To create a perfect Old-fashioned Chocolate Ice Cream Soda, it takes only three ingredients: ice cream, club soda, and chocolate syrup - and a little finesse!
Making an old-fashioned chocolate soda is easy to do, but it's more than just dumping everything into a tall glass and calling it a soda. Making a perfect ice cream soda requires a little finesse.
Back in the olden days when I was in college, I waitressed for a time at an 1890's-themed restaurant called Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor, which pretty much makes me a certified Ice Cream Professional, and well-qualified to teach the ancient art of soda-making.
What's the Story on this Recipe?
My brother Les is sixteen years older than me. Growing up, it was just the two of us: no siblings in between. LA left for college when I was two, and the only time I ever saw him when I was little was when he came home for holidays or spring break.
Because of our age difference, it would have been easy for Les and me to never have had any kind of real relationship, but my big brother didn't let that happen. From the time I can remember, he always made an effort to make a place for me in his life.
One way Les did that was to establish a few simple traditions between us; one of the most enduring and dear to me being our Soda Time.
Whenever he came home, Les always made us chocolate ice cream sodas. It was our thing. We even had special soda glasses (the same ones in these pictures!). Soda Time was the one time I had my big brother all to myself. As I grew up, it became a tradition that – to this day – I still look forward to with great anticipation.
Whenever I caught wind that Les was coming home for a visit, I’d ask my mom or dad go up to Freddy's to get club soda, chocolate syrup, and ice cream so that we had everything we needed when he arrived.
Soda making was always a big, fun production, with Les showing off his special soda-mixing skills and spoon flourishes and all. He taught me that you can’t just dump everything into a tall glass and call it good: making a perfect old-fashioned ice cream soda requires finesse. Later, when I started working at Farrell's, I was already a skilled soda jerk.
For the record, Les lived in Iowa for decades, and often years passed without us getting together, but whenever he visited I always had the chocolate syrup, ice cream, and club soda waiting for him. More recently, he has moved to Oregon, and now I can share a soda with my big brother any time we want.
What Goes into an Ice Cream Soda
The ingredients for an ice cream soda couldn't get much easier: ice cream, chocolate syrup, and club soda. These are the brands we use, but you can use whatever works for you. (Support your local ice creamery!)
- Vanilla ice cream: You can use chocolate ice cream if you want (that's a double-chocolate soda) but vanilla gives a chocolate soda a lighter flavor and feel.
- Club soda: You can also use plain soda water if you have access to it.
- Chocolate syrup: It's always been Hershey's for us.
How to Make an Old-fashioned Ice Cream Soda
You'll need a vessel for your soda. A tall soda-style glass (also known as a milkshake glass) is perfect. If you’re short on those, you can use any large, tall glass. (You can even do what my brother and I do when we’re feeling lazy and make a soda-in-a-bowl.)
You will also need a long-handled spoon and a straw.
How to Mix an Ice Cream Soda
Drop one scoop of vanilla ice cream into the bottom of a soda glass (i.e., milkshake glass).
Pour about 3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup on top.
Use a soda spoon to mash and mix the ice cream and chocolate syrup together, until they have become a sort of chocolate ice cream slurry. Add a splash of club soda if the ice cream is too frozen to stir.
The chocolate-ice cream mix should take up about ⅓ of the soda glass.
Now comes the tricky part: Using the soda spoon, slowly stir the ice cream-chocolate mixture with one hand, while at the same time very slowly pouring the club soda into the glass with your other hand.
Continue adding club soda until the glass is about three-fourths full, give or take. (Don't fill it all the way or it will overflow.)
At this point, taste the soda to make sure it’s chocolaty enough for you. (If not, just stir in a little additional chocolate syrup.)
Add another scoop of ice cream to the club soda mixture.
Finally, mount a second scoop to the rim, sidecar style. (This is optional; it can get messy!) Top it off with one last splash of club soda, pop in a straw and enjoy!
Les and I usually serve ours with extra club soda on the side so that we can make our sodas last as long as possible.
What about Whipped Cream and Sprinkles?
Personally, I prefer my ice cream sodas au naturale; however, you can zhuzh yours up with whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and sprinkles to your heart's delight! Enjoy!
- Club Soda: You can use tonic water; however, tonic water contains trace amounts of quinine, and give it a pronounced bitterness. You can also use plain seltzer water, but we find it doesn't have as much carbonation as we like in our sodas, and doesn't stand up to the ice cream well enough.
- Chocolate syrup: Sub in any syrup you want to flavor your ice cream soda.
Once you know how to make an ice cream soda, there are endless possibilities. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Double Chocolate Ice Cream Soda: Use chocolate syrup and chocolate ice cream.
- Grasshopper Ice Cream Soda: Use chocolate syrup and mint ice cream. (It's not pretty, but it's delicious!)
- Strawberry Ice Cream Soda: Use Strawberry syrup and vanilla or strawberry ice cream.
Soda glasses, also known as milkshake glasses, and both nostalgic and practical. They are the perfect vessel for smoothies, milkshakes, fancy cocktails, Italian sodas, root beer floats, and of course, ice cream sodas.
Ice Cream Scoop
Look for a heavy duty ice cream scoop that is strong and sturdy. You don't need any moving parts or fancy gimmicks. All it needs to do is cut in smoothly and curl out round, even scoops of ice cream.
In the US, the terms float and soda are often used interchangeably; however, in reality, they are very different concoctions.
• A float is not mixed: Flavored soda is poured into a glass, and ice cream is then floated in it. No mixing is done prior to serving.
• An ice cream soda requires mixing: A slurry of ice cream and flavoring syrup is created, then soda water (or club soda) is slowly mixed into the slurry. Additional ice cream is usually added after the mixing is done.
More Ice Cream Recipes
For a soda of a totally different kind, check out our Blushin' Russian (cocktail and kid-friendly mocktail). It's a delicious, refreshing spin on an Italian soda.
Serving & Pairing
A chocolate ice cream soda doesn't really need anything else, but if you're going for that old-school ice cream parlor vibe, try it with a classic Coney Island, or a thick Rueben sandwich and a side of fries.
Old-fashioned Chocolate Ice Cream Soda
- 1 tall soda glass (i.e., milkshake glass)1 soda spoon
- 1 soda spoon (i.e., ice tea spoon)
- ⅔ cup vanilla ice cream more or less
- 3-4 tablespoons chocolate syrup more or less
- 1 cup club soda more or less
- Drop one scoop of vanilla ice cream into the bottom of a tall soda-style glass (16 to 20 ounces) glass. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup on top.
- Use a long-handled spoon to mash and mix the ice cream and chocolate syrup together, until they have become a sort of chocolate ice cream slurry.
- Now comes the tricky part: Using the soda spoon, slowly stir the ice cream-chocolate mixture with one hand, while at the same time very slowly pouring the club soda into the glass with your other hand. Continue adding club soda until the glass is about three-fourths full. (Don’t fill it all the way or it will overflow.) Taste the soda to make sure it’s chocolaty enough for you. (If not, just stir in a little additional chocolate syrup.)
- Finish it all off by adding a scoop of ice cream to the soda glass, and then mount a second scoop to the rim, sidecar style.Top it off with one last splash of club soda, pop in a straw and enjoy!
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
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Originally published October 19, 2015. This post has been updated with new images, content, and recipe instructions to improve reader experience.