Why Root Beer Floats Are Also Called 'Black Cows'

National Root Beer Float Day, which takes place each year on August 6, offers a great reason to indulge in this flavorful beverage that can be consumed as a dessert or a snack. Even at a drive-in, root beer floats make a perfect accompaniment for a cheeseburger and fries, regardless of whether it's the national holiday or a weekend treat.

There are many variations on the root beer float that involve vanilla ice cream and a different soda, such as a Coke Float (vanilla ice cream with Coca-Cola), Boston Cooler (vanilla ice cream with ginger ale), Purple Cow (vanilla ice cream with grape soda), and Orange Float (vanilla ice cream with orange soda), per Visit Oshkosh. You may have also heard of a "black cow," which is the original name of the root beer float (via The Daily Meal). 

Over time, what is considered a black cow has changed for some. A recipe on Food. calls for root beer poured over vanilla ice cream with a tablespoon of chocolate syrup, garnished with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. Another recipe claiming to be for the "Original Black Cow" includes Coca-Cola, chocolate ice cream, cream, and chocolate syrup. Not surprisingly, alcoholic versions have been created of the classic fountain beverage that includes coffee liqueur and cream.

The first black cow

Like so many product creation stories, the inventor of the black cow was admiring the world around him when inspiration struck. The Daily Meal recounts how, in 1893, Frank J. Wisner was admiring the Rocky Mountains in Colorado when the snow cap on one of the peaks reminded him of vanilla ice cream in root beer. The name of the mountain that served as inspiration? Cow Mountain, per South Florida Reporter

Wisner was the owner of Cripple Creek Brewing. After getting the idea for the ice cream beverage, he hurried inside and put vanilla ice cream in his children's favorite soda: Myers Avenue Red Root Beer, according to the South Florida Reporter. He began to serve his new beverage, which he called Black Cow Mountain, and it was a hit, but the public abbreviated the name to just "black cow."

Whether you call it a root beer float or a black cow, refresh yourself with a frosted glass of root beer and vanilla ice cream on National Root Beer Float Day, or any day of the year.