Monday, August 06, 2007

National Root Beer Float Day

Ah! A nice cold root beer float. Velvety, chocolaty, a perfect refreshment on a hot summer day. Nothing more than a few scoops of vanilla ice cream in a frosty mug and topped off with your favorite root beer, this treat has been popular for over a hundred years.

It is thought that the root beer float was invented by Frank J. Wisner in the late 1800’s. While relaxing one evening, looking out at the full moon rising over the darkened Cow Mountains, he was inspired to float a scoop of ice cream on top of his root beer. His concoction was called a Black Cow. Today a black cow refers to a float made with cola instead of root beer. A Boston cooler is made with ginger ale (Vernors in Michigan of course) over vanilla ice cream.

We could not have a root beer float with the root beer. There are over two thousand root beer brands today. According to, “Root Beer is a sweetened, carbonated beverage originally made using the root of a sassafras plant (or the bark of a sassafras tree), with sassafras as the primary flavor. In addition to sassafras flavor, root beer often has other flavorings, including anise, burdock, cinnamon, dandelion, ginger, juniper, spikenard / sarsaparilla, vanilla, wintergreen, and / or yellow dock and sweetened with aspartame, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, and, most commonly sugar.”

Sassafras plant and bark are natural foaming agents, so they give root beer its characteristic foamy head. It is the original ingredient Charles Hires used when he first publicly introduced Hires Root Beer back in the 1876. It is said that Charles, a pharmacist in Philadelphia, had sampled some teas made with barks while vacationing in New Jersey. He enjoyed the teas so much, he begin experimenting with barks and roots upon his return. Sassafras was the key ingredient of his root beer.

Try placing a plate under your mug to help catch any spill over. You can add whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top to add a touch of decadence. Or for an adult version, add a shot of root beer schnapps to your float. Some people add chocolate syrup to their float. And for those of you who think this is just too much work, you can now buy root beer float ice cream (vanilla ice cream with ripples of root beer sherbet).

Enjoy a frosty, frothy, foamy mug today!

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