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How to Host an Ice Cream Float Party

Chocolate Chip Cherry Ice Cream Floats

The other day, I was planning an after-summer-camp snack for my 11-year-old son and his best friend, and I realized that one of these boys does not eat peanut butter and the other one does not eat jelly.

Sigh. Kids these days. They have such well-developed dietary preferences and aversions. I’m glad they’re exercising their individuality, but their quirky palates make it difficult to feed them, especially in large groups.

Take my son (he-who-does-not-eat-jelly). He’s also not a big fan of cake, which makes birthday celebrations a bit of a challenge. This year I landed on an ice cream float party as a fun, summer-y option that allows everyone to create their own custom concoction. (As an added plus, grown-up guests can craft adult versions with coffee or porter.)

An ice cream float party is a festive way to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth. With a little advance planning, you can maximize choices while minimizing mess and stress.

Part I: Set-Up

Because the basic recipe is always the same (ice cream + liquid + topping), ice cream floats lend themselves to an assembly-line approach with three simple stations:

Station One: Ice Cream

Set out enough glasses for all your guests, plus an ice cream scoop for every flavor. You’ll definitely want to offer classics like chocolate and vanilla. At our party, we also served chocolate chip and some yummy homemade strawberry contributed by my friend Lisa Rawlinson at Full and Content. (Her kids are picky eaters too!)

Station Two: Beverages

You don’t have to worry about keeping your beverages super cold, because the ice cream will cool things down once people start pouring. Set out an assortment of sodas, such as root beer and cream soda. If you want to offer adult beverages, include a pitcher of cold-brewed coffee or a few bottles of porter or stout. (Hint: if you’re serving bottled beverages, remember to leave a bottle opener at this station.)

Station Three: Toppings

This is the really fun part! Start with the basics: whipped cream and pitted cherries. If you’re serving fruity ice cream or soda, you can offer sliced strawberries, peaches or mangoes. Other topping possibilities include shaved dark chocolate and delicate sugar cookies for dipping.

At the end of this station, set out straws and spoons. Long iced-tea spoons are ideal, but not necessary. (Hint: colorful party straws will make your floats seem extra festive without adding extra calories!)

Part II: Create

You can also suggest a few combinations to help get the creativity flowing:

Classic Root Beer Float = vanilla ice cream + root beer

Green Dream = pistachio gelato + cream soda

Chocolate Chip Cherry = chocolate chip ice cream + cherry vanilla cream soda

Black and Tan = dark chocolate gelato + porter or stout beer

The best part of the party is watching to see what combinations your guests dream up. At our gathering, two kids independently invented this marvelous monochromatic mixture:

Vanilla Cloud = vanilla ice cream + vanilla bean soda + whipped cream

What kind of ice cream + beverage combo floats your boat? Share your flavor inspiration in the comments!

Photo credits: Lisa Rawlinson