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Revisit Tradition with Root Beer Floats

August 3, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery year growing up one of the highlights of summer was showing at the Bureau County Fair in Illinois. Besides the competition and awards it was a chance to indulge in the treat of summer – root beer floats. The good kind, at the A&W across from the fairgrounds grandstand – a hole in the fence there provided a short cut without having to walk along the highway that runs in front of the fairgrounds. Real A&W root beer with vanilla ice cream and the occasional splurge on a pizzaburger.

Today the A&W is long closed but the tradition of root beer floats is still strong enough to pay tribute to with an annual day designation on today’s date. Simple with a serving of vanilla ice cream, topped with root beer and sometimes topped with a little whipped cream.

The soft drink root beer uses flavored syrups in carbonated water. Originally it was made from the bark of the sassafrass tree but that was discontinued after the USDA determined in 1976 that it held carcinogenic properties by use of the chemical safrole in the making of it. Today there is no standardized recipe and hundreds of brands of root beer. Some use flavorings including vanilla, sarasaparilla root, nutmeg, cinnamon and a host of other flavorings.

A few of these brands are – still – A&W, Barq’s, Dad’s, and any can be used depending on taste preference.

The root beer float is also called the “black cow” (chocolate ice cream used) or brown cow (adding chocolate syrup), while the Boston cooler was made with ginger ale instead of root beer. Other variations include the coke float, purple cow (grape soda), snow white (7 up or sprite), sherbert float and even a beer float. Traditionally vanilla ice cream was used.

It doesn’t have to be national root beer float day to enjoy one – restart the summer tradition. It’s a good end to a good day.

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