect Root Beer Float
With ice cream in the house and summer just around the corner, seemed to me a root beer float was just waiting to happen!
Just sippin' on this reminded me of Amy, my best friend in junior high school, and visiting her Mama at Calvert-Carraway's drug store, where she worked in the afternoons. We'd sit and sometimes spin when we could get away with it, on top of the red vinyl topped metal barstools at the soda fountain counter and get treated to an ice cold root beer float - or sometimes a cherry coke - while we soaked in that ice cold air conditioning on one of these swelterin' hot summer days we have down here in the Deep South. I clearly remember when businesses used to proudly display signs in their front windows that shouted "Ice Cold Air!"
And if there weren't too many patrons eating at the counter and we didn't annoy Amy's Mama too much, sometimes we'd get to snack on some yummy onion rings too! Boy, those were the days. Life was simple, no worries, and nothin' to do but just be .
Ideally, in my corner of the world, a proper root beer float would be made with Barq's root beer, from the bottle. Despite what a lot of folks think, or what Wiki says, Barq's root beer as we know it, was first bottled right here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and in fact, the Barq family still live here. If I remember correctly, I believe that the Barq family retained the secret formula when they sold the bottling rights to Coca-Cola, and that formula is still made here and sent out to bottlers across the country to add into the product.
We still have Barq's in the bottle available around here at stores and in most restaurants, and that's what we love the best. In fact, it is near about a requirement to have a bottled Barq's root beer when ya get a good, drippy roast beef po-boy . most likely dressed and pressed, if you're from around here. Mmmm mmmmm, that's soundin' so dang good, I just might have to run out and get one of those right now!
Anyway, I gotta say - there is a world of difference between Barq's in a bottle and Barq's in the can that is marketed all over the country (or is it the world) these days, but even so, I realize that not everybody has access to Barq's in a bottle . or maybe you don't even like Barq's - so, substitute what ya got!
But just hurry up and make you one of these beverages, close your eyes and think back to childhood and less complicated times, if only for a few moments. Here's how to make one.
If you think this sounds yummy, I'd sure ♥ it if you'd click to pin it, tweet it, stumble it, or share it on Facebook to help spread the word - thanks!
Recipe: The Perfect Root Beer Float
- 3 to 4 scoops of a high quality vanilla ice cream (like Blue Bell or Breyer's)
- 1 bottle of root beer , preferably Barq's
- 1 tall glass
- 1 straw
- 1 long iced tea type of spoon
Fill your glass half the way with vanilla ice cream. Slowly pour Barq's root beer over the top of the ice cream until the foam rises to the top, reserving just a bit of the root beer. Give it a good stir and then pour the rest of the root beer on top to bring the head back up. Stick in a straw, stick in a spoon, so you can dig out some of that ice cream, and slurp it up!
Liquid Cool Drink Recipes for Hot Summer Nights
Say “ahhhh” to a root beer float.
Some summer days are so hot or sticky or both that you need something fast, frozen, and immediate. Thus: frozen cocktails milkshakes floats slushies. Bookmark this post for when you’re dripping with sweat and too hot to think. Here are the easiest, breeziest recipes and gadgets for cooling yourself down fast. (Or at minimum, enjoying yourself in the frostiest way possible!)
Milkshakes. Don’t be suckered into paying $9 for them at the local dairy. Make your own, on the cheap, with good milk, good ice cream, and good fixings. All you need is a good blender or stick blender, plus some ideas beyond ho-hum chocolate and vanilla. Think: malted milk caramel. Mint-chocolate grasshopper milkshakes with cherries on top. Blackberry, thick as can be. Want something verging on cocktail territory? Consider banana and coconut together. Yes! Go to milkshake town.
2. Frozen Piña Colada
Eden Passante of Sugar and Charm heroically dreamt up this frozen Piña Colada for us. If the thought of a coconut milkshake just makes you crave this classic cocktail, this is the recipe you want. White rum meets frozen pineapple cubes, pineapple juice, coconut cream and a splash of orange juice, for brightness. The best frozen cocktail recipes are also the easiest, and this one tastes fabulous after just two to three minutes in the blender.
3. Frozen Mango Margarita
Is there a more cooling drink than a frozen mango margarita? One that effectively says, “Your work today is so completely done!” We don’t think so. You’ll want tequila, limes, the right mango mixer, such as this organic one, or plenty of frozen mango chunks and a high-powered blender. General frozen marg tips are right this way, and a bevy of mixer options are here.
4. Root Beer Float
“Goodness, do I really need a recipe for this?” It’s a fair point. But to achieve maximum deliciousness in float-ville for the potable seen above, here’s a tip: First, add the root beer. Then, carefully spoon in the vanilla ice cream. It’s a way to avoid that not-so-tasty, tastes-like-air froth. Yech. (And for bonus points, build your float around an icy root beer granita!)
An affogato is like an early summer or late summer day: It’s just between brain-freezing cold and just-cold-enough. A shot of fresh-brewed espresso pours over vanilla ice cream. It takes the edge off the joe and the ice cream alike. You’ll see little windowpanes of coffee and cream in semi-frozen states. And at the right moment, you can swirl the whole thing together with your spoon for the most divine tiny coffee milkshake on the planet.
6. Guinness Ice Cream Float
Guinness and ice cream together are good enough that one of us used to tote a pint to the local watering hole for DIY floats once weekly. (We don’t recommend this unless you’re friends with the bartender and willing to share, as it’s a headache for them!) This recipe for chocolate-coffee-boozy floats is just as tasty as you’d think. Freezing the pint glasses in advance is a key tip for sodashop-like presentation.
7. DIY Slushies
Zoku Slushie Makers!
Here’s an easy idea for a fun summer dessert when you’re entertaining outdoors: give everyone a slushie maker and a favorite juice (or chocolate milk!), then let them make their own after-dinner treat. These little beauties are inexpensive and make quick work of DIY slushies. Kids love them. (They also work for adult beverages, but you could consider Rabbit Freezeable Cocktail Makers instead!) No matter which way you go, just be sure there’s enough to go around these are envy inducing. Everyone wants to be cool.
Coconut sable cookies
ROOT BEER floats poured table-side, a “milkshake program” created by a sommelier, spectacular sundaes layered with gelee, meringues and buttery sable cookies. It’s a whole new world of soda fountain desserts.
If you’ve ever had the caramel copetta at Pizzeria Mozza -- creamy dark-caramel gelato layered with a crisp Italian pizzelle (waffle cookie), gooey caramel sauce and sticky-smooth marshmallow sauce, topped with a handful of salty, toasty Spanish peanuts -- then you know that a sundae can be so much more than just ice cream with hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry on top.
Lately (maybe it’s goodbye-to-summer nostalgia), soda fountain standards -- sundaes, shakes, floats, ice cream sandwiches -- have sparked the imaginations of ice cream-minded pastry chefs.
The Little Door’s new pastry chef, Danielle Keene, has been concocting ice creams to serve by the scoop at the Los Angeles restaurant’s adjacent deli-cafe Little Next Door as well as for her new desserts at the restaurant.
She makes a sundae layered in a parfait glass, starting with kumquat-size almond financiers (made with brown butter, orange zest and orange blossom water), then adding roasted Adriatic figs, huckleberry compote and a scoop of honey lavender ice cream. Then the layers are repeated, topped with two more scoops of ice cream and candied orange zest. It’s the pinnacle expression of well-loved sundae characteristics -- the cake-like texture of financiers meets the creaminess of ice cream meets soft-roasted and syrupy fruit in a commingling of textures and temperatures.
AT THE recently opened [email protected] in Hermosa Beach, executive pastry chef Renee Ward is making her version of a layered sundae -- a show-stopping dessert that she calls a coconut coupe. Ward begins with tart kalamansi lime gelee perfumed with vanilla, then a layer of house-made raspberry marmalade and fresh raspberries for a parfait-like beginning. A coconut sable makes a crunchy platform for a tiny scoop of creamy coconut lime sorbet. For a final, flamboyant touch, a teardrop-shaped coconut meringue.
“I like to watch the guests . . . take the spoon and dive in all the way to the bottom so they get all the textures and all the different flavors and take the perfect bite,” Ward says.
Hers is an elegant dinner finale that sommelier Caitlin Stansbury serves with a Moscato Bianco from Vignalta. “The richness of the coconut and the tropical flavors she’s layered into that dessert,” Stansbury says, “pairs so well with the heady gardenia scent and jasmine” of the Muscat.
Like any traditional soda jerk who might draw from an arsenal of ice creams, syrups, sauces, nuts and sodas, Ward uses components made from several recipes. Each can stand on its own or can be combined in building-high style. No cherry necessary.
Her coupe has as much in common with current French-forward desserts as with old-timey soda fountain favorites. Ward previously worked at chef Alain Ducasse’s Mix in Las Vegas, where dessert coupes are a frequent after-dinner offering.
The coupe -- the stemmed glass bowl, such as for Champagne -- “comes across as really hip but still classic,” Ward says.
There’s a whole section of fantastic “coupes glacees” (which roughly translates as “bowls of ice cream,” a serious understatement) on the menu at chef Daniel Boulud’s Bar Boulud, which opened earlier this year in Manhattan. Pastry chef Ghaya Oliveira layers apricot sorbet with apricots, pistachios and lemon speculos (cookies) fromage blanc-berry sorbet with strawberry shortcake and chocolate-vanilla ice cream with hazelnut feuilletine (crushed wafers) and chocolate foam.
The hippification of sundaes isn’t all about chefs. If the crowd at the new desserterie Haus in Koreatown is any indication, it’s chic to meet over artfully presented, ice-cream-and-more desserts such as bananas Foster or cherries jubilee and thick shakes in flavors such as green tea or almond. Here, among the girls with big tote bags and miniature dogs and the guys who pull up to the patio-side valet station in their new cars, the bingsu (a Korean sundae) comes in a glass tea pot filled with shaved ice, fruit, sweet red beans and rice cake. At the table, the server pours sweetened condensed milk over the whole thing.
At LA Mill in Silver Lake, Providence pastry chef Adrian Vasquez, who creates the desserts for LA Mill, has put his own version of bingsu on the menu after a trip to Seoul -- black sesame granita with sweet red beans, his own mochi (sweet pounded rice) cake and micro herbs.
Call it a copetta, call it bingsu, call it a vacherin -- whatever you call it, you’re talking sundae construction. A vacherin glace is chef Alain Giraud’s signature dessert at brasserie Anisette in Santa Monica -- lavender ice cream (which has followed him from his days at Lavande), fresh strawberries, raspberry puree, Chantilly cream and meringues.
MERINGUES! They’re also chef Laurent Tourondel’s sundae add-in of choice, such as at BLT Steak on Sunset Boulevard, where he’s put an orange raspberry sundae on the menu. “It’s actually a Popsicle,” Tourondel says of the sundae. Maybe in terms of flavors -- creamy orange sorbet swirled with raspberries and orange liqueur and crunchy meringues.
“I love the crispy touch with ice cream,” he says. “We have several sundaes [at his several restaurants] -- every season is different. A chestnut sundae during the fall. It’s a take on the French classic called mont blanc.”
Besides sundaes, chefs are experimenting with sodas, shakes and ice cream sandwiches too.
A creative R&D beverage team at LA Mill is concocting its own “coffee root beer” for the restaurant’s root beer float. (There’s also a Blanco y Negro coffee float -- coffee, coffee granita and vanilla ice cream.) Other soda flavors to be offered include candied ginger, rooibos and citrus-camomile. “We’ll try to match different ice creams with the sodas,” owner Craig Min says.
Says Craft pastry chef Catherine Schimenti, who recently has been making floats of muscat soda with peach sorbet: “I love the foam the soda creates when hitting ice cream or sorbet.” She also serves a root beer float with vanilla ice cream and Abita root beer from Louisiana, poured at the table.
And ice cream sandwiches? Sona pastry chef Ramon Perez is reinterpreting the classic with his own pistachio ice cream sandwich: Sicilian pistachio ice cream (with a hint of basil) between two crumbly speculos (thin cookies that he makes with orange zest and molasses), served with watermelon soda. The ice cream sandwiches at Osteria Mozza are more traditional, but come with a bowl of chocolate sauce to dip them into.
At Tourondel’s latest restaurant, BLT Burger in Las Vegas, it’s all about the shakes. Master sommelier and beverage director Fred Dexheimer collaborated with Tourondel for its “milkshake program,” including a toasted marshmallow “Stay Puft” shake. “Laurent has been tweaking that one,” Dexheimer says. “It’s a little difficult. The marshmallows when they’re toasted -- you need to have a powerful blender to get the marshmallow blended.”
A Parade of Floats Up and Down the Avenues
AS the silver tray held aloft by a waiter passed through the dining room at Le Bernardin, heads turned. On it were six Champagne flutes filled with a jewel-like crimson liquid, each capped with a bit of pink froth and a scoop of magenta sorbet.
They were so tall, cool and stylish that I'm sure I was not the only one who wished they would be joining my table. Later, when I asked what they were, the answer could not have been more surprising: raspberry-Champagne floats.
I ordered one on the spot. The first sip was lightly sweet, glittering with a chilly fizz. Then, when I dipped a spoon into the graceful glass, there was the icy freshness of fruit. About halfway through, the two components married into one, the sorbet enriching the Champagne, the Champagne turning the sorbet into a smooth, intensely berried confection all its own.
It was so light, so ethereal, that it was gone before I knew it. But not to worry, it was not the last float on earth. In fact, you can hardly go into a restaurant today without seeing a parade of them go by. This nostalgia-sweet evocation of summer has come sweeping in again, and with great panache.
Some creations emerging from pastry kitchens have taken a wild turn, like a pale green sour apple float devised by Christophe Toury, the pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel, using sweetened lime juice, sour apple liqueur, green apple sorbet and Perrier.
''I had heard of floats and had never tasted one until recently,'' said Mr. Toury, who is from Chartres, not far from Paris. ''I wanted to make something that wasn't for kids, that was more sophisticated.''
Sam Mason, the new pastry chef at Atlas on Central Park South, drew on experience when he concocted a fountain menu to serve in the outdoor cafe. ''When I was growing up in Florida, we had floats all the time, usually made with vanilla ice cream and root beer or Coke,'' Mr. Mason said. 'ɻut my new mentality has gone in for the exotic.''
And how! His menu includes a float made with wasabi-green tea ice cream and ginger beer. The ice cream's pepperiness plays off the bite of the ginger beer, making a zingy but deliciously quenching float. Mr. Mason's other floats are more conventional, like almond ice cream in cherry soda.
At Fressen in the meatpacking district, Martin Peikoff, the pastry chef, one-ups Mr. Mason with a candied beet float, containing goat cheese ice cream and toasted walnut brittle. Coincidentally, Michel Nischan at Heartbeat also serves a beet soda float with vanilla goat milk gelato.
At the new City Bakery, Maury Rubin has come up with an inspired combination: dark, frothy stout topped with molasses ice cream. With their toasty bitterness, the two ingredients were made for each other. A sundaelike float made with cajeta caramel and seasoned with cardamom is served at Aleutia in the Flatiron district. The froth comes from steamed milk mixed with plain soda water.
There's a pink Champagne float with rum and Champagne granita at the Tonic in Chelsea and a palate-cleansing Champagne float with honey-lavender sorbet at Lotus in the meatpacking district. March on East 58th Street and Chow Bar in Greenwich Village have floats made with sake and additions like black tapioca pearls, mango sorbet, framboise, shiso leaf and ginger beer.
Clearly, these are floats that have strayed far from their roots.
The float may have been created about 100 years ago, encouraged in part by the Temperance movement. Floats and other fountain classics like ice cream sodas -- always made without alcohol -- soared in popularity until the end of Prohibition. There are theories that the float was encouraged, if not developed, by soft drink companies, including Hires and A&W, the root beer makers, and Coca-Cola, to boost soda fountain sales.
The classic float is simply a glass of ice-cold root beer into which a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream is gently dropped. Buoyed by the carbonated drink, the ice cream floats to the top and can be spooned while the soda is sipped.
While the chronology is hazy, one thing that is certain is commercial root beer, the sine qua non of the float, came on the scene in 1876. It was created by Charles Elmer Hires of Philadelphia as a syrup based on an old American elixir made from natural herbs and roots, especially sassafras, and it was meant to be mixed at home with plain soda water. Bottled root beer soda was introduced in 1886.
Another important date is 1874, the year the ice cream soda was invented, also in Philadelphia, by Robert M. Green, who was dispensing soda water with cream and syrup, a popular drink, at a celebration for the Franklin Institute. He ran out of cream, substituted ice cream and had a runaway success. By the 1890's ice cream soda was hailed as the national beverage.
'ɺ lot of people would argue that there is no difference between a float and an ice cream soda,'' said Robin Weir, a food historian, who has studied and written about ice cream. ''The float is a little simpler, usually just ice cream and soda pop.'' Mr. Weir thought the term dated from the early 1900's. So did Laura E. Quarantiello, the author of ''The Root Beer Book: A Celebration of America's Favorite Soft Drink'' (Tiare Publications, 1997). She said she thought the float originated in the New York area.
The earliest reference in print Mr. Weir could find was in ''The Dispenser's Formulary,'' a collection of more than 2,000 soda fountain recipes, dating from 1915, and he was surprised it was not earlier. The ice cream float in that book consisted of a fruit ade with soda water or ginger ale and topped with sherbet and ice cream, no root beer.
There are some who contend that the root beer float dates only from the 1920's or 30's. In any case, the float held its own through the 50's, then went into decline, suffering from both the rise of fast food chains with ubiquitous shakes and the disappearance of soda shops and variety stores. In drugstores, soda fountains were simply less profitable than cosmetics counters.
There are essentially two parts to a float: carbonation and cream. The fizzier the liquid, the better the float. That is why root beer, real beer and sparkling wine are excellent for floats. And if you are going to use sparkling water, strongly carbonated bottled seltzer or Perrier are good choices. Badoit would make a terrible float, more flat than fizz. Some chefs stir or shake the liquid to increase carbonation. Syrup and sparkling water can substitute for a bottled beverage.
The dense, extra-foamy head that sets good root beer apart from most sodas helps keep the ice cream afloat, which is why the root beer float, sometimes called a brown cow, is the archetype of all floats. Lots of places are not really experimenting, but merely refining tradition.
Consider the birch beer float at Cafe St. Bart's on Park Avenue and 50th Street. Or, at 92 on Madison Avenue in Carnegie Hill, a root beer float comes in two sizes, one for adults and one, dusted with chocolate sprinkles, for children. At the new Heartland Brewery and Chop House in Times Square, a root beer float is made with the restaurant's own microbrewed soda.
At Strip House in Greenwich Village, there is a coffee float made with hazelnut ice cream garnished with hazelnut brittle. At first, the chef, David Walzog, said he was going to use Manhattan Special, an espresso coffee soda made in Brooklyn. But he thought it was too sweet, so now he is mixing his own unsweetened coffee and espresso with sparkling water.
''I was always looking for a coffee dessert,'' he said. ''In a steakhouse, especially in summer, a rich, heavy dessert is a hard sell. A float is perfect. It's not too sweet, and it's lighter. I'll make it either regular or decaf.''
Many other restaurants that serve floats are also using boutique sodas in them, like Boylan's and Stewart's. Some are making their own carbonated drinks for floats. And they are certainly making their own ice creams.
Whether the float is classic or inventive, certain rules apply.
A tall glass, preferably tapered, will help keep a good head on the soda and the ice cream on top. It is a must. The glass can be shaped like a Pilsener glass or rounded like a traditional soda fountain glass. And unless you use Champagne or sparkling wine, fancy crystal is not necessary.
Traditionally, the soda goes in first, then the ice cream. But for ice cream lovers, a scoop can be put into the glass first, and then, once the liquid is added, at least one more scoop should be added last. Some whipped cream can provide a final embellishment.
Because a float is made without ice, it is important to have all the components, including the glass, well chilled.
As for what flavors to use, according to chefs today, almost anything goes. But complementary rather than contrasting tastes seem to work best. The creaminess of vanilla ice cream marries deliciously with mellow root beer. Fruit flavors with fruit syrups and sparkling wine, and spicy ginger beer or ginger ale with ice cream or sorbet that is peppery or tart-sweet are other good examples. Bear in mind that as the ice cream melts into the liquid the two should blend.
Unlike the root beer float of yore, the latest float frenzy does not appear to have hit the home kitchen. Some shops, notably Crate & Barrel, sell a variety of 12- to 24-ounce Pilsener glasses, perfect for floats ($2.50 to $8.50 each), and traditional ribbed soda fountain glasses ($1.95), but that store does not carry long-handled iced-tea spoons, which are essential. Williams-Sonoma stores in Manhattan have neither the proper glasses nor the long spoons.
I found iced-drink spoons, nice stainless steel ones, at Bloomingdale's, a set of eight for $60. They are also sold at Bridge Kitchenware, in stainless steel for 60 cents each and in silverplate for $3.75, and at Fishs Eddy, for $2.50 each in stainless steel.
But perhaps what a float maker needs most is a thirst for experimentation. As Mr. Mason of Atlas put it, 'ɺ good float takes more imagination than technique.''
WILD STRAWBERRY FLOAT WITH RASPBERRY CHAMPAGNE
Adapted from Le Bernardin
Time: 30 minutes, plus chilling overnight and freezing
1 pint strawberries or, preferably, 1/2 pint wild and 1/2 pint cultivated, hulled
1. In a saucepan mix 1/3 cup of sugar with 1/3 cup water, and boil until sugar dissolves. Quarter the cultivated strawberries. Place all strawberries in a blender, pour in sugar syrup, and blend until puréed. Strain. Refrigerate until cold, then chill in an ice cream maker. (Commercial strawberry or raspberry sorbet can be substituted.)
2. Bring 1 1/2 cups water and remaining sugar to a boil until sugar dissolves. Add raspberries, and refrigerate overnight.
3. To serve, pour 3 tablespoons raspberry juice into each of 8 Champagne flutes. Place 3 raspberries in each glass. Add Champagne until three-quarters full. Top each glass with scoop of sorbet.
HAZELNUT-COFFEE FLOAT WITH HAZELNUT BRITTLE
Time: 30 minutes plus cooling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar
2 cups regular or decaffeinated coffee, chilled
1/2 cup strong brewed espresso
1 pint hazelnut ice cream.
1. Spread a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Chill 4 12- to 14-ounce Pilsener glasses.
2. Place hazelnuts in a small, heavy nonstick skillet, and toast over medium heat until lightly browned. Remove from skillet, and set aside.
3. Place butter in skillet, and melt over medium-high heat. Stir in sugar, and continue to cook, stirring, until mixture turns amber.
4. Add hazelnuts, remove from heat, and pour on parchment, using the back of a spoon to spread brittle. Allow to cool, then break in small pieces.
5. Whip cream until softly peaked, add vanilla and confectioners' sugar, and whip until cream holds stiff peaks. Refrigerate.
6. Combine coffee, espresso and sparkling water in quart container with tight-fitting lid.
7. Place two medium-size scoops ice cream in each chilled glass. Scatter a tablespoon hazelnut brittle on ice cream. Shake container of coffee, and pour into glasses, about three-fourths full. Add another scoop of ice cream, top with whipped cream and a few pieces of brittle.
Adapted from Four Seasons Hotel
2 tablespoons simple syrup
1/3 cup DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker liqueur
2 scoops green apple or lime sorbet
Slice of lime for garnish.
1. Stir lime juice and syrup in a tall chilled glass. Stir in liqueur. Add Perrier.
2. Top with sorbet, garnish with lime, and serve.
Note: For simple syrup, boil equal parts sugar and water until sugar dissolves, then cool. Ciao Bella Gelato sells green apple sorbet at 27 East 92nd Street, for $5.50 a pint.
GINGER FLOAT WITH GREEN TEA-WASABI ICE CREAM
Time: 20 minutes plus chilling and freezing
1 teaspoon powdered green tea (mancha)
4 stalks fresh lemon grass
4 bottles Stewart's Ginger Beer, chilled.
1. Place wasabi and green tea in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk, then heavy cream, until smooth. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar. Gradually whisk in egg yolks. Return to stove, and cook, stirring, over medium heat, until slightly thickened. Do not allow to boil. Transfer to a metal bowl, and refrigerate until cold, then freeze in an ice cream maker.
2. Place 2 generous scoops ice cream into each of 4 tall glasses. Garnish with lemon grass. Top with ginger beer and serve.
1 tablespoon orange blossom or other mild honey
2/3 cup fresh orange juice, chilled
1/2 cup sparkling water, chilled
2 scoops vanilla frozen yogurt
1 slice orange, slit halfway to hang on
1. Place honey in the bottom of a tall glass. Gradually stir in orange juice until honey dissolves. Add sparkling water, and top with two scoops vanilla frozen yogurt.