3 Frothy, Fizzy Ice Cream Floats That Are Better Than Cocktails

July 11, 2017

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.

All hail the boozy and NON-DAIRY(!!) sorbetto float. Photo by Mark Weinberg

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.

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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.

[Floats] 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.

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."

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."

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."

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 .

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Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at