Black Cow Float Recipe - Root Beer Float - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures Black Cow Float Recipe - Root Beer Float
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RECIPE: Have A Cow—A Black Cow (a.k.a. Root Beer Float)

[1] How now, Black Cow? Make one and find out (photo by ShagPhoto | IST).

[2] Prefer a Brown Cow? Here’s the recipe from Smucker’s.


June 10th is National Black Cow Day. National Root Beer Float Day is August 6th.

Two holidays for the same sweet treat:

A Black Cow is another name for that popular old-fashioned ice cream soda, the root beer float made with vanilla ice cream.

If you substitute chocolate ice cream and an optional squirt of chocolate syrup, the root beer float is called a Brown Cow or Chocolate Cow.

You can make them a Coke float instead of using root beer.

There’s also a cocktail that uses Kahlúa, a drink sometimes referred to as a Black Cow #2 (the recipe is below).

Today is National Black Cow Day—the perfect day to make one.

How did a root beer float get such an unusual name? But first…


Pharmacist Charles Hires introduced commercial root beer to the public in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.

It was a hit, and other beverage companies went into root beer production.

The Black Cow dates to an August night in 1893 in a bustling mining town.

Frank J. Wisner, owner of the Cripple Creek Cow Mountain Gold Mining Company in Cripple Creek, Colorado, also owned a tavern. He produced carbonated soda waters, popular with adults and children alike.

As the story goes, Wisner wanted to create a special drink for the local children. One night, he added a scoop of vanilla ice cream to his glass of root beer.

Here’s where the cow comes in:

While Wisner owned a business named after Cow Mountain, he supposedly picked the name by looking out the window.

He saw the snow-capped Cow Mountain in the moonlight, and was inspired to name the drink after it.

The float was an instant hit and was christened “Black Cow” by the children, for the dark color of the root beer and Wisner’s reference to Cow Mountain.


This recipe can be made sugar-free (we do it all the time) with diet root beer and no-sugar-added ice cream (we prefer Breyers Smooth & Dreamy vanilla). We leave out the chocolate syrup because we haven’t yet found a good one that’s sugar-free.

Garnishing the float with whipped cream and a cherry is showy, but not essential to the flavor of the float. We generally leave it off so we can get straight to the ice cream. But if you want to use a maraschino cherry, buy the best, from Tillen Farms.

Ingredients Per Serving

  • 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
  • Chilled root beer
  • Whipped cream
  • Maraschino cherry

    1. Scoop ice cream into a tall glass. Add chocolate syrup.

    2. Slowly pour root beer over ice cream being careful not to let it foam up over the side of the glass.

    3. Garnish with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry—or with a flute cookie, as in the photo. Serve with a straw and a long spoon for the ice cream.
    Find all the August food holidays.

    The cocktail recipe tastes like a black cow, but has no ice cream. Our recommendation: Add the ice cream for an alcoholic float.
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces of Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
  • 2 ounces of half-and-half
  • 3 ounces Coca-Cola or root beer
  • Optional: scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream

    COMBINE the ingredients and pour over ice in a rocks glass. If adding ice cream, use a highball glass.


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