FROM LEFT: Lemon pops with candied ginger from The Dairy Godmother; Pleasant Pops in (FROM TOP) Strawberries and Cream, Honey Crisp Apple, Pineapple Basic and Piña Colada
There’s plenty to love about fancy desserts, plates of sugary confections with decadent ingredients and decorative artistry. But let’s not forget our youth and the simplicity of good ol’ ice cream and ice pops. There’s nothing quite like indulging in a cold ice cream float on a hot summer’s day. All over the District, chefs and bartenders are putting mouthwateringly creative spins on the classic dessert. Just remember to drink slowly—you don’t want a brain freeze to mar your trip down memory lane.
At Belga Café(514 Eighth St. SE, 202-544-0100; belgacafe.com) on Barracks Row, chef Bart Vandaele gets in touch with his European roots by serving a boozy Hoegaarden float during the summer months. The citrusy Belgian brew is complemented with a scoop of housemade vanilla ice cream infused with beer and lavender honey. The playful chef may even drop in some Pop Rocks to surprise drinkers. These unexpected snaps and crackles are a whimsical reminder that there are always new ways to update old favorites. If you have a hard time making decisions, Jackson 20(480 King St., Alexandria, 703-842-2790; jackson20.com) offers a tasting flight of four different floats made with artisanal gelato from DC’s Dolcezza Gelato.
Jackson 20’s Float Flight (FROM TOP): Strawberry Mist, Pepsi float with brandy ice cream, Chocolate Cow (root beer with chocolate ice cream), and the classic root beer with vanilla ice cream
The quartet includes a classic root beer float with a scoop of vanilla, a brown cow made with root beer and chocolate, a Pepsi float spiked with brandy gelato and a strawberry mist float, which combines a dollop of strawberry gelato with lemon-lime soda. Even though this is kid-friendly fare, chef Dennis Marron reveals that it’s mostly adults who order the fetching foursome. “Their faces light up when you bring it,” he says. “It really connects people with the past.”
Sometimes you need a pick-me-up to help beat the heat. Order an affogato at Chinatown Coffee Co.(475 H St. NW, 202-559-7656; chinatowncoffee.com) to remedy the situation in a few quick sips. These Italian dessert drinks are made with a scoop of either Tahitian vanilla or dulce de leche gelato and a shot of Intelligentsia “Black Cat” espresso. The results are equal parts sweet and acidic—the perfect java jolt. Adults can enjoy a number of boozy interpretations around town. Estadio’s (1520 14th St. NW, 202-319-1404; estadio-dc.com) executive chef, Haidar Karoum, makes a Moscatel sherry float that combines the rich, nutty spirit with homemade vanilla ice cream and then sprinkles it with pepita (pumpkin seed) brittle shards. And gastropub Againn(1099 New York Ave. NW, 202-639-9830; againndc.com) offers an appropriately Irish option—a Guinness beer float featuring an island of stout ice cream finished off with a crown of fresh whipped cream.
Meanwhile, over at Georgetown’s Bourbon Steak(2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202-944-2026; bourbonsteakdc.com), the signature root beer float is getting the gourmet treatment. Chef Michael Mina created the childhood favorite using his homemade sassafras ice cream and root beer sorbet for the float. His team serves it with two generously portioned chocolate chip walnut cookies, which makes this finale feel like a two-for-one special.