The Story Of How Ice Cream Floats Were Invented

The ice cream float is created by adding ice cream to soda. The sweet frozen creaminess blended with the bubbly goodness of a flavorful pop, (as soda is referred to in the midwest), is the stuff of slurpy late-summer dreams. It evolved from the cream soda, according to The Nibble, which was served up at soda fountains across the country in the 1800s by the fabled soda jerks (titled that because of the jerking motion that they used to tap the requisite carbonated water, not because of any personality issues) who added cream and a flavored syrup to the fizzy water.

Though we, as a nation, may seem more divided than ever on some issues, there are some things that pretty much every American can agree on. Ice cream is apparently one of them. Per PR Newswire, 98% of American households purchase ice cream. We eat more of the creamy cold confection than any other country: A whopping 48 pints per person each and every year.

The ice cream float is born

There are a plethora of ways to consume ice cream, apart from the cone, dish, or bar, like ice cream tacos, ice cream pie, and fried ice cream, to name a few (via Mental Floss). One of the most popular sweet treats is, of course, the ice cream float, a concoction so utterly perfect that according to Mental Floss, Will Rogers once claimed that upon imbibing one, "You will think you have died and gone to heaven."

How did the cream soda become the ice cream float? Though there are differing versions of its genus, its creation is largely accredited to Robert Green, a Philadelphia entrepreneur, who, as the story goes, ran out of the ingredients to create his cream sodas while operating a soda fountain at the Franklin Institute's semi-centennial celebration, and substituted ice cream. In an interview published in Soda Fountain Magazine in 1910, per Mr. Dewies, the father of the ice cream float, that delicious pairing of carbonated water, sweet flavored syrup, and ice cream, posited that it was not born of necessity, but of ingenuity: He was trying to lure customers away from another vendor with a fancier soda fountain, so he concocted the combination, offering 16 different flavors, much to the delight of his patrons.

The sky's the limit with ice cream floats

Probably the most well-known and oft-consumed of this fountain fare is the root beer float, which was created in 1893 by one Frank Wisner, of the Cripple Creek Cow Mountain Gold Mining Company, who, upon gazing at the snow-covered mountains on his horizon, likened them to scoops of ice cream. He apparently couldn't shake the visual, and woke up the next morning craving a scoop or two, to which he added root beer.

Another luscious incarnation is the Boston Cooler, which began in Detroit, per Detroitisit, and was created from the pairing of vanilla ice cream and Vernors, the ginger brew that makes your nose tingle and is considered medicine by many midwesterners. Of course, the possibilities with this heavenly delicacy are endless. Think orange soda and vanilla ice cream, a kind of deconstructed Orange Julius, or perhaps a Purple Cow, or a Pink Cow, made from grape soda or strawberry soda, respectively, and vanilla ice cream (The Kitchn). The sky's the limit with this fun treat. Add a helping of pop to a heaping scoop of ice cream, and you, too, may feel as though you've encountered paradise.