The root beer float was invented in 1874 by a Philadelphia soda vendor named Robert McCay Green. As the story goes, Green ran out of ice on a steamy summer day and was forced to improvise. He bought ice cream from a neighboring vendor, mixed it with his root beer, and a new beverage was born.
Since 1874, dozens of variations on have been built on the original concoction, including the Coke float, Boston cooler, and Orange float. Root beer floats and other ice cream-soda mashups have generally been most popular among kids and teens, but that didn't stop some mixologist from blending Guinness Stout, chocolate ice cream, and espresso to make a beer float, also know by its way-more-awesome name, the Shakin' Jesse. Plenty of other variations of carbonated beverage-meets-ice cream exist throughout the country - some booze-filled and some not - but none match the fame of the simple, classic root beer float.
It's not known on which day Robert Green first mixed root beer and vanilla ice cream, but that's not important. National Root Beer Float Day is Wednesday, August 6, and like National Doughnut and Hot Dog Days - the holiest of American holidays - free root beer floats can be had.
Founded in California in 1923, A&W is perhaps the first truly successful chain restaurant in American history, and it made its name with root beer as its flagship menu item, accompanied by the signature frosty mug. The fast food chain is offering free floats from 2 p.m. to store closing on 8/6. According to their website, they're honoring the company's roots by honoring military veterans. Donations for the Wounded Warrior Project will be accepted in-store on Wednesday and can also be made online.
The upstate New York restaurant chain is offering half-price root beer floats every day as part of the "Happy Hour Every Day" promotion. Stop by and get one between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. at one of their 16 locations.
The burger chain with over 400 nationwide locations was recently in the news for its +3,500 calorie Monster Burger meal, which was named the "single unhealthiest meal" at the Xtreme Eating Awards (you know it's extreme when they drop the "e"). Artery-clogging combos aside, Red Robin is also known for its bottomless root beer floats, which can be had any time at any of the chain's locations.
MENU HACK ALERT! You might not have known it, but you can get a root beer float at McDonald's although it's not on the menu. Not every McDonald's store has root beer, but you can swap it out with Coke if yours is root beer-less. McDonald's isn't giving away a free or half-price float on Wednesday - probably because it's not on their listed menu - but still, getting a secret menu item is almost as cool as getting something for free.
Cover image courtesy of stu-spivack on Flickr.