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Do you use a straw or a spoon for a root beer float?

Whether to use a straw or a spoon when enjoying a refreshing root beer float is a matter of some debate. Both utensils have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to maximizing the delicious ice cream and root beer flavor combination.

Quick Answer

The quick answer is that both a straw and a spoon can be good options for eating a root beer float, depending on your personal preferences. Some people prefer a straw because it allows you to gradually blend the root beer and ice cream together. Others opt for a spoon since it scoops up some of the ice cream and root beer together in one tasty mouthful.

Using a Spoon for a Root Beer Float

Using a spoon is a popular way to enjoy a root beer float. Here are some of the benefits of using a spoon:

  • Gets a perfect proportion of ice cream and root beer in each bite – With a spoon you can scoop up some of the ice cream along with some of the root beer for the ideal combo of flavors.
  • Allows you to enjoy the layers – As the ice cream starts melting into the root beer, using a spoon enables you to appreciate the distinct layers of ice cream and soda rather than blending them together.
  • Easier to get all the ice cream – A spoon helps you easily reach to the bottom of the glass to get every last delicious drop of melted ice cream.
  • Can add toppings easily – Adding toppings like whipped cream, chocolate syrup or cherries is simpler with a spoon since you can scoop some on.

The main downside of using a spoon is that the carbonation from the root beer can make the ice cream fizz up more, which some people may not like.

Using a Straw for a Root Beer Float

Using a straw is also a very common way to drink a root beer float. Here are some of the pros of using a straw:

  • Blends the flavors together – Sucking up the root beer through the straw gradually blends the ice cream and soda together into one delicious flavor.
  • Easier to drink – Simply sipping through a straw makes drinking a float easier than trying to scoop melted ice cream and bubbly soda onto a spoon.
  • Adds lightness – The air you pull up through the straw lightens up the texture of the ice cream slightly.
  • Satisfying sound – Hearing the old-fashioned sound of you slurping up the ice cream and soda through the straw adds to the enjoyment.

The drawbacks of using a straw are that you don’t get distinct scoops of just ice cream or just root beer, and it can be difficult to get to all the ice cream at the bottom through the straw.

Comparing Methods

To summarize the advantages and disadvantages:

Method Pros Cons
  • Gets perfect mix of ice cream & root beer
  • Enjoy distinct layers
  • Easier to get all ice cream
  • Can add toppings more easily
  • Ice cream can fizz up more
  • Blends flavors together
  • Easier to drink
  • Lightens texture
  • Satisfying sound
  • Don’t get distinct scoops
  • Hard to get all ice cream

Best Practices for Maximum Enjoyment

To get the very best root beer float experience, here are some suggested best practices:

  • Use a tall, chilled glass – This helps keep the drink cold and allows room for the ice cream to melt a bit.
  • Add 2-3 scoops of ice cream – Heaping scoops of quality vanilla ice cream make for the perfect proportion to root beer.
  • Pour chilled root beer slowly – Pour gently down the side of the glass to minimize fizzing up.
  • Use both a straw and spoon – Take a few sips through the straw to blend the flavors, then alternate with scoops of the spoon.
  • Add fun toppings – Whipped cream, chocolate syrup, cherry, or candy pieces make great optional add-ons.
  • Enjoy with friends – Sipping and scooping root beer floats together with friends or family makes a fun shared experience.

History of the Root Beer Float

Understanding a bit of the history behind root beer floats can help appreciate why they remain such an iconic American treat.

  • Invention – Root beer floats are believed to have been invented in the late 19th century, first simply made by pouring soda over ice cream.
  • Rise of soda fountains – Their popularity rose in the early 1900s with the proliferation of soda fountains in drugstores and shops, where they were sometimes called “black cows.”
  • A&W – The root beer float became ingrained in American culture when A&W Root Beer stands began serving them across the country in the 1920s.
  • National phenomenon – Their popularity boomed after World War II and root beer floats became a national phenomenon over the 1950s and 60s.
  • Nostalgic treat – Today they are often still enjoyed for their sense of nostalgia and classic Americana.

Regional Differences

While root beer floats are loved across America, some regional differences can affect opinions on straw vs spoon and preferred variations.

  • Midwest – Spoon preferred to blend ice cream into creamy soda. Floats made with classic vanilla ice cream.
  • East Coast – More use of straws to lightly blend float. Occasional floats made with regional birch beer instead of root beer.
  • West Coast – Tend to add more whimsical toppings. Floats sometimes made with local craft root beers.
  • South – More floats made with unique soda flavors like orange or cream soda.

International Variants

While root beer floats originate from America, other cultures have developed their own tasty spin-offs:

  • Canada – Often simply called a “float,” with the ice cream on top of the soda.
  • Australia – “Spider” float made with ice cream and carbonated lemon-lime soda.
  • United Kingdom – Called a “coke float” and made with vanilla ice cream and Coca-Cola.
  • Mexico – “Helado flotante” or “floating ice cream” made by dropping scoops into Mexican Coke.

Making Floats at Home

It’s fun and easy to whip up root beer floats at home:


  • 2-3 scoops quality vanilla ice cream
  • Chilled root beer, cream soda, or other soda (about 12 oz.)
  • Tall chilled glass
  • Long spoon
  • Thick straw
  • Whipped cream, chocolate syrup, cherry etc. for toppings (optional)


  1. Place 2 or 3 scoops of ice cream into the chilled glass.
  2. Slowly pour chilled soda down the inside of the glass until it nearly reaches the top.
  3. Top with any fun toppings like whipped cream or chocolate.
  4. Enjoy sipping through the straw and scooping with the spoon!

Where to Enjoy Root Beer Floats

In addition to making them at home, here are some great places to enjoy authentic root beer floats:

  • A&W Restaurants – The classic drive-in chain famous for floats.
  • Diners or soda fountains – Old-fashioned shops often still make great floats.
  • Steak ‘n Shake – A restaurant chain offering delicious floats.
  • Local ice cream shops – Neighborhood spots with inventive float options.
  • State fairs – Fun spots for float novelty versions like deep-fried or spiked.


In conclusion, while using a spoon or straw each has its merits, there’s no “right” way to enjoy a root beer float. The most important thing is to sip and scoop this classic treat among friends and family and relish its nostalgic, old-fashioned flavors. America’s love affair with the refreshing float spans over a century for good reason. So next time you need a timeless food indulgence, grab a glass, spoon, straw and make yourself a good old root beer float!