Those root beer floats of our high school days were made by loosely filling a glass with vanilla ice cream, pouring root beer over it, and stirring with a long iced tea spoon. The cold ice cream released the carbonation in the root beer, and you had to quickly suck off the rising sweet root beer/vanilla foam before it overflowed down the side of the glass. That was a pleasant chore that you could assign to any young, grateful volunteer at hand.
The carbonation was soon gone, but this was only the start. As you stirred, the ice cream sort of melted and cooled the root beer, but it did not entirely melt. That’s why you needed the ice tea spoon. As you sipped the drink, you also ate the half-melted ice cream with the spoon.
We only combined vanilla ice cream with root beer, but I would like to someday try vanilla ice cream with orange soda (orange creamsicles are a good combination) or vanilla ice cream with cream soda (all vanilla).
For many years after high school, root beer floats were only a memory for me. They just took too much effort to prepare. Then, about five years ago, I tasted the vanilla International Delight that I used in my coffee each morning and found it tasted exactly like melted vanilla ice cream. (I am now hooked on International Delight sipped right out of the bottle for a quick snack.) So, I thought, why not pour this right into a half-glass of root beer?
It worked perfectly. I never was a big fan of the foaming ice cream and eating globs of the soft ice cream with a spoon. The International Delight mixes in immediately and does not foam. The root beer has been in the refrigerator, so it is already cold. I pour in a tablespoon or two of the International Delight, give it one quick stir, and it is ready to drink, just like my morning coffee.
I only use A&W root beer instead of the old Hires root beer of our high school days. I think A&W is sweeter and has more root beer flavor. I have never found a craft root beer, no matter how expensive, to be any better than A&W.
The root beer float not only has the added sweetness and vanilla flavor, but it seems to have more body. Plain root beer now tastes watery to me. I think this is what is mean by the new taste of “umami.”
If you still prefer using real ice cream, you can use my intermediate procedure: Once the ice cream is in the glass, give it a quick microwave shot of about 10 seconds to start the melting process. The exact time depends on the ice cream temperature and your own preference. (I always microwave a dish of ice cream for a few seconds, anyway, to soften it a little. Scoff all you want, but I never get a freeze-headache.)
A root beer float has no nutritional value. It is only meant to taste good. If you feel more International Delight makes it taste even better, pour in all you want, guilt-free. It’s your drink. Make it all International Delight if you want. You can still call it a root beer float because you drank root beer out of that same glass just a week ago. (Or maybe it is residual dishwasher detergent you are tasting, I kid you not.)
Dang! this makes me hungry. There goes my dinner.