History of Food

History of Food

Sunday, June 10, 2012

National Black Cow Day - June 10

Today is National Black Cow Day. Prior to researching what a Black Cow is, all I knew what it was one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite groups - Steely Dan. 
 Black Cow lyricsI never knew what the last two lines of the song meant....

"Drink your big Black Cow
And get out of here."

Also known as a "black cow," the root beer float is traditionally made with vanilla ice cream and root beer, but can also be made with other flavors. With smooth vanilla ice cream, coppery root beer, and frothy foam, a root beer float is an all-American classic.

 Frank Wisner, owner of the Cripple Creek Cow Mountain Gold Mining Company, had been producing a line of soda waters for the citizens of the then-booming Cripple Creek gold mining district. He had been trying to create a special drink for the children of Cripple Creek and came up with an idea while staring out at his properties on Cow Mountain on a moonlit night.

Root beer was manufactured, bottled, and sold starting in 1880, and legend has it that thirteen years later, the root beer float, which is sometimes referred to as a black cow, was first invented. After glancing out the window late one night, Wisner, was inspired to float a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of his glass of root beer.  The origin of the name "black cow" has always been of interest to food and beverage experts and allegedly dates to August 1893 in Cripple Creek, Colorado. 

The illumination of the full moon allowed him to glimpse the snow on top of nearby snow capped Cow Mountain  The reminded him of a dollop of vanilla ice cream floating on top of the mountain.  As he told the story later, he was inspired by this view to hurry back to his bar and add a big scoop of vanilla ice cream to the one soda water he produced that the children of Cripple Creek seemed to like best - Myers Avenue Red root beer - and served it the very next day. The drink was an instant hit. Originally named "Black Cow Mountain", the local children shortened this to "black cow". Wisner was known to say many times in his later years that if he had a nickel for every time someone ordered a black cow, he'd have been a rich man.

The definition of a black cow varies by region. For instance in some localities, a "root beer float" has strictly vanilla ice cream; a float made with root beer and chocolate ice cream is a "chocolate cow" or a "brown cow." In some places a "black cow" or a "brown cow" was made with cola instead of root beer. In some areas, for example, Northeastern Wisconsin, "black cow" is said to mean a root beer float where the ice cream and root beer have been mixed together.  In New England, often root beer is substituted with birch beer.  Birch beer is a carbonated soft drink made from herbal extracts, usually from birch bark. It has a taste similar to, but stronger then root beer.

In the United States and Canada, the chain A & W Restaurants are well known for their root beer floats.  In 2008, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group introduced its Float beverage line. This includes A & W Root Beer, A & W Cream Soda and Sunkist flavors which attempt to simulate the taste of their respective ice cream float flavors in a creamy, bottled drink..

Since it is National Black Cow Day..."Drink your big Black Cow...And get out of here."

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