Boston Cooler - Gastro Obscura
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Boston Cooler

Detroit's signature soda shake blends Vernors ginger ale with vanilla ice cream.

The Boston Cooler may sound like a refrigerator brand from Massachusetts, but it’s actually a soda (or “pop”) shake from Detroit, Michigan, that blends vanilla ice cream with ginger ale.

Though you can make it as a float, with the ice cream on top, the traditional Boston Cooler is blended like a milkshake. What’s not up for debate: the kind of ginger ale. It must always be Vernors, a Detroit-based brand that’s been around since the late 19th century. Vernors’ flavor, which is something like a dry ginger ale with a hint of cream soda, adds a nice bit of spice to the sweet vanilla. Some die-hard fans say that all Coolers must use another Detroit brand, Stroh’s, for the ice cream.  

Since drink is certainly a point of Detroit pride, why the “Boston” name? In the early 20th century, soda fountains and ice cream parlors used the term “Boston Cooler” to describe various sweet concoctions, ranging from a mixture of ginger ale and sarsaparilla t0 a very popular treat that placed a scoop of ice cream inside a halved melon. The Vernors company eventually seized on the popular name and applied it to the blend of their ginger ale with a scoop of ice cream.

Need to Know

If you see the drink listed as a "Vernors Float," that usually means it hasn't been blended like a milkshake. All branches of the Michigan chain Halo Burger serve the Boston Cooler. If you're making one at home, add a little more Vernors after blending to keep it nice and foamy.

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