If you ever hear someone ordering a Black Cow, don’t be alarmed. It’s a drink, not an animal … and a tasty one at that! At its most basic, it’s nothing more than a root beer float — picture the soda-shop classic with scoops of rich vanilla ice cream topped with frosty, cold root beer. As love for the Black Cow drink grew over the years, people came up with all sorts of delicious variations. Some sneak in with chocolate syrup, some use flavored ice cream in place of vanilla, and some go as far as adding a shot of coffee liqueur. Now that’s a treat in a glass!
What is the original Black Cow drink?
As if root beer isn’t tasty enough on its own, someone said, “Let’s take it up a notch!” That was Frank J. Wisner, the owner of a mining company called Cripple Creek Cow Mountain Mining Company in Cripple Creek, Colorado. Back in August of 1893, Wisner was developing a line of soda waters.
One night, as he was glancing out at the full moon that lit up nearby Cow Mountain, he took note of the snow on top of the dark peak. It reminded him of a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and he decided to combine it with his children’s favorite soda — root beer. He used Myers Avenue Red Root Beer (which you can still get today!) and named this creation “Black Cow Mountain.” Kids who sipped the drink referred to it as “Black Cow,” and the shortened name has carried on to this day.
A Little Bit of Root Beer History
You can’t have a Black Cow without root beer, which has its own interesting origin story. Root beer was first marketed in the 1870s, just two decades before the first Black Cow was crafted. Believe it or not, the idea started as tea. Pharmacist Charles Hire of Philadelphia created “Hires root tea.” He used herbs, juniper berries and the roots from sassafras, sarsaparilla, wintergreen and birch bark.
By 1876, the drink was commonly called root beer. The reason? It was a move to appeal to those who regularly drank beer. Today, the drink we know and love requires, on average, at least 16 roots and herbs to get it just right.
How to Make a Black Cow Drink
Making a classic Black Cow at home is pretty easy: Just grab your favorite brands of root beer and vanilla ice cream plus a few extras, then follow the recipe below:
Ingredients for 1 Black Cow:
- 1 cup root beer
- 3 Tbs. chocolate syrup
- 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
- Whipped cream
- 2 maraschino cherries
- In blender, puree first 3 ingredients until smooth; divide evenly among 2 chilled glasses.
- Top with whipped cream and cherries.
Delicious variations on a Black Cow
Traditional Black Cows are super-tasty as is, but it’s so simple to customize the flavor however you want. If you’re a coffee lover, take a tip from drink creator Seo Hyun Kook and add brewed iced coffee.
Got a sweet tooth for chocolate? Swap in brownie ice cream and add in mini chocolate chips. For even more options, check out these other fun variations on a Black Cow.
And if you like your beverages on the boozy side, take a look at these 12 takes on spiked ice cream floats that make the perfect adults-only drink.