Ice cream makes everything better, as does whiskey! Celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a great cocktail that brings out the kid in you – a beer float. This article includes tips to make your ice cream beer float the best it can be. This combination of creamy, decadent ice cream, bitter, chocolatey beer and a splash of whiskey to kick up the proof makes a delicious version of your childhood favorite.
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What is a Beer Float?
Beer floats are similar to an ice cream float, only instead of using root beer or a cream soda, you’ll use beer to provide carbonation to get that fluffy head on the float. That pile of bubbles and foam on the top of a root beer float comes from the interaction between the carbonation in the beer and the ice cream.
Beer floats come in many different forms. In this one I’m using a dark stout to match the chocolate ice cream. A porter or even an amber ale would also be a delicious combination with the Irish whiskey. Those malty barley notes from whiskey cut through the ice cream, further building the sweetness of the drink.
In fact, next time I make this, I’m using vanilla or salted caramel ice cream and an amber Irish ale.
What Kind of Beer to Use in Your Beer Float
I’m in the minority, I’m sure, because so many people love lighter pilsners and IPAs. If you decide to go with one of those for your float, vanilla or fruit flavors might be a better choice for the ice cream of the cocktail. Lemon sorbet with an IPA might be truly delicious.
For this beer float, I wanted to celebrate all things Irish with Guinness beer and a great Irish whiskey, but you can choose any beer you like as long as you match it to the flavors of the ice cream and change out the bitters to a complementary flavor.
If you’re a fan of pale ales, steer toward English-style as the more malt-barley-forward flavor pairs better with the Irish whiskey. If you prefer brown or porter beer, you’ll still have a great match with the Irish whiskey, but likely will have more nuttiness – you might go for an ice cream with some nut flavors in it, or a toffee ice cream.
Stouts, of course, are magical here, and highly recommended for the combination of whiskey and chocolate ice cream. If prefer your floats with less ice cream, cut back on the ice cream and increase the beer to make a more bitter beer and ice cream cocktail.
What’s a Whiskey Float?
I love a great beer float, but since I created this for St Patrick’s Day I also wanted to add whiskey to the flavors. If you search online for a whiskey float or an adult float you’ll see some recipes that have a carbonated element. Usually the carbonated element is either coke or a cream soda.
However, root beer or cream soda are also delicious as additions to a whiskey float (if you prefer to forgo the beer for something softer and sweeter.
Flavors in this Chocolate Beer Float
In addition to the chocolate ice cream, the beer float depends on three additional elements to add flavor. Irish whiskey adds a malty, sweet flavor to the cocktail, and Guinness stout offers chocolate and coffee-filled bitterness to balance out some of the sweetness of the ice cream.
In addition, I added an extra blast of Scrappy’s chocolate bitters – dark chocolate bitters that aren’t hot, spicy or full of baking spices. Instead, they’re a pure chocolate flavor filled with the bitterness of raw cacao nibs.
A touch of mint as a garnish just adds some minty herbaceousness to the mix. You can omit it if you like and instead add a pinch of espresso powder and salt.
How to Make a Killer Beer Float (or Whiskey Float)
When researching for an article on ice cream cocktails, I got some great advice from Giacomo Ciminello, Beverage Director at Cincinnati Distilling, who grew up making floats and shakes at his family’s store.
According to him, avoiding dilution of the cocktail before adding to the chilled glass is critical. Additional water makes the resulting shake taste flat and uninteresting. To create a perfect float, use a tall pint glass or float glass that’s been thoroughly chilled in the freezer.
Add the whiskey and the beer to the bottom of the glass with some bitters, then begin to fill the glass with ice cream. As you do, the whiskey and beer will start to form a foam. If the foam doesn’t reach the top of the glass, add a bit more once you’ve finished adding in your ice cream.
The mint garnish and straw are optional, but you’ll need either a straw or a spoon to eat the ice cream.
Tips and Tricks to Making a Great Ice Cream and Beer Float
There are some simple things you can do to make the most of any float – whether or not you’re making it with beer or root beer.
- Use a glass made for a root beer float if you have one. The shape of them makes puts more of the ice cream in contact with the beer so you won’t need to add too much beer to the drink after the ice cream has been scooped in.
- Add the chilled beer and whiskey to the bottom of the float glass next.
- Carbonation in the beer will do most of the mixing. You won’t need to stir much more than one or twice.
- Let the ice cream sit out on the counter for about 5 minutes before scooping it. It’s easier to scoop and melts into the other ingredients faster.
Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy
Chocolate Beer Float
- 2 oz Irish whiskey
- 3 oz Guinness Stout
- 2-3 dashes Scrappy's Chocolate Bitters
- 2-3 scoops of chocolate ice cream
- Garnish: sprig of mint
- Add whiskey and stout and bitters to a well-chilled ice cream float glass.
- Add ice cream. If the foam doesn’t rise to the rim of the glass, add a bit more stout to make a creamy, foamy head on the top of the drink.
- Garnish with mint, but don’t forget the straw and the spoon.