The recipe is simple: soda water, syrup, and a scoop of ice cream. There are many variations of syrup and ice cream, each creating a special flavor of ice cream soda. Make yourself one to celebrate National Ice Cream Soda Day, June 20th.
Also called a float, because a scoop or two of ice cream floated in the soda water, the ice cream soda was born in 1874.
In the late 19th century, ice cream was widely available through street vendors and at ice cream parlors. In 1874, the concept of the American “soda fountain” and the profession of the “soda jerk” emerged with the invention of the ice cream soda.
More about the invention of the ice cream soda follows.
It owes its creation to the soda fountain, a fixture of pharmacies that was the place to go in towns across America, long before there were coffee shops or other places for a snack in every neighborhood.
By 1895 there were more than 50,000 soda fountains in the United States and virtually every one of them was serving ice cream soda, and more than 60 flavors of syrup* available [source].
So even with just vanilla ice cream, there were plenty of flavors to be made.
Before the 1890s, the ice cream soda was made with sweet cream instead of ice cream†.
Check out the Watermelon Ice Cream Soda recipe below.
WHO INVENTED THE ICE CREAM SODA?
There are three claimants.
Detroit: In 1875, Fred Sanders substituted ice cream for the sweet cream on a hot summer day when the sweet cream kept turning sour from the heat. Word spread around Detroit, and then around the country. Although the Detroit Historical Society 0says that it is likely the ice 12.o Detroiters.
Elizabeth, New Jersey: One day, Philip Mohr decided to add a scoop of ice cream to his sarsaparilla soda, and liked the result. More importantly, the customers at his soda fountain liked it. So Mohr advertised his new ice cream soda with a sign outside the store and the drink took off.
Philadelphia: Robert McCay Green, Sr., is most often cited as the inventor. His own account, published in Soda Fountain magazine in 1910, states that while operating a soda fountain at the Franklin Institute’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 1874, he wanted to create a new treat to attract customers away from another vendor who had a fancier, bigger soda fountain. After some experimenting, he decided to combine ice cream and soda water. During the celebration, he sold vanilla ice cream with soda water and a choice of 16 different flavored syrups.
Alas, competitors soon began selling the new sensation. Green’s will instructed that “Originator of the Ice Cream Soda” was to be engraved on his tombstone [source].
Customers went wild for the ice cream soda. But not so, the soda fountain manager or pharmacy owner.
According to the Dr. Pepper Museum, soda fountains wanted to get their customers in and out. The ice cream soda fought against that:
It took longer to make.
It required a freezer case for the ice cream frozen.
Patrons stayed longer to consume it.
What is unfathomable to us now, some fountain managers went as far as refusing to serve them unless there were empty seats in the fountain!
Fortunately, they couldn’t resist the ice cream soda-thirsty throngs for long. A paradigm shift occurred:
The soda fountain became known for ice cream soda.
In 1910, the modern electric milkshake machine was invented by Frederick J. Osius and commercialized by his company, Hamilton Beach, under the name Cyclone Drink Mixer. Let the milkshakes, malts (a milkshake with malt powder), and frappés begin!
RECIPE: WATERMELON ICE CREAM SODA
Here’s a new twist on the old-fashioned ice cream soda: watermelon juice and fresh watermelon balls.
Thanks to the National Watermelon Promotion Board for the recipe.
12 watermelon balls or cubes
½ cup watermelon juice
2 scoops coconut milk ice cream (or vanilla)
½ teaspoon lime zest (or splash of lime juice)
½ cup fizzy water (club soda, flavored carbonated water; for more coconut flavor, use sparkling coconut La Croix)
Ingredients Per Drink
1. STIR the lime zest into the watermelon juice.
2. PLACE half of the watermelon balls in a tall glass. Add one scoop of ice cream, then add the remaining watermelon balls.
3. ADD a second scoop of ice cream. Pour in the watermelon juice.
4. TOP with the fizzy water for bubbles, club soda, or other flavored carbonated water. Serve with a straw and a long (iced tea) spoon.
*Some of them: anise, apple, apricot, banana, birch beer, blackberry, blood orange, Catawba, celery, champagne cider, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, cognac, concord grape, coriander, crabapple, cranberry, cream soda, crushed violets, currant, egg chocolate, egg phosphate, ginger, ginger ale, gooseberry, grape, greengage, grenadine, horehound, java, lemon-lime, maple, mead, mint julep, mocha, mulberry, nutmeg, orange, orris root, peach, peach almond, peach cider, pear cider, peppermint, pineapple, pistachio, plum, quince, raspberry, raspberry cider, raspberry vinegar, root beer, rose, sarsaparilla, strawberry, Valencia orange, vanilla, walnut cream, wild cherry, and wintergreen.
†Today this type of soda would be similar to the Italian cream soda, called a French Soda or cremosa.
 Classic: a “Black & White,” chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream (photo © Make Your Own Soda | Clarkson Potter).
 Something different: an ice cream soda made with Thai iced tea instead of carbonated water, garnished with pistachio nuts (photo © Geraud Pfeiffer | Pexels).
 Classic: a root beer float with chocolate ice cream (photo © American Heritage Chocolate).
 New: How about a watermelon ice cream soda: watermelon balls, watermelon juice, ice cream, and fizzy water. The recipe is below (photo © National Watermelon Promotion Board).
 New: A “Creamsicle” ice cream soda: orange soda with vanilla ice cream (photo © Jarritos Mexican Soda | Unsplash).
 New, different, fun, crunchy: This ice cream soda has a layer of Cornflakes—or Fruit Loops, if you prefer (photo © Kansha Creamery | Los Angeles).