What is the best way to celebrate fresh berry season? A classic ice cream float with berry and vanilla! Made with raspberry syrup or strawberry syrup, they are a delicious twist on the old fashioned cream soda float. A colorful and creamy batch of berry vanilla floats would make a sweet addition to any warm-weather celebration. Above all, they are very easy to make!
History of the Ice Cream Float
Ice cream floats, along with milkshakes and malts, became popular during the 19th century. During that time, soda shops known as “soda fountains” began popping up all over the United States. These shops were popular hangouts for people of all ages until the 1960s, when they fell out of fashion.
One of the first creators of the soda water system was a New Yorker by the name of John Matthews. Matthews likened that first bubbly sip of soda to the feeling of falling in love. The stars of American soda shops were known as “soda jerks.” These soda “bartenders” whipped up delicious soda-based beverages in lots of tasty flavors. They also entertained customers with special shorthand lingo they used to speed up orders.
Soda jerks took their jobs very seriously. In fact, many boosted their skills by attending “Sundae School” seminars held by the International Association of Ice Cream Makers. These seminars served as the perfect gathering for swapping recipes and ideas for new soda shop treats and cream soda floats. Over the years, soda jerks have become beloved figures of American nostalgia.
Ice cream floats, known as brown or black cows, were usually made with a base of root beer or coca cola with a few inches left at the top of the glass to make room for the scoops of ice cream.
Adding Berries to Old Fashioned Ice Cream Floats
Here, I’ve provided a twist on this already fabulous concept. I made a fruity Italian-style berry soda using homemade berry syrup. After that, I topped it off with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and a fresh berry garnish.
This treat is summery, sweet and decadent enough to be a dessert. It brings back wonderful memories of the root beer floats of my childhood. To make your ice cream float more “grown up,” try adding 1 ounce of rum to the soda water.
I make these ice cream float recipes with berry simple syrup. You can find tutorials for making homemade raspberry syrup or strawberry syrup on my site. Of course, if you’re in a hurry, feel free to use store-bought berry simple syrup – and store-bought whipped cream (fresh is best, of course). Enjoy!
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Berry Vanilla Ice Cream Float
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream (see notes for dairy-free substitute)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups homemade berry syrup (or use store-bought - see notes below)
- 6 cups soda water or seltzer
- 1 scoop vanilla ice cream (see notes for dairy substitute)
- Fresh berries for garnish
- If you're making homemade berry syrup for this recipe, check out my tutorials for homemade raspberry syrup and homemade strawberry syrup. Have it fully cooled (chilled is best) and ready to go before making your ice cream floats. You can also use store-bought berry syrup if you prefer.
- Before you assemble your float, combine heavy whipping cream and sugar in a mixing bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Set aside.
- For each ice cream float, in a tall chilled glass, combine 1/4 cup berry syrup with 3/4 cup soda water or seltzer. Gently stir to combine. Add 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream. Garnish with freshly whipped cream and fresh berries and a fun decorative straw. Serve.