Ice cream float is one of the best ways to get through the hot and humid days of July. These Elderflower Ice Cream Floats incorporates the sweet ice cream with a sour Rhubarb syrup and a touch of elderflower liqueur to create an unmatched tart flavor.
July and August are the hottest and the most humid months, so the worst is yet to come. That means you will probably want to halt your baking activities that will frankly turn your kitchen into a sauna. The next best option to quench your sweet tooth is a cold beverage, say, an ice cream float. Enter Elderflower Ice Cream Floats!
The base of this lovely beverage is a sparkly syrup containing rhubarb, a somewhat-controversial vegetable. Whether it is a fruit or veggie is also a topic of debate, but let’s get past it, shall we?
Some of you might not even know what rhubarb is. It is basically a vegetable that looks like red celery and has a strong bitter taste. It is so bitter that you might think you are consuming a chemical when you eat it raw.
Yet, it became very popular especially in England in the 18th century when people started to cook it with sugar to make a syrup. Making a syrup out of Rhubarb is the ultimate way to balance out the bitter taste with sweetness. In the end, you can incorporate this eccentric taste into pancakes, pies, or in this case, ice cream floats.
Rhubarb also comes with plenty of health benefits, the main one being a high vitamin K content essential for blood clotting and bone strength.
The trick in optimizing the sweet-sour ratio is that you don’t go over the top with the sweet. The rule of thumb is to have two cups of rhubarb versus one cup of sugar. To establish the balance further, you should add a juice of your choice. These Boozy Rhubarb Elderflower Ice Cream Floats calls for blood orange juice.
Once the syrup is ready, the rest is nothing but mixing with sparkling water and a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. One extra nudge in this recipe is elderflower liqueur for a herb-y flavor. This recipe calls for elderflower over other flower liqueurs like lavender or rose because it tastes much sweeter compared to them.
Without further ado, let’s talk about this simple two-step recipe.
- FOR THE RHUBARB SYRUP
- 2 cups fresh rhubarb, diced
- 1 cup natural cane sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups orange juice (try blood orange juice, or substitute another juice if you like. You can also use water!)
- FOR THE RHUBARB ELDERFLOWER ICE CREAM FLOAT
- 2 tablespoons rhubarb syrup
- 8 ounces sparkling water, chilled
- 1 ounce elderflower liqueur
- 1 scoop good quality vanilla ice cream
FOR THE RHUBARB SYRUP
- Combine the diced rhubarb, sugar, vanilla bean, kosher salt, and orange juice in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat.
- Using a silicone spatula, stir often and allow the mixture to simmer and come to a boil, about 3-4 minutes.
- Once the mixture reaches a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the rhubarb has broken down and the liquid has reduced by about 1/3. The consistency should be slightly thick and syrupy.
- Strain the syrup into a clean jar through a fine-mesh sieve, and allow to come to room temperature before covering and transferring to the fridge.
- The syrup will keep, stored in an airtight container in the fridge for over a month.
FOR THE RHUBARB ELDERFLOWER ICE CREAM FLOAT
- Pour the syrup in the bottom of a glass, and add the sparkling water.
- Using a spoon, stir gently to combine.
- Add the elderflower liqueur, and stir to combine.
- Add a scoop (or two!) of good quality vanilla ice cream to the glass, and serve with a tall spoon and straw.
- The rhubarb elderflower soda recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and so forth quite easily. If serving the floats for a crowd, you can make the soda a few hours ahead of time and store it in the fridge prior to serving.
The syrup may settle a bit at the bottom of the bottle or bowl when you store it in the fridge. So give it a gentle stir or shake before pouring into glasses, topping with ice cream, and serving.
You can replace elderflower liqueur with elderflower extract or syrup, which you can find in some specialty stores or online.
Also, the rhubarb syrup can be used for more than just making crazy good ice cream floats! Drizzle some atop a banana split or strawberry shortcake.
This syrup also plays nicely with savory dishes as well--brush some onto grilled fish or chicken, or stir some into your favorite basic vinaigrette for a kiss of sweet-tart summery flavor!
The rhubarb elderflower soda recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and so forth quite easily. If serving the floats for a crowd, you can make the soda a few hours ahead of time and store it in the fridge prior to serving.
The syrup may settle a bit at the bottom of the bottle or bowl you store it in the fridge, so give it a gentle stir or shake before pouring into glasses, topping with ice cream, and serving.
* This recipe was originally published on 07/2012 by Jaclyn. Notes and photos updated on 09/2020.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 3910Total Fat: 47gSaturated Fat: 28gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 174mgSodium: 829mgCarbohydrates: 849gFiber: 17gSugar: 707gProtein: 26g
Tips About Rhubarb
Although rhubarb generally tastes sour, the level of bitterness varies with color. The dark red stalks contain a slightly sweeter flavor, which is what you should opt for. The color can range from dark red to pale green, with pale green stalks being the sourest.
A word of warning: Trim all the leaves since they contain oxalic acid, which can be poisonous for the body.
Before cooking your rhubarb, make sure to cut them into one-inch small pieces for the smoothest consistency. When you are cooking the syrup, it is important to carefully measure the amount of water. Rhubarb stalks will release a lot of water when cooked, so you shouldn’t add excessive water or juice. If you are using juice, the optimum ratio is one cup of sugar versus 1.5 cups of juice or water.
Add/ Remove/ Substitute
For a more exhilarating cocktail for endless summer nights, you can make a tipsy version of your rhubarb ice cream floats. Vodka is a great match for this sweet-sour syrup. All you have to do is to mix the vodka and syrup together, followed by filling the rest of the glass with soda and topping it with scoops of vanilla ice cream.
You can adjust some of the ingredients like orange juice or elderflower liqueur according to your taste or a special occasion. Let’s say, you want to make this cocktail for Valentine’s Day. Then, you can simply add a few drops of rose water into your syrup before mixing the rest of the ingredients.
Don’t forget to add a few rosebuds for a romantic gesture. Another popular alternative is to add sliced strawberries during the cooking of the syrup for sweetness. You could add another scoop of strawberry ice cream in that case.
If you can’t find vanilla beans, you can substitute vanilla extract, which is easier to obtain. One vanilla bean corresponds to one tablespoon of vanilla extract.
Our rhubarb ice cream floats call for natural cane sugar, but you can replace that sugar substitutions, including maple syrup, granulated sugar, corn syrup, or coconut sugar.
While you can skip kosher salt, you can also try one of the following alternatives: Coarse Sea Salt (Rubs), Coarse Himalayan Pink Salt (Rubs), Fine Sea Salt, Canning & Pickling Salt (Brines)
If you want to skip making your own soda, two cups of club soda should work out perfectly.
You can store the syrup in an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to a month. Remember to give it a stir before serving with ice cream and soda, as the solid content will agglomerate at the bottom over time.
Sometimes the best cocktails can come out of the quirkiest fruits, and rhubarb is the primary example. Creamy, bubbly, sweet, tangy, this ice cream float will stimulate all your taste buds at once. We can already see it becoming a summer opium for the masses day and night!
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