The ultimate root beer float

Brian Rung

    America, we have a bit of a sweet tooth. In fact, we could possibly have the sweetest tooth in the entire world.
    We invented the chocolate chip cookie, the Tootsie Roll and Coca-Cola. We combined soda with beer brewed from sassafras root to create the modern version of root beer, and eventually poured it on vanilla ice cream giving birth to the root beer float.
    This week we are going to toast root beer lovers everywhere with the rum and Kahlua powered Ultimate Root Beer Float.
    Aromatic sassafras root beverages have been consumed in North America for hundreds of years both for culinary and medicinal purposes. Early American colonists added yeast fermentation to root beverage production, the results of which yielded an actual beer. Colonial confectionaries also produced sassafras root syrup and aromatic tea to treat various ailments.  
    Root beer as we know it was born in the 1850s when the sassafras root syrup was combined with soda. By the way, not all root beer is sassafras-based.
    Barq's began selling a sarsaparilla-based root beer in 1898 and has a unique flavor profile among the mass produced root beers. The early winners in the root beer game were IBC, A&W and Barq's, all of which are alive and well today.
    Which root beer is the best root beer? Be careful how you answer that question as friendships have undoubtedly been damaged beyond repair in this argument.
    It's a matter of personal preference when it comes to a drink as complex as root beer. Vanilla, coffee, molasses and caramel are among the many flavor notes found in root beer. Do you like yours strong or sweet?
    A&W is the top selling root beer in the world, so they must be doing something right. Maine Root is perhaps the best offering from the independent producers, but my favorite is IBC. Apologies to the Barq's fans, but I find IBC to have the most balanced flavor profile.
    I'm always looking, but have yet to find a better Saturday cheeseburger chaser than an ice cold IBC in a bottle. Perhaps part of the reason that the flavor of IBC stands out is that their product is sweetened with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.
    Did you know that most root beer is not caffeinated? Root beer is naturally free of caffeine, though some producers add caffeine. Of the major North American root beer producers, Barq's is the only brand that is caffeinated.  
    Though root beer has long been synonymous with wholesome “mom and apple pie” imagery, there are new root beer-flavored beers on the market and some of them are quite good.
    If I had to pick a winner among the adult root beers it would definitely be Not Your Father's Root Beer. Not Your Father's is not a “hard” root beer, has excellent sweet flavor notes and most definitely tastes like root beer.
    Most of the newer “adult beverage” variety root beers come in around five to six percent ABV and can be consumed either as a stand-alone drink or in cocktails.
    Loaded Root Beer floats have been around since the 70s and are simply root beer floats with a shot of vodka, usually vanilla vodka. That's well and good, but not overly creative.
    The Ultimate Root Beer Float is the ultimate root beer cocktail. You get a little bit of everything in this one including the classic pairing of Kahlua and dairy similar to the flavor notes of the White Russian.
    You are also getting a taste of the time-tested rum and cola combination in the Ultimate Root Beer Float.
    The Ultimate Root Beer Float calls for light rum instead of flavored vodka.  Using vanilla vodka on top of root beer and vanilla ice cream is bit of vanilla overload.
    Light rum adds depth to the incredibly sweet ingredients and serves the same purpose as syrup would in a milkshake. Since rum is sugar based, you are adding sweetness without upsetting the balance of flavor.
    Stick with the sweeter light rums for the Ultimate Root Beer Float. I like Cruzan, Flor de Cana and El Dorado.  
    Be sure to serve this or any other root beer float with large diameter straws and spoons. Trying to enjoy one of these through a small straw is 15 minutes of cruel and unusual punishment followed by a 90 percent chance of brain freeze.  
    This cocktail is so “heavy” that it almost demands to be served either as a hearty dessert or an occasional treat.
    Do you have root beer lovers in your crowd? Put this one in your virtual recipe box and make the Ultimate Root Beer Float the ultimate dessert at your next gathering.  
    Burgers and onion rings are optional.
    The Ultimate Root Beer Float is built in served in a chilled dessert glass.
    Add 1 to 2 scoops of premium vanilla ice cream to glass.
    Add 1 oz light rum.
    Add 1 oz Kahlua.
    Top with your favorite root beer.
    Garnish with a dab of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.
    Serve with large straw.
    Until next week, enjoy responsibly.