While a classic root beer float never goes out of style, this winter there’s been a resurgence of the dessert in boozy ways
1/4Photograph: Martha WilliamsAt Next: Chicago Steak, a brioche Champagne float is made with brioche-flavored ice cream, which is meant to mimic the toasted flavor of older Champagnes.
2/4Photograph: Martha WilliamsAt Parts & Labor, a Green River float and a root beer float (both non-alcoholic) are on the menu. But when we talked to the bartender, he said that people like spiking the root beer float with a shot of Fernet Branca, which adds some bitter depth to the dessert.
3/4Photograph: Derek RichmondAt Nico Osteria, pastry chef Amanda Rockman has a menu of affogatos, which feature creamy gelato drowning in booze or soda. Here, apricot sorbet and burnt honey gelato are topped with prosecco.
4/4At Rockit Bar & Grill, Amanda Downing is making a beer float, with New Holland Dragon’s Milk stout, vanilla bean ice cream and maple-bourbon candied bacon.
By Amy Cavanaugh|
Ice cream floats aren't just for summer anymore.
"Floats and shakes are more popular in winter because in summer, even though a float/shake is cold, it is also typically heavy," says Amanda Downing, executive chef at Rockit Bar & Grill, where there's an increase in frozen treats sales during the winter months. "So in the summer when it's 90-plus degrees out, you really do not want to be sucking down all that ice cream and beer, but in the winter it works just fine."
Downing is making a beer float with New Holland Dragon's Milk stout, vanilla bean ice cream from Homer's Homemade Gourmet Ice Cream in Wilmette and maple-bourbon candied bacon.
She isn't the only one making new floats this winter. At the new Logan Square burger joint Parts & Labor, the dessert menu includes a root beer float and Green River float. They're made with vanilla ice cream and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. While they're nonalcoholic, on our visit, a bartender suggested spiking a root beer float with a shot of Fernet Branca. There are three taps behind the bar dispensing the Italian amaro, which adds depth and makes the dessert feel much more sophisticated.
At Nico Osteria, Amanda Rockman has a menu of affogatos, which are traditionally gelato drowning in espresso. Hers are mostly cold, like scoops of apricot sorbet and burnt honey gelato doused with prosecco.
And at Next's current steakhouse menu, a scoop of brioche ice cream swimming in Champagne is the bridge between the savory and dessert courses. The bready notes are meant to simulate a much older Champagne, and the float is a light and refreshing course—much needed after a huge steak.