While you may only really be able to find root beer floats at diners and ice cream shops anymore, we think this simple indulgence should be in your regular rotation of desserts at home. Especially during the warmer months, an ice cream float can be both a sweet treat and incredibly refreshing. Furthermore, you don’t have to be constrained by the classic root beer float flavors. You can use nearly any carbonated beverage you’ve got on hand with a scoop of vanilla ice cream — and even the vanilla ice cream is flexible. Plenty of people aren’t really into the licorice-like profile of root beer, so it’s completely fine to use whatever kind of soda appeals to you most, and we’ve got a few ideas for you.
To inspire your next ice cream float adventure, we’ve collected more than a dozen float ideas that are just as easy to make as the classic root beer float, but made with sodas that aren’t root beer. We love that this treat is so customizable, and encourage you to play around with it. Many of the recipes include ingredients that you’ve likely got in your refrigerator and freezer already, while others are a little more creative and might require an extra ingredient or two from the store. A few floats are just for grown-ups, made with an alcoholic component, or upgraded from the kid-friendly version with your choice of spirits. Grab a glass and read on to find your next perfect ice cream float.
Creamsicle float with orange soda
We’re willing to bet that even if you haven’t had a Creamsicle-style ice cream float, you’ve either seen one or it’s crossed your mind. The original Creamsicle ice cream bar is made by Good Humor, and is a vanilla ice cream bar wrapped in orange-flavored sherbet (via Good Humor). It’s such a beloved and iconic flavor combination that there have been countless ice cream copycats, as well as desserts of every kind, and even nostalgic alcoholic beverages made in its flavor profile.
So it’s not really a stretch to create a Creamsicle float by combining orange soda and vanilla ice cream. In fact, if you haven’t already done it we encourage you to try it immediately. It tastes like summertime and feels like being eight years old and running out to meet the ice cream truck as you hear it turning the corner to your street. Once you’ve had a sip, you might not ever go back to root beer floats. While you’re at it, this delightful orange refreshment can be customized with more than just vanilla ice cream. Don’t be afraid to try it with strawberry ice cream or a fruity sherbet or sorbet. Berry, tropical fruits, and other citrus flavors all go well with orange. We also wouldn’t judge if you decided to throw in a splash of vodka or rum for a tropical grown-up float enjoyed poolside this summer.
Purple cow float with grape soda
The purple cow float takes the orange soda float one step further by swapping out the orange soda for purple grape soda. This particular float is most often served with vanilla ice cream, but we can also imagine it would be nice served with a berry-forward ice cream or sorbet. Brandy Olsen-Myers of Farmer’s Wife Rambles even suggests using frozen grapes, blueberries, and blackberries, muddled with sparkling water for a naturally-flavored float that has a little less sugar than grape soda.
Of course, there’s no one right way to make a purple cow float. You can stick with the grape soda and vanilla ice cream combination, or replace the soda with actual grape juice. Welch’s suggests a bold and flavorful 100% grape juice like concord grape juice, which sounds fantastic in our book. You could even use vanilla frozen yogurt in place of ice cream, blended with grape juice for a purple cow smoothie. If you like your floats fizzy, you can absolutely add some sparkling water to the juice for that effervescent touch. Additionally, we’ve found when making this float in our own kitchen that 100% grape juice or artificially flavored grape soda makes the boldest-looking purple floats. Floats made with natural and organic grape sodas taste great, but sometimes the color can leave a little to be desired — just something to keep in mind if aesthetics are important to you here.
Coke float with Coca-Cola
This one’s pretty straightforward. Instead of root beer, you use Coca-Cola (or Pepsi or your favorite comparable soda brand) over vanilla ice cream. Given that Coca-Cola is the number one soda in the U.S. (via Nasdaq), you probably already have a can or bottle of it on hand. The fantastic thing about this float is that you’ve got a lot of Coke flavors to choose from. Diet Coke and Coke Zero are simple substitutions if you want to slash the calories or sugar in your float. We’ve got a special place in our hearts for Vanilla Coke, which is practically made to be turned into an ice cream float. And with the release of special edition flavors, there are even more ways to make a Coke float. And let’s not forget about the boozy Rum & Coke float option, easily achieved with a shot of your favorite rum.
We’re also keen to try the new Starlight Coke in float form. What flavor the new red-hued Starlight flavor actually is has baffled just about everyone. We know that it’s sweeter than regular Coke, but past that it’s anyone’s guess. Raspberry? Cotton candy? Toasted Marshmallows? Let’s just toss some vanilla ice cream in it and enjoy it while it lasts, okay?
Brown cow float
It quickly became apparent to us that no two people seem to have the same definition of a brown cow float. Soda is involved as well as chocolate, and that’s about all we can say for sure. The rest is really up to you. Here are all of the options.
We were under the impression that a brown cow float was made of Coca-Cola poured over chocolate ice cream, and that’s how we’ve been making it at home for years. If you haven’t considered this pairing before, you definitely should. But once we started digging, we noticed that some people consider a brown cow float to be made with root beer and chocolate ice cream (via South Florida Reporter) instead of Coke. Martha Stewart claims that a brown cow float is made with root beer and vanilla ice cream, with the addition of chocolate syrup, which is only slightly different, but still doesn’t include Coke. Strangely enough, that same style of float is called a black cow float by Southern Living. To complicate matters further, others consider a brown cow float to be made with Coca-Cola, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup.
So there you have it. A brown cow float is either Coca-Cola or root beer poured over vanilla or chocolate ice cream with the addition of chocolate syrup. Or not. If it’s any consolation, we don’t think you can go wrong with any of these options, so just make the one that seems most appealing.
Pink cow with cream soda
Okay, we know it might seem like every ice cream float out there is named after colorful bovine, and many are, but this is the last float on this list to be named as such. (What would a green cow even be?) As you might have guessed, the pink cow float is strawberry flavored. It’s typically made with strawberry ice cream and topped with cream soda. Some variations of the pink cow include the addition of strawberry syrup for more of a sweet strawberry punch, and some recipes call for cutting the cream soda in part with regular soda.
But we’ve found clues around the internet which lead us to believe that at one point, Pink cow floats were pink not because of the strawberry ice cream, but because they were made with red crème soda and vanilla ice cream. Red crème soda isn’t available everywhere, so it’s not surprising if you haven’t heard of it. According to our searches, Barq’s Red Crème Soda is the most widely available red crème soda — and even then, it may be difficult to lay your hands on in stores. Other brands include Big Red and Dad’s Creamy Red Soda, as well as a smattering of nostalgic craft soda brands here and there. If you’re able to find it, consider trying the pink cow float with both red crème soda and strawberry ice cream for the ultimate pink and red float.
Boston cooler with ginger ale
In its most basic form, a Boston Cooler is ginger ale poured over vanilla ice cream. But there’s so much more to it than that. Although the name might lead you to believe that this float originated in Massachusetts, it did not. The confectionary drink was actually created in Detroit, according to Detroit is It, and is believed to be named after Boston Boulevard or the Boston Edison neighborhood. Furthermore, the most authentic version of the Boston Cooler should be made with Detroit’s own Vernors ginger ale. The ginger ale was created by James Vernor, a Detroit pharmacist who wanted to create a drink to soothe stomach issues in the mid to late 1800s. The pharmacy he owned was also a soda fountain, where he served his ginger soda creation with ice cream, creating Detroit’s beloved Boston Cooler.
Even though Vernors is now owned by the Keurig Dr. Pepper company, it’s not available everywhere — so we’ll give you a pass if you’ve got to use what’s available. It’s perfectly acceptable to drink the Boston Cooler like a traditional ice cream float, although some argue that "coolers" are meant to be blended and enjoyed more like a shake. Whether you blend it or pour it is up to you, but if you aren’t using Vernors ginger ale, it’s recommended that you add powdered sugar and a pinch of ground ginger to boost the flavor of the soda.
Snow White float with lemon-lime soda
There’s nothing specifically magical or fairytale romantic about this ice cream float per-se, unless you really just love Sprite. The float gets its name from how snowy white it is, since Sprite and lemon-lime sodas in general are colorless and essentially clear apart from its carbonation. Paired with milky white vanilla ice cream, you’ve got a nearly pure-white float that stands in contrast to the orange, purple, pink, and brown floats on the rest of this lineup.
We also happen to like this particular float because it’s caffeine free — which means we can sneak into the kitchen in the middle of the night and whip one up when it’s too hot to sleep without worrying that the caffeine is going to keep us from getting back to sleep. If you pick up the sugar free Sprite, you’ll also knock the carb count down while enjoying this particular float.
Shirley Temple and chocolate cherry float
Building on the basic Snow White lemon-lime soda float, you can quickly turn your float into a cherry float by adding a splash of grenadine. This one’s got a lot of versatility, making it especially fun to play with. As it’s made, lemon-lime soda with grenadine and a cherry on top has the components of a Shirley Temple, so we’re going to go ahead and classify this as a Shirley Temple float. We think it would be fun to swap out the vanilla ice cream with cherry ice cream or lemon sherbet for some playful variations. Or for the grown-ups, a shot (or two) of vodka makes this the Shirley Temple cocktail float of your Polly Wolly Doodle dreams.
Adding a scoop of chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla ice cream quickly turns this float into a chocolate cherry float, which we absolutely can’t get enough of. While we don’t think that every ice cream float needs to be topped with whipped cream and a cherry, this float was practically made for it. A little chocolate syrup would be just fine by us as well if you’ve got it.
Cherry cola float
Maybe you’re into cherry, but cherry cola is more your speed. While Cherry Coke (technically called Coca-Cola Cherry) obviously falls into the lineup of Coke floats, we thought it deserved to stand in a category of it’s own. Cherry Coke was released in 1985, and hasn’t left the market since — unlike several other ill-fated Coca-Cola flavors, and we think it’s just a satisfying in a float as the original, if not more so.
Like Coke floats, it’s quick and easy to throw a cherry cola float together. A scoop or two of vanilla ice cream with cherry cola poured over it, and you’re in business. This is another float that we think would benefit from swapping out the vanilla ice cream for cherry ice cream. For a slightly more complex flavor, we think it would be fun to make a cherry cola flat with Coke’s Cherry Vanilla soda. If you don’t have the Cherry Vanilla Coke on hand, you could add a drop of vanilla extract or some vanilla syrup to your cherry cola float for a similar effect.
Cream soda float — vanilla and Butterbeer
Given all of the colorful and exciting flavors you can mix together to create an ice cream float, a simple vanilla cream soda float might seem dull in comparison. But real vanilla lovers know that’s the farthest thing from the truth. A cream soda float made with the finest richly-flavored vanilla ice cream you can lay your hands on is sweet, creamy, delicately spiced, and so soothing. No additional flavors necessary.
Of course, it would be remiss of us not to casually mention that this is also the foundation of a Butterbeer float, for those of us who can’t get enough of this Harry Potter beverage. There are a ton of Butterbeer recipes out there, but essentially you’re adding butterscotch syrup to the cream soda along with the vanilla ice cream. Homemade butterscotch is great, but if you want to skip that step and just buy butterscotch syrup at the store, that’s completely fine too. Not only should you add butterscotch syrup to the cream soda, but a nice drizzle on top of the float with some whipped cream will make this float truly indulgent.
Dr. Pepper float
At first, we wondered if Dr. Pepper might fit into any other category of soda — but it’s not a typical cola. It’s got more going on than cherry or vanilla. And given that it’s not clear, we can’t lump it in with cream soda or ginger ale. When it comes down to it, Dr. Pepper is in a category of its own. We know that Dr. Pepper is actually a blend of 23 different flavors, but it’s a closely guarded secret as to what those flavors actually are. It’s been speculated that the flavors include: amaretto, almond, blackberry, black licorice, caramel, carrot, clove, cherry, cola, ginger, juniper, lemon, molasses, nutmeg, orange, prune, plum, pepper, root beer, rum, raspberry, tomato, and vanilla — but we may never know for sure.
Whatever those 23 flavors are, we think they exist in perfect harmony. We also think that a float made with Dr. Pepper and vanilla ice cream is especially delightful. No need to get too creative with this one, vanilla ice cream is the perfect pairing. If you want to branch out from the original, consider switching up the Dr. Pepper instead. Dr. Pepper Cherry, Cherry Vanilla, and Dr. Pepper & Cream Soda are also available.
Hoboken float with pineapple soda
If we’ve got our doubts about any of the floats in this lineup, the Hoboken float is the one to give us the greatest pause. Not because Hoboken isn’t a fine place — New Jersey is lovely this time of year. It’s the combination of ingredients that we’ve never seen together before. The recipe for the Hoboken float, as published by Noshing with the Nolands, includes chocolate ice cream, pineapple soda, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. We’ve also seen it mentioned that the float could be made with sparkling water and pineapple syrup instead of pineapple soda.
We can imagine that the acid of the pineapple helps balance out the sweetness of the soda and the ice cream, as well as cuts through the thickness of the dairy. If you’re using a dark chocolate ice cream that’s a little on the bitter side, we can imagine that it might pair nicely with the sweetness of the pineapple soda as well. With little historical information about the origin of this float, we’re not really sure how this combination came to be. But if you’re feeling adventurous enough to try this float out, you might just be in for a surprise.
Mango float with club soda
While researching floats, we came across a recipe for a mango ice cream float by blogger Katie Jasiewicz. The recipe is straightforward with only three ingredients. Vanilla ice cream, mango nectar juice, and club soda. Other than the fact that we love a creamy mango drink (hello mango smoothies!), we like that this recipe can be adapted to a wide variety of flavors. Here mango nectar is mixed four parts to one with club soda, but you could easily substitute the nectar juice of your choice in place of the mango. Guava, peach, passion fruit, papaya, pineapple, soursop, and tamarind nectars would all be incredible choices, or any combination thereof.
And as far as the ratio goes, that’s customizable as well. Do you like your float a little fizzier? Bump the ratio to half nectar and half club soda, and then adjust from there to satisfy your tastes. Vanilla ice cream is a great neutral choice for a tropical float like this, but we also wouldn’t mind a scoop of rainbow sherbet or your favorite sorbet in the mix.
If you aren’t familiar with Jarritos, there’s no time like the present to get acquainted with these delightful Mexican sodas. Once the heat of the summer starts blasting at full force, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as an icy cold bottle of Jarritos soda, in whichever flavor is your favorite (we’re big fans of pineapple). There are 13 flavors of this jewel-toned soda, including an authentic Mexican cola — so your float options are nearly endless.
The bright colors of these sodas are exciting, even if paired with vanilla ice cream, but there are so many creative pairings to explore. Boulder Locavore makes a strawberry-lime float with Lime Jarritos poured over strawberry ice cream. Or you could make the inverse float with strawberry Jarritos poured over lime sherbet. Jarritos has also created some exceptionally delicious ice cream float recipes using their most popular sodas, including a Roasted Pineapple float, Watermelon-Lime Yogurt float, and of course a traditional Mexican cola float.
Red Bull float
Whether you’re a fan of Red Bull or not, you knew that this was always bound to happen. Originally created by Texas-based burger chain MOOYAH all the way back in 2012, the float is simply and predictably made with vanilla ice cream and a generous Red Bull pour-over. A quick look at the Shakes, Cookies & Drinks menu at MOOYAH leads us to believe that the Red Bull float is no longer being offered, but now that the idea’s been put out into the world, there’s no taking it back.
If you’re interested in trying to make one of these at home, it should be pretty easy to achieve, although we can’t guarantee the results. Perhaps if you make your float with one of the flavored Red Bulls you’ll land on a fun flavor pairing. Of course, plenty of places have picked the idea up and ran with it, even offering Red Bull shakes with boozy ice cream or soft serve. Have fun with it, but you might want to be prepared for inevitable energy drink and sugar crash afterwards.
Lemon soda float
Some days, refreshment is paramount, and pleasure is secondary. But why choose? We happen to think that a lemon soda float might just be one of the most refreshing floats on this list, as well as indulgent. Not to mention it’s super simple to make. All you need is a lemon soda and vanilla ice cream for this one. If lemon soda isn’t in your regular rotation of groceries look for San Pellegrino’s Lemonata or a sparkling lemonade like Boylan’s. For a floral twist, we like Belvoir’s Elderflower Lemonade soda. If the idea of dairy is really weighing you down, try this float with a few scoops of sherbet or sorbet. Since lemon goes with just about anything, choose your favorite, berry, citrus, or tropical flavored ice creams or sorbets.
While not entirely the same, the lemony essence of this float reminds us a lot of the classic Italian sgroppino cocktail, which is 3 to 4 parts prosecco to 1 part vodka, and scoops of the finest lemon sorbet you can lay your hands on. Either in the heat of the afternoon, after a filling dinner, or maybe even an indulgent brunch, a sgroppino sounds fantastic.
Cherry spritzer float
The sgroppino isn’t the only grown-up float made with sparkling wine out there. Peanut Butter & Peppers shared a recipe for a Cherry Spritzer Ice Cream float, that sounds perfectly sweet and bubbly. The drink starts with vanilla ice cream and is topped with equal parts tart cherry juice and champagne. If tart cherry juice is a little too bitter for your tastes, you can easily mix some sugar in with the cherry juice. The red-colored cocktail is absolutely a show-stopper and adds a hint of luxury to your float presentation.
If cherry just isn’t your thing, consider trying this with another berry juice or puree. Strawberry, blackberry, or mixed-berry juice would all be fine alternatives. Like other floats on this list, swapping the ice cream for a fruity sorbet or sherbet would also be a fun choice. Also, if you’re serving this particular float in a setting with kids present, you can easily turn this one into a mocktail by adding sparkling water or juice in place of the champagne.
They’re especially popular around St. Patrick’s Day, but we don’t think a Guinness float should be relegated to the month of March alone. Recipe developer Jaime Bachtell-Shelbert developed the perfect recipe for a Guinness float for Mashed, that comes together with only three ingredients. You’ll need a can of Guinness, of course, as well as your favorite vanilla ice cream and some chocolate syrup. Shelbert also suggests caramel syrup in place of chocolate syrup for an equally enjoyable float.
There’s even room to get creative with the ice cream in a Guinness float. The Pioneer Woman mentions that chocolate or coffee ice cream might be nice additions to your Guinness float. We also wouldn’t judge if you decided to go really wild with it and add in a scoop or two of Haagen-Dazs’ Irish Cream Brownie Ice Cream. If you can’t get a hold of Irish cream ice cream, Shelbert suggests using coffee ice cream and pouring in a little Irish Cream, like Bailey’s, to suit your tastes.