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What Is an Ice Cream Soda?

An ice cream soda is a delightful treat that combines scoops of creamy ice cream with carbonated water and flavored syrup, creating a fizzy, sweet concoction. This classic dessert beverage offers a nostalgic trip with each bubbly sip. Wondering how this fizzy favorite came to be or what variations exist around the world? Keep reading to uncover the effervescent history and global twists of the ice cream soda.
Angela Farrer
Angela Farrer

An ice cream soda is a dessert consisting of at least one scoop of ice cream mixed with a flavored carbonated beverage. Some recipes also call for a mixture of ice cream, flavored syrup, and seltzer water. These types of ice cream desserts have their origins in the drugstore soda foundations that were popular during the 19th and 20th centuries. The first documented ice cream soda was invented in 1874 when a soda fountain owner named Robert Green came up with the idea to draw more customers to his soda fountain rather than to a competitor's. The resulting ice cream treat was so popular that he turned a much higher profit than he did selling cold sodas alone.

Several variations of ice cream sodas are served as desserts in restaurants and can also be made at home. A classic recipe for a chocolate ice cream soda involves mixing chocolate syrup in a tall glass with vanilla ice cream. A small amount of milk can also be mixed in for a slightly richer texture. The glass is then filled the rest of the way with unflavored carbonated soda water before being topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Other recipe versions call for cola or root beer to be added in place of soda water.

A scoop of ice cream.
A scoop of ice cream.

Other popular versions of the ice cream soda are often called "black cows" or "brown cows." A black cow traditionally consists of vanilla ice cream mixed with cola while a brown cow is made by mixing root beer with the same ice cream flavor. Whipped cream and syrup flavors, such as chocolate, vanilla, or even coffee can also be added according to personal preference. These names can sometimes be used interchangeably depending on the local terminology of different regions, and some areas can also have their own unique favorite ice cream soda flavors.

A bottle of soda.
A bottle of soda.

Additional well-known ice cream soda flavors include the purple cow, the Snow White, and the Brazilian vaca dourada. A purple cow is made from ice cream and sweet grape soda. A Snow White consists of vanilla ice cream mixed with lemon-lime soda and is a favorite dessert drink in some Asian restaurants. The vaca dourada is made with vanilla ice cream and soda flavored from the guarana fruit, which is a favorite ingredient in several Brazilian soft drinks.

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Discussion Comments


It's funny. I love ice cream sodas, but my husband loves Italian cream sodas, and I cannot stand those. They just don't taste good to me. I don't know what it is, but they really don't. I might be able to drink a chocolate one if the syrup is really good, but otherwise, I just don't care for them.

It's tough to get a decent ice cream soda anywhere these days. There are a few places that make them right, but finding somewhere that makes them at all isn't easy. I'm always on the lookout for a place that boasts a genuine soda fountain.


And then there's the chocolate cow, which uses chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla. That's really my favorite incarnation of the ice cream soda. I don't think you get enough chocolate flavor with just the syrup. The ice cream has to be chocolate, too, for the correct chocolate hit.

I'm the same way about chocolate milkshakes and malts -- I want them done with chocolate ice cream. My sister used to say she didn't like chocolate milkshakes like that, but now, she's come around to my way of thinking. Otherwise, they just taste like someone waved the syrup bottle over the drink. And that goes for ice cream sodas, too.

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    • A scoop of ice cream.
      A scoop of ice cream.
    • A bottle of soda.
      By: karandaev
      A bottle of soda.
    • Whipped cream is a popular topping for ice cream sodas.
      By: Tsuboya
      Whipped cream is a popular topping for ice cream sodas.
    • The classic ice cream soda uses vanilla ice cream.
      By: dream79
      The classic ice cream soda uses vanilla ice cream.