10 Ice Cream Sodas You Can Make at Home

As summer heats up, there are few things more refreshing than the fizzy, frosty goodness of an old fashioned ice cream soda. The retro treat goes so well with the season, the ice cream soda powers-that-be have even declared June 20 National Ice Cream Soda Day.

Today, most of us are lucky to find an occasional root beer float on a diner menu but when the idea of combining carbonated drinks with creamy ice cream first bubbled up in the late 1800s, it was such a hit that inventors across the country fought to claim the concoction as their own. One legend has it sweet cream soda vendor Robert McCay Green ran out of sweet cream at a Philadelphia exhibition in 1874 and swapped in ice cream. Another backstory claims Green employee George Guy spilled soda water into an order of ice cream and liked the result. Candymaker Fred Sanders is said to have used ice cream in place of sweet cream at his Detroit shop, and confectioner Philip Mohr said he used ice cream to keep his soda water cooler in New Jersey. But no matter who actually came up with the recipe first (Green even went so far as to have his tombstone inscribed with the feat), there’s no question that a frozen favorite was born.

And while America’s Main Streets are no longer lined with charming soda fountains, the humble ice cream soda in all its iterations is still worth celebrating (and perhaps reviving). Below are 10 recipes sure to cure your craving.

Homemade Syrup Sodas

Housemade flavors at a 1930s ice cream bar in San Francisco.Mike Fischer via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0


If you want to get extra serious about your homemade soda, a la making your own syrup as well, Food Network goddess Ina Garten has you covered. Her recipe calls for combining cocoa powder, coffee, sugar, and vanilla to boil your own sweet sauce, then whisking in club soda and topping with your choice of chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry ice cream and a splash more soda.


Homemade raspberry syrup takes a little longer, but if your sweet tooth leans fruity, it sounds well worth the wait. This recipe has you combine fresh raspberries, lemon, and sugar and let it sit for a few hours or overnight. The strained liquid from the mix is what you combine with soda water and your choice of ice cream.



Although there are regional variations, this vintage soda fountain classic is usually just another name for a root beer float, though depending on the region, it might use cola with vanilla ice cream instead of root beer. For variety, a Brown Cow replaces the vanilla ice cream with either chocolate ice cream or chocolate syrup, and vanilla ice cream, although some places use the name Brown Cow to just mean a cola float. Variations add a little extra flair like sprinkles, whipped cream, and cherries on top.


This cousin of the Black and Brown Cows replaces the root beer with grape soda. The original recipes called for grape juice, ginger ale, and ice cream, which would give it a nice extra kick. 


Circa 1957. Getty


If you’re looking to capture the essence of the Dreamsicles of your youth without having to hunt down an ice cream truck, an orange cream float can do the trick. Just mix a glass of orange soda with a few scoops of vanilla and you’re good to go.


To take your cherry-flavored favorite up a creamy notch, combine ginger ale or lemon lime soda with cherry-flavored syrup like grenadine (or even fruit brandy like this recipe calls for), and add vanilla or cherry ice cream—and plenty of maraschino cherries, of course.


Made with neither egg nor cream, this confusing concoction actually just involves chocolate syrup, seltzer water or club soda, and milk or half-and-half. Some argue, however, that the New York drink started as a version of old fashioned milkshakes and used ice cream instead of milk.

Spiked Sodas

Circa 1955. Getty


For a more playful take on a standard cocktail, mix Coca-Cola with spiced rum, a few scoops of ice cream, and toppings like whipped cream and a real cherry or two. If you’re serving a crowd, the blogger behind this recipe suggests using mini old fashioned Coke bottles stuck into each glass as a garnish.


Alcoholic root beers have been turning up all over the country in recent years, which means making an adult version of a childhood favorite just got a lot easier. Add ice cream to a glass of your favorite hard root beer, like Not Your Father’s or Coney Island Brewing Co., and voila! Whipped cream and chocolate syrup optional.


This mouthwatering recipe for apple cider floats uses vanilla ice cream, ginger ale, caramel syrup, and plain old non-alcoholic cider, but who says you can't replace the virgin cider with something a little stiffer? Cheers!

Just Two Cans of Soda a Day May Double Your Risk of Death From Heart Disease

If you've been stocking your refrigerator full of carbonated corn syrup in anticipation of warmer weather, the American Heart Association has some bad news. The advocacy group on Wednesday released results of research that demonstrate a link between consumption of sugary drinks—including soda, fruit juices, and other sweetened beverages—and an increased risk of dying from heart disease.

Study participants who reported consuming 24 ounces or more of sugary drinks per day had twice the risk of death from coronary artery disease of those who averaged less than 1 ounce daily. There was also an increased risk of death overall, including from other cardiovascular conditions.

The study, led by Emory University professor Jean Welsh, examined data taken from a longitudinal study of 17,930 adults over the age of 45 with no previous history of heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. Researchers followed participants for six years, and examined death records to determine causes. They observed a greater risk of death associated with sugary drinks even when they controlled for other factors, including race, income, education, smoking habits, and physical activity. The study does not show cause and effect, the researchers said, but does illuminate a trend.

The study also noted that while it showed an increased risk of death from heart disease, consumption of sugary foods was not shown to carry similar risk. One possible explanation is that the body metabolizes the sugars differently: Solid foods carry other nutrients, like fat and protein, that slow metabolism, while sugary drinks provide an undiluted influx of carbohydrates that the body must process.

The news will likely prove troublesome for the beverage industry, which has long contended with concerns that sugary drinks contribute to type 2 diabetes and tooth decay. Some cities, including Seattle, have introduced controversial "soda tax" plans that raise the sales tax on the drinks in an effort to discourage consumption.

5 Ways to Define a Sandwich, According to the Law

It’s easy to say what a sandwich is. Grilled cheese? Definitely a sandwich. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato? There’s no question. Things start to get messy when you specify what a sandwich isn’t. Is a hot dog a sandwich? What about a burrito, or an open-faced turkey melt?

The question of sandwich-hood sounds like something a monk might ponder on a mountaintop. But the answer has real-world implications. On several occasions, governments have ruled on the food industry’s right to use the delectable label. Now, Ruth Bader Ginsburg—pop culture icon, scrunchie connoisseur, and Supreme Court Justice—has weighed in on the matter.

When pressed on the hot-button issue as to whether a hot dog is a sandwich while appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Ginsburg proved her extreme judiciousness by throwing the question back at Colbert and asking for his definition of sandwich before making a ruling. Her summation? A hot dog fits Colbert's definition of a sandwich, and therefore can be considered one.

While RBG's ruling may not be an official one, it matches Merriam-Webster's bold declaration that a hot dog is a sandwich (even if the Hot Dog Council disagrees). Officially, here’s where the law stands on the great sandwich debate.


Hot dogs are often snagged in the center of the sandwich semantics drama. Despite fitting the description of a food product served on a bread-like product, many sandwich purists insist that hot dogs deserve their own category. California joins Merriam-Webster in declaring that a hot dog is a sandwich nonetheless. The bold word choice appears in the state’s tax law, which mentions “hot dog and hamburger sandwiches” served from “sandwich stands or booths.” Applying the sandwich label to burgers is less controversial, but it’s still worth debating.


When Qdoba threatened to encroach on the territory of a Panera Bread in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, the owners of the bakery franchise fought back. They claimed the Mexican chain’s arrival would violate their lease agreement with the White City Shopping Center—specifically the clause that prohibits the strip mall from renting to other sandwich restaurants. “We were surprised at the suit because we think it’s common sense that a burrito is not a sandwich,” Jeff Ackerman, owner of the Qdoba franchise group, told The Boston Globe.

The Worcester County Superior Court agreed. When the issue went before the court in 2006, Cambridge chef and food writer Christopher Schlesinger testified against Panera [PDF], saying, “I know of no chef or culinary historian who would call a burrito a sandwich. Indeed, the notion would be absurd to any credible chef or culinary historian.”

Justice Jeffrey A. Locke ruled that Qdoba would be allowed to move into the shopping center citing an entry in Merriam-Webster as the most damning evidence against Panera’s case. “The New Webster Third International Dictionary describes a ‘sandwich’ as ‘two thin pieces of bread, usually buttered, with a thin layer (as of meat, cheese, or savory mixture) spread between them,’” he said. “Under this definition and as dictated by common sense, this court finds that the term ‘sandwich’ is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.”


If you want to know the definition of a certain dish, the officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are good people to ask. It’s their job to make sure that the nation’s supply of meat is correctly labeled. When it comes to sandwiches, the agency follows strict criteria. “A sandwich is a meat or poultry filling between two slices of bread, a bun, or a biscuit,” Mark Wheeler, who works in food and safety at the USDA, told NPR. His definition comes from the Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book used by the department (the USDA only covers the “labeling of meat, poultry, and egg products,” while the FDA handles everything else, which is why the USDA's definition excludes things like grilled cheese). Not included under their umbrella of foodstuff served between bread are burritos, wraps, and hot dogs.


The USDA’s definition may not be as simple and elegant as it seems. A sandwich is one thing, but a “sandwich-like product” is different territory. The same labeling policy book Mark Wheeler referred to when describing a sandwich lumps burritos into this vague category. Fajitas “may also be” a sandwich-like product, as long as the strips of meat in question come bundled in a tortilla. Another section of the book lists hot dogs and hamburgers as examples of sandwich-type products when laying out inspection policies for pre-packaged dinners. So is there an example of a meat-wrapped-in-carb dish that doesn’t belong to the sandwich family? Apparently strombolis are where the USDA draws the line. The Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book clearly states the product “is not considered a traditional sandwich” [PDF].


When it comes to sandwiches, New York doesn’t discriminate. In a bulletin outlining the state’s tax policy, a description of what constitutes a sandwich warrants its own subhead. The article reads:

“Sandwiches include cold and hot sandwiches of every kind that are prepared and ready to be eaten, whether made on bread, on bagels, on rolls, in pitas, in wraps, or otherwise, and regardless of the filling or number of layers. A sandwich can be as simple as a buttered bagel or roll, or as elaborate as a six-foot, toasted submarine sandwich.”

It then moves on to examples of taxable sandwiches. The list includes items widely-believed to bear the label, like Reubens, paninis, club sandwiches, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Other entries, like burritos, gyros, open-faced sandwiches, and hot dogs, may cause confusion among diners.


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