The Boston cooler – a tasty Detroit beverage

Despite the name, the Boston Cooler originated in Detroit and requires a specific brand of ginger ale.

Boston cooler

I love ginger ale. I especially love the American variants (as they weren’t hit by the sugar tax like the UK). So when I found out about the Boston cooler, I had to investigate.

The first thing that surprised me was the fact it’s not from Boston at all. The soda shake comes from Detroit, Michigan and its history is quite complex. But one thing is clear – an authentic Boston cooler is made with vanilla ice cream and Vernors ginger ale. And it has to be Vernors.

The soda drink started in 1866 but different forms of ginger ale until they copyrighted the term for their own ice-cream bar in 1967. Until then, different people had their own types of Boston cooler and some still swear by different brands of ginger ale.

Essentially, the Boston cooler is a type of ice cream float (or a coke float or spider to some) and if a jerk made you one, that would be a good thing.

Why is it called a “Boston” cooler?

The name is based on a street rather than the city. The drink’s inventor is said to be a man called Fred Sanders who named the beverage after a street in a neighbourhood known as Boston Edison.

How a UK version would taste

Import costs are high for US products, especially food and drink. But we have plenty of ginger ale brands to make our own variant here in the UK.

Schweppes Canada Dry

For me, this is the easiest choice and common in the UK and US. Canada Dry is the brand of ginger ale I always buy from the supermarket and I think it’d work well for a quick and easy Boston cooler.

Fentimans

This is slightly more upmarket but still affordable.

Britvic

I know Britvic for its orange juice but they also do ginger ale.

Belvoir

Pronounced “beever” to own the French, Belvoir makes a style of ginger ale, blending a “fresh ginger root infusion with botanical extracts” and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Fever-Tree

Ginger ale from the sponsors of Queen’s Club Championships would add a touch of class to a jug of Boston cooler. A true transatlantic union.

London Essence Co.

Marketed as a “delicate ginger ale”, the company use sugar from the stevia plant as a healthier sweet option. There’s even some “liquorice notes coupled with distilled aniseed and fennel essences”.

Peter Spanton

This brand has an array of unusual soda drinks, including Salted Paloma, Cadamom, and even Chocolate. But it’s ginger ale is a dry variant which would work well with a soft and creamy vanilla ice cream.

Franklin & Sons

Started 20 years after Vernors, Franklin & Sons Ltd offer some great soft drink flavours and award-winning ginger ale uses British spring water and natural British sugar. Hurrah!

Any supermarket brand

If all else fails, go for a bottle from Asda or Tesco. Waitrose has one too if you fancy pushing the boat out.

What about the vanilla ice cream?

A small cup of vanilla ice cream. One of the two main ingredients of a Boston cooler
Photo credit: Hilary Perkins, CC by 2.0

Much like your choice of ginger ale, the vanilla ice cream you choose for your Boston cooler is important. But there isn’t a specific brand you need, which is good if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, for example.

Dairy

  • Sainsbury’s Madagascan Vanilla
  • Tillamook’s Old-Fashioned
  • Jeni’s Honey Vanilla Bean
  • Edy’s
  • Häagen-Dazs
  • Breyer’s
  • Waitrose 1 Madagascan
  • Green & Black’s Organic (with Real Bourbon Vanilla)
  • Or you could make your own.

And if you have the cash and the means to do so, you could probably make some vanilla ice cream using donkey milk or moose milk. But that’s your call and your money.

Non-dairy (V = Vegan, VG = Vegetarian)

  • Swedish Glace (V)
  • Alpro Vanilla (V)
  • Northern Bloc (V/VG)
  • Booja Booja (V)
  • Yorica (V)
  • Jude’s (V)
  • Morrisons V Taste Free From Soya (V)
  • Or you could make your own. (V)

Feeling delightful devilish? Use ginger beer

This is totally off-script but hear me out. Ginger beer packs a punch and would be the perfect complement to something soothing like vanilla ice cream. What better way to represent Detroit than a fiery Boston cooler variant of its famous drink?

I recommend Crabbies or Old Jamaica, with a splash of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey (if you’re old enough to drink in your country and you drink aware).

How would you make your Boston cooler? Let me know in the comments.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.