Let’s Make Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Floats

What is this? These are an old-fashioned ice cream floats which I have named, “Green Swamp Floats.” We are getting to the end of summer — Labor Day is coming up. Let’s celebrate by making “Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Floats.” Sipping an ice cream float in the afternoon used to be a summertime treat when I was growing up. It satisfied one’s sweet tooth and quenched the thirst on those hot summer days. And an ice cream float was so, so easy to make — really just two ingredients — coke and ice cream. When company came for an extended visit, these were sure to be on the agenda. So let’s make a traditional ice cream float using Barq’s Root Beer and also some surprises.

What name do you call a carbonated beverage?

So what is it? Do you call carbonated beverage a “coke” or is it a “soda?” If you live in Michigan it is “pop.” But in Louisiana, we call it a “cold drink.” Or sometimes we call it a “coke” even if we’re asking for sprite, ginger ale or Pepsi. And if you come from New England perhaps it is a “tonic.” And I’ve heard it called a “bottled drink” in North Carolina. If you live in Germany, you almost always are drinking sparkling water or seltzer – rather than tap water. As I’ve moved around the country, I realize that you have to adapt to the local slang and habits. Today I’m using the generic term, “coke,” for any carbonated beverage.

Ultimate Ice Cream Float

Or course, the ultimate ice cream float is made with root beer. Here in Louisiana, my kids love Barq’s Root Beer which originated in New Orleans. If you want a really authentic Barq’s frozen root beer, then head to the iconic Frostop Restaurant in downtown Baton Rouge. It has been in it’s landmark location since the 1950’s as a drive-in diner. No more drive-in service, but it still serves root beer in frozen mugs. That’s the best way (and only way) to experience root beer in my opinion. You either like root beer, or you don’t. But we have to make root beer floats — that’s the classic ice cream float.

I am also making ice cream floats using Mexican Cokes which I discovered on a recent a trip to Texas. What’s so special about these long-neck glass-bottled cokes? They are made in Mexico with sugar syrup from sugar cane rather than high-fructose corn syrup. The taste is slightly different from cokes bottled locally. I prefer the taste of these Mexican cokes. Yes, I’ve discovered that the same “soft drink” can taste quite differently, too, from region to region. Fortunately, you don’t have to travel to Mexico or even Texas to get these cokes — I found them locally at Albertson’s Grocery Store.

Making Ice Cream Floats

Making an ice cream float is simple enough. Just put two scoops of ice cream in the bottom of a parfait glass or other tall drink glass or mug. Add the “coke” or “root beer”, pouring it down the inside of the glass. As the drink sets, the ice cream floats to the top, hence the term, “ice cream float.” Use a spoon or straw to sip the frosty drink. That’s it.

Here are a couple of other tips:

  1. Freeze the mugs for at least 30 minutes prior to making the ice cream float. The cold glass will help keep the ice cream frozen and retain the carbonation.
  2. Tip the mug or parfait glass at a 45 degree angle and pour the “coke” down the inside side of the mug or glass. This helps keep the foam or “head” down to a minimum and helps maintain the carbonation in the drink.
  3. Use two scoops of ice cream. Add them first to the bottom of the mug or parfait glass. And use good quality ice cream. This makes all the difference in the world. The brand is your choice, but we often use Blue Bell Ice Cream.
  4. For a finishing touch, top with Reddi Whip Topping and a maraschino cherry or cake decorating sprinkles.
  1. And of course, the “coke” must be cold, cold, too.
  2. Experiment with different flavors of carbonated beverages and ice cream flavors. A “Boston Cooler,” for example, is a milk shake made of ginger ale and vanilla ice cream. I plan to make “Purple Cow” made of blue/lemon-flavored soft drink and vanilla ice cream. Hum, I am calling this next drink made of apple-flavored soft drink and vanilla ice cream a “Green Swamp Float.” Use your imagination.

What happened to “Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Floats”? I am guessing that the fast food restaurant industry has taken its toll on some of our summer favorite drinks and confections. But, for those of us who remember these drinks, let’s keep this summer tradition alive by making a frosty “Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Float.”

Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Float

  • Servings: 2 floats
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 1 (12 oz) bottle Coca-Cola or root beer. Alternately used any flavored carbonated beverage — sprite, grape or apple-flavored carbonated drink
  • Reddi Whip Topping, optional, for decoration
  • Maraschino cherries, optional, for decoration
  • Cake decorating sprinkles, optional for decoration

Instructions and Steps:

  1. Place two 12 to 16-oz mugs in the freezer for at least 30 minutes prior to making the ice cream floats. (If desired, you may use smaller parfait glasses.)
  2. When ready to make the drinks remove mugs or glasses from freezer. Work quickly. Place two scoops of vanilla ice cream in the bottom of each mug. or glass
  3. Tilt the mug at a 45 degree angle. Pour half the carbonated beverage along the inside side of the first mug and into the mug. Wait for any foam to diminish, pour in more carbonated beverage. Repeat with second mug.
  4. Garnish each ice cram float, if desired, with Reddi Whip Topping, a maraschino cherry and cake decorating sprinkles.
  5. Serve with straw and tall spoon. Drink immediately.


8 Old-Timey Names for a Soft Drink

5 thoughts on “Let’s Make Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Floats

  1. In my family, we just called them ice cream sodas and we sometimes used ginger ale or Sprite. And what exactly is “good quality” ice cream? The only ice cream I would consider “low quality” is low-fat ice cream, which I consider to be an oxymoron. 🤓

    • Hello, By “good quality” ice cream, it’s a personal preference. I am referring to any ice cream that is pleasing to you — for us that’s one with a higher level of cream content, good body and flavor and less stabilizers, etc. There are several brands which meet this definition for us. Your comment on “ice milk” is pretty much what I was getting at. Yes, we often used ginger ale, too, when growing up but almost always vanilla ice cream. All delicious! Glad to see you made these beverages, too. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    • Technically, I should be writing a post on “Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Cocktails” today since Hurricane Ida is on course to hit us directly in a few hours; Think that perhaps I’ll do that later and stick to my planned post today.

      • I didn’t live in New Orleans but I dodged Katrina, Rita and Wilma back in 2005 because I was traveling a lot at that time. Be careful out there with Ida!

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