mong the favorite soda fountain drinks are the various ‘Cows’ and they are a fun lot of very easy drinks to make. The Black Cow, Brown Cow, and White Cow are similar to one another, differing in tiny nuances and the ingredients for each are probably right there in your kitchen. If your family loves the Root Beer Float, give one of these a try.

The Black Cow

This is the best known of these old-fashioned soda fountain drinks and there are many ways to make one. Essentially, the Black Cow is a chocolate-flavored Root Beer Float, though the exact recipe varied across the many soda fountains that once dotted America’s Main Streets.

It should also be noted that the name ‘black cow’ also referred to chocolate milk at many soda fountains. This was probably in the earlier days of the soda fountain when you ordered a straight glass of milk by asking for a “Cow” or “Cow Juice.” Also, adding chocolate to milk was not an American invention, but seems to be a creation of an Irishman in Jamaica (see Chocolate Milk was Invented in Jamaica on the Smithsonian.com).

Yet another use for “black cow” was as a general reference for root beer, which we see in the recipe below.

As a side note, my older (pre-1930’s) soda fountain books do not mention any sort of ‘cow’ drink other than when referring to either straight milk or root beer in soda jerk slang. The ice cream soda recipes are a later invention in the soda fountain scene.

Back to the soda-induced Black Cow, the majority of recipes agree that you need three ingredients: chocolate syrup, vanilla ice cream, and root beer. Whether to add whipped cream and a maraschino cherry is a matter of personal taste. Other recipes are a simple mix of milk with root beer.

The Black Cow Recipe

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Yield: 1 Drink

The Black Cow Recipe

The Black Cow is a fun, chocolate version of the Root Beer Float.

Photo © Brent Hofacker / Dollar Photo Club

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • 8-10 ounces root beer
  • 1-2 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • Whipped cream and a cherry for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pour the chocolate syrup into the bottom of a frosty mug or tall glass.
  2. Add the root beer and stir until mixed.
  3. Top with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. (Press the top scoop into the side of the glass so it sets on top without falling in or out.)
  4. Add whipped cream, cherry, and other toppings as you like.
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The Brown Cow

To switch from a Black Cow to a Brown Cow, the only thing you need to change is the soda. Instead of root beer, pick up a cola and add that to the mix.

The one note that I have about this drink is to encourage you to use it to explore other colas. While Coke and Pepsi are obvious and easy choices, you will find that there are many colas available that are produced by smaller brands and they are often better for mixing into drinks. Part of this preference is that the boutique sodas tend to have less sugar and carbonation than the bigger brands and this simply adds a balance and more traditional taste to the soda drink. Brands to look for include Q Drinks and Jones Soda, though there are many others available.

The White Cow

Now, the White Cow is a slightly different mix and, as one may expect, the color of this drink indicates that it is purely vanilla. Essentially it is a vanilla milkshake, though a little more interesting than blending vanilla ice cream and milk. Think of the White Cow as an improved vanilla milkshake and there are a few ways to do it.

Option #1: Blend 4 scoops vanilla ice cream with 2 ounces vanilla syrup and 1/4 cup of milk.

  • Vanilla syrup is easy to find, especially if you look in the coffee sweetener section at the market. Amoretti would be my first choice, though Torani is another good, widely distributed brand (see 7 Great Flavored Syrups for Beverages). You can also make your own vanilla syrup.
  • Another option is to substitute the syrup for 1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract.
  • If you want a thinner White Cow, simply add a little more milk. Likewise, for a thicker White Cow, add a little more ice cream.

Option #2: Blend 4 scoops of vanilla ice cream with 1/2 cup each milk and heavy cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

  • This is a rich, thick White Cow with a great punctuation of vanilla.
The Black, White, and Brown Cows