National Black Cow Day is rooted in Colorado history.
If you’re thinking that you don’t know what a “black cow” is, think again because it’s just the old fashioned name for a root beer float. It’s probably safe to say that nearly everybody has enjoyed a root beer float; the creamy frozen treat is an American classic and on the menus of diners and ice cream shops alike. And this Wednesday we pay homage to the iconic drink with National Black Cow Day.
The foundation of a Black Cow is, of course, root beer. This soda started off life in the 1700’s when American farmers used sassafras root to make an alcoholic beverage. In the 1800’s, during the time of soda fountains in pharmacies, some people tried to popularize root beer for the masses as a pick-me-up drink. In 1876 pharmacist Charles Hires created a non-alcoholic version and it was debuted at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. It was a hit and by 1893 Hires’ root beer was bottled and distributed commercially, and is still available today.
The root beer float (also sometimes called a Brown Cow) was invented Frank J. Wisner of Cripple Creek, Colorado. Wisner owned the Cripple Creek Cow Mountain Gold Mining Company, as well as a local tavern. The story says that Wisner wanted to create a special drink for the local children to enjoy and while walking around Cow Mountain one August evening in 1893 he had the idea to put a scoop of vanilla ice cream into root beer, which reminded him of the snow-capped mountain. He called it Black Cow Mountain and the drink was a huge hit with the kids, who shortened the name to Black Cow.
Whatever name you call it, Gunther Toody’s is the perfect place to celebrate National Black Cow Day on August 6.
Photo by stu_spivack