Black Cow Day! A Scandalous (And Delicious) Summer Drink!

black cow root beer float recipe sl

On June 10th, we celebrate National Black Cow Day. Frankly, we thought that we’d ignore it. That’s because we originally thought a Black Cow was a chocolate milkshake made with vanilla ice cream. Or maybe a chocolate milk shake with chocolate ice cream. In any case, it didn’t seem like the kind of thing that would require a recipe.

We were wrong. It turns out that a Black Cow is really a Root Beer Float. Which we thought was just a glass filled with vanilla ice cream that you poured root beer into, and then ate the whole thing with a straw. We were wrong again.

Some people say that the Black Cow was invented by Robert McCay Green, who ran out of cream for his flavored sodas he was selling–so he used ice cream. Soda Fountain magazine later modified that legend by reporting that Green’s flavored soda stand was smaller than those of the other vendors at an event where he had set up shop–so he wanted to come out with something new to attract more business to his stand. Our main thought about hearing all this was that we want a subscription to Soda Fountain magazine.

Then there’s the second account of a man named Frank Wisner. He was reportedly looking out his window at the Cow Mountains when he was inspired to put a scoop of ice cream on top of his root beer. That’s also how he derived the name Black Cow.

Well, we’re sure that there’s still a feud going on over who gets the credit for the Black Cow. This all happened a long time ago, though. In fact, the Black Cow comes from a very different time. It became popular with teenagers, and the adults began to perceive the sodas as something akin to alcohol. There was an actual prohibition places on sodas–some forbidding them ever being served, and some insisting that Black Cows weren’t fit for Sunday. In the towns where prohibition only existed on Sundays, soda shops had to find a way to make a profit on these days. This is where the ice cream “sundae” was born. Really.

There are many versions of the Black Cow around today. Most of them offer different variations between the type of ice cream and the flavors of soda being used. We sorted through a large list of soda fountain recipes from the fine folks at Prairie Moon Beverage Syrup, and came up with a favorite that yields one tasty Black Cow float!

    • 10 oz Root Beer
    • 1 tbsp Chocolate Syrup
    • 2 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
    • 1 1/2 oz Whipping Cream


    1. Pour root beer over ice cream and chocolate syrup in a large tumbler glass.
    2. Garnish with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.
    3. Serve with a straw and a long spoon.

To fancy up this recipe a little bit, try substituting the tumbler glass for a freezer frosted mug. You can also add sprinkles or other garnishes! And feel free to visit that Prairie Moon site for plenty more variations. Remember, Prohibition is over!

black cow root beer float recipe