The First 'Black Cow' for National Root Beer Float Day

The classic cool treat was first made in the 1800s

Who doesn't love a root beer float on a hot summer day -- and why do we even need an excuse to enjoy one? In honor of today's National Root Beer Float Day, a look back on what was the first ever root beer float.

The root beer float was first called a "black cow," or "brown cow," the Daily Grid reports. But first, the indelible sweet drink had to be made: in the 1870s, a pharmacist named Charles Hire made 'Hires root tea," with flavorings from trees and plants like sassafras and sarsaparilla, wintergreen, birch bark, herbs and juniper berries, reports Voice of America. Hires then showed his root beer (renamed perhaps to attract male beer drinkers) at the the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876 (where Heinz Ketchup first premiered). 

But the "black cow" was made by Frank J. Wisner, of Cripple Creek, Colo., in 1893. He was already making sodas for the people of his town, but decided to make a sweet treat for kids: root beer combined with vanilla ice cream. According to legend, he was inspired by the sight of the dark Rocky Mountains capped with white snow in the moonlight. And the rest is history. 

While a root beer float is pretty easy to make, we do love a good variation on the root beer float. For an adult treat, take a note from Philadelphia's Percy Street Barbecue, which makes their own floats with specially made Yards Brewing Co.'s root beer, and try a beer-spiked float. Percy Street Barbecue makes its adult float with Oskar Blues Ten Fidy float; with flavors of caramel and chocolate, it's a sure sweet treat. To make, take a chilled Mason Jar and place a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream in the jar and then slowly pour your favorite root beer (or Oskar Blues Ten Fidy) over top; insert straw and sip. (We also like our floats made with Guinness.)