When I see root beer offered on a menu in Singapore, I always ask, “Is it served with ice?”
I already know the answer, but still I ask, in the hope that someone will give me the right answer, and I can have the pleasure of enjoying a root beer at a cafe.
A long time ago, when A&W could still be found on our sunny shores, they showed us the right way to have root beer – in a frosted mug, no ice – until they decided they weren’t a family restaurant, but a fast food chain and went with disposable cups.
Why is it so important that root beer is served in a frosted glass without ice?
When cold root beer meets frosted glass, the drink starts to foam and this amazingly thin layer of icy slushy root beer forms along the surface of the glass.
To me, this creates the smooth, creamy, viscous, rich texture that I associate with root beer.
Ice cubes only melt and dilute the drink, made even worse when root beer at room temperature is poured into a glass of ice cubes. What you get is this thinned out watery insipid drink.
In the photo above, you can see how the melting icicles also contribute to the thickness and foaminess of the root beer. In the top right corner, see how slush has formed at each new level after sipping.
Root beer is a G-rated beer that the whole family can enjoy. So like beer, it must be poured at an angle, giving it a good head, and drunk straight from the glass, not a straw.
So simply, the rules of drinking root beer are:
- Root beer cold from fridge
- Cold glass
- No ice
- No straw
So we can’t get root beer the right way, we have to do it ourselves, at home.
To do that, you need:
- Freezer with space for your drinking vessel(s) of choice
- Fridge with space in the coldest section for a bottle of root beer
- A table very near the freezer
- A cloudy day (optional)
- A room with air conditioning, but no fan (the room is optional, but the fan is not)
Patience: Because after you buy root beer, you have to wait at least 24 hours to get your glass prepped and the root beer cold.
A cloudy day is best and related to point (3), because when it’s too hot, or the glass out too long, the glass loses it’s frostiness. Also, remember to set your freezer to the coldest setting. Try not to open the freezer or adding unfrozen things.
Here is a photo that I had to re-take after I forgot to turn off the flash. You can see how fast our local weather has melted the frost. In contrast, the first photo in the post was taken in an air-conditioned room.
If there is a fan in your room, turn it off. Any windy draft also decreases the frostiness of the glass.
Okay, here’s my secret to helping the glass stay cool.
Before you put the glass into the freezer, put it a little bit of water. A very tiny little bit. If it looks like there is very little water, try and pour out more. Remember ice expands. You really only want a tiny bit that will help the drink freeze on contact (remember the slush?) and not enough to dilute it in any discernible way.
I don’t recommend a thick piece of ice at the bottom of the glass (see photo below) because if you like to sip your drink, the ice will eventually melt and float up, destroying the drink.
I believe you will find this method elevates even the most ordinary root beers.