I don't know of a more divisive soda than root beer, and I get it;"rootsy," "medicinal," and "minty" may not be what you want from a soft drink.
But I think more of us can agree that the root beer float was a pretty smart idea: tame root beer's bite with some creamy vanilla while making your ice cream experience a little more exciting.
The problem is that a root beer float is pretty hard to drink right. Start too soon and you just have wet ice cream that doesn't melt into its root beer base; wait too long and you lose the foamy head and any textural contrast that comes from the ice cream slowly seeping into the soda below.
So what if you could take the best qualities of a root beer float—its deep root beer flavor, its mellow notes of cream and vanilla, and its subtle effervescence—and make it into a scoopable dessert all on its own? One that's everything good about a root beer float with none of the downsides? Enter root beer sherbet.
This sherbet derives its flavor from root beer but its body from cream and corn syrup.* It's creamy and rich, and rather on the sweet side, but since it only has a fraction of the fat of ice cream, it's far more refreshing, just like the root beer float that inspires it.
Yes, corn syrup, that ruinous product of modern American industrial agriculture that's killing us all. By which I mean a totally acceptable form of sugar with handy chemical properties that help resist iciness in sorbets.
- 2 cups root beer (see note), chilled
- 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
- 1 cup "light" (clear) corn syrup
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together root beer, cream, corn syrup, sugar, and vanilla until very well combined. Whisk in salt to taste. The root beer bubbles may form a fizzy raft in the bowl when combined with the cream; this is fine, and churning will fully incorporate it into the base.
If root beer and cream were not chilled, refrigerate mixture for 2 to 3 hours until very cold. Churn mixture according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer sherbet to container and chill in freezer for at least 3 to 4 hours before serving.
ice cream maker
Keep your root beer chilled in the refrigerator and you'll be able to enjoy this in under an hour.
The bolder your root beer for this sherbet, the better. We're big fans of Barq's; see our root beer taste test for details.