How to Make Summer Delicious with Ice Cream

My father was a jerk.  An Ice Cream Soda Jerk, that is!

black and white vintage image of a man in a white coat serving an ice cream soda to a soman

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In his younger days, he worked at a local drugstore making Ice Cream Sodas, sundaes and Floats to earn a little money.

Today, a Soda Jerk would be considered the ‘Mixologist’ of that frozen dessert.  Whatever style flavor or topping you wanted, he was your go-to guy.

vintage pedal powered ice cream truck with blue and white stripes, 'ice cream' painted in red

History of Ice Cream Sodas

‘Who’ actually invented the Ice Cream Soda is about as clear as that thick soda itself.  History tells us four different people claim the right.

Robert Green actually took his claim ‘to the grave’.  He also has two versions to his story.  The first is that he ran out of cream for his sodas at an 1874 Philadelphia Exhibition. Unable to obtain more, he used the frozen version instead.

The second version he claims was by people watching.  He observed people walking around with ice cream in one hand, and water in the other. He then decided to combine the two.  And it was a hit.

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In his will, he asked that his tombstone be inscribed with “Here lies the originator of the Ice Cream Soda”.  Well, that’s one way to beat out your competition!

A young man named George Guy worked for Robert Green.  He claims he created the Soda through an accidental spill.  The soda he was making spilled onto some ice cream he was also trying to prepare.  Instead of throwing it away, a customer requested to taste it first.

Third up for the claim is Fred Sanders who owned Sanders Candy.  Considering his store was brand new in 1875, it leaves a lot to be considered.

And finally, there is Phillip Mohr, who in 1862 was trying to help a banker out by finding a way to keep his flavored soda cooler. The banker loved it.  Had Mohr followed that banker’s suggestion and open up soda fountain, he may have had the right to claim Inventor to the Ice Cream Soda.

He didn’t, so the glory seems to ‘lie’ with Robert Green.

two glasses filled with ice cream soda with red and white striped straws

The Difference between an Ice Cream Soda and a Float

A Soda consists of a scoop or two of ice cream, flavored syrup and seltzer, although Club Soda or Tonic Water can also be used. Place the ice cream in a glass, then add syrup.  Pour the Seltzer over it all, and add two straws.

A Float on the other hand, doesn’t use syrup or seltzer.  Instead, it is ice cream that is ‘floating’ in a flavored soft drink.

Disclaimer:  I did change the name to ‘soft drink’, which goes against my southern upbringing.  Down here in the south, it doesn’t matter what flavor or brand, we still call it a ‘Coke’.  There is a (very bad) joke that ‘floats’ around:

Waitress in a Southern Diner:  What’ll ya have to drink?

Customer:  A Coke, please.

Waitress:  What flavor?

Customer: Oh, Dr. Pepper will be fine.

With all that said, my true favorite Float is a Root Beer Float.  Vanilla ice cream floating in that classic flavor is just delicious!  But most people think of ‘Coke Float’ when they imagine this frosty treat. (You can make your own Ice Cream with this RECIPE!)

One other difference between the two is a Soda is served with two straws.  A Float is served with a spoon and a straw.

a Mason Jar filled with cherry ice cream and cherry soda as a version of an ice cream float

But What About Other Flavors?

Have you ever had a Black Cow? Although a Root Beer Float is often called by this name, we have always considered a Black Cow as Root Beer poured over chocolate ice cream.

You can also enjoy a Snow White, which is vanilla ice cream with 7-Up or Sprite.  Or maybe you would prefer a Purple Cow (vanilla with Grape Soda)? 

Need to ‘slam’ someone?  Hand them a homemade version of American Friendly’s (now Friendly’s) Slammer.  This consists of watermelon or orange sherbet, served with vanilla syrup and seltzer.  But quite frankly, that is a ‘Soda’, not a Float!

glass mug filled with orange soda and ice cream, an orange slice and a scooper filled with ice cream

Depending on your preference, you can design your own Float easily.  Choose your favorite ice cream flavor and put a couple of scoops in a tall glass.  Open a bottle of your favorite ‘Coke’ and pour it over the top.

With the heat of the summer, we all want to be a jerk from time to time.  But maybe we can follow in Daddy’s footsteps and become real Jerks.  Take some time and make your families some delicious treats in the form of cool and refreshing Sodas and Floats!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.


  1. Cute post. A few fun variations we like of floats are orange soda with vanilla ice cream (like orange creamsicle), or a vanilla coke and vanilla ice cream. Thanks for sharing your post with us on the Homestead Blog Hop!


    1. Your welcome, Cherelle! And thank you for allowing me to join the blog hop. I’m glad you like the post – floats and sodas are our favorite way to cool off in the summer. And I just happen to have an Orange Crush – I am so going to do an orange float for dessert tonight!

  2. I always wondered what the difference was! Up here in New England I have only ever seen a root beer float on the menus. Thanks for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.

    1. Thank you, Joanne, for the kind words and the pin! And thank you for letting me share on Encouraging Hearts and Home. There are so many great posts, it takes me all week to enjoy them all!

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