These floats peeled around a corner straight into sorbet territory. (And they're lucky for it!) We partnered with Talenti Gelato and our favorite ice cream tinkerer Cristina Sciarra to share her recipes for boozy, non-dairy, fruit- or chocolate-drenched floats.
When I was very little, my abuelito lived in (to my mind a palatial) grey house in Pelham, New York. This was in the 1990s, although not one item of furniture was purchased past 1972.
At holidays, he arranged my sisters and cousins and me around a heavy hexagonal table off the dining room. The chairs—which swiveled—were tall and hexagonal themselves, with red leather seats and black metal trim. These chairs would have been more at home on a space ship than in the solarium of a mild-mannered grandfather, but they did swivel.
If we were lucky, he would fill my abuelita's red, frosted, and flower-patterned punch bowl full of what we considered the absolute height of sophisticated luxury: probably juice from concentrate, with fruit punch and seltzer? There may have also been marshmallows. But the pièce de résistance was the float: sunset orbs of rainbow sherbet. This punch was a kaleidoscope of colors (and sugar) we would never normally be permitted. As we drank out of plastic cups, we pretended we were royalty. I loved how the melting sherbet turned the seltzer's bubbles opaque, and made the drink almost creamy.
As an adult, I've built on my Abuelito's float legacy, although these days I keep the sugar content a little more in balance. I like to serve them at the end of a summer dinner party: They require just basic assembly, but look impressive—fill each glass with seltzer table side and watch as your guests ooh and aah—and hit on a sense of nostalgia. Serve them simply in tall glasses, or gussy them up with festive straws or umbrellas.
The great thing about floats is that they can be scaled up and served in punch bowls for a crowd—I recommend adding the seltzer and ice cream/sherbet/sorbetto just before your guests descend. You can also make a special-seeming dessert fit a restricted diet quite easily with the mighty float: Using coconut milk, or sorbetto, you can make a dairy free (and vegan) dessert that still tastes creamy and complex.
Floats should be your go-to dessert this summer: they're easy, super refreshing, and will make you feel like you're on vacation, even if you live in a cramped apartment. Here are three that I'll be whipping up this summer again and again:
Fruity, sparkling, for the sun-dappled terrace
Make it your own: Cristina suggests that, if you have time, "cook a punnet of raspberries down gently with sugar and water, and any number of other aromatics that pair nicely with raspberries and pink sparkling wine, like lime zest, pink peppercorns, fresh tarragon, or kirsch."
Raspberry Rosé-Sparkler Float
- 1/4 cup raspberry jam
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1/4 cup (25 grams) sugar
- 1 pint raspberry sorbet
- Sparkling rosé wine or rosé Champagne
Lush and boozy, for the beach or the boat
Make it your own: Cristina points out that this float is "a prime opportunity to bring out kitsch decorative flair, in the straw-and-umbrella department. Serve it with squat wedges of lime, or a freshly ground nutmeg-and-raw-sugar rim."
Mango Sorbetto "Colada" Float
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) dark rum
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) light rum
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) lime juice
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup raw sugar
- 1 pint mango sorbet
- Fizzy water
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) coconut milk
Cheers for chocolate on chocolate
Make it your own: Go wild with the toppings, Cristina says—"coconut whipped cream, dark chocolate shavings (created with bar chocolate and a vegetable peeler), or crushed candy canes."
Vegan Chocolate Sorbetto Cold-Chocolate
- 1 ounce 14-ounce can coconut milk
- 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) Spice dark rum, like The Kraken
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Crème de menthe
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Crème de cacao
- 1 pint chocolate sorbetto
- 4 teaspoons coconut flakes
What's in—or on—your ice cream float this summer? Tell us in the comments below!
Ice cream, gelato, sorbet. Heck, frozen desserts in general: We adore you. We partnered with Talenti Gelato and ice cream aficianado Cristina Sciarra to share a summer of ice cream treats with you. Stay tuned for more, and see all of Talenti Gelato's flavors here .