"Purple cow” was an 1895 poetic creation of Gelett Burgess (1866-1951). In 1930, “purple cow” became a popular drink of grape juice with ice cream. The modern “purple cow” is a “float” of grape soda with ice cream.
Versions of the “purple cow” (besides the ice cream) to substitute for grape soda include grape juice and milk, grape juice and ginger ale, and grape juice and carbonated water.
Wikipedia: Purple Cow
The purple cow initially became famous as a chimerical referent in a short humorous verse, but has since come to refer to a diverse range of other things, including sports teams, food, wine, and tobacco products, as well as marketing practices in general. Yet all these examples retain the common theme of a sense of something out of the ordinary.
In food and beverage
Purple cow may also refer to an ice cream soda made with grape soda or grape juice. It may also refer to a mixed drink containing vodka and grape juice, much like a screwdriver, with grape juice substituted for orange juice.
Purple Cow ice cream or yogurt is black raspberry ice cream or yogurt with chocolate and white chocolate chips.
Wikipedia: Gelett Burgess
Frank Gelett Burgess (January 30, 1866 – September 18, 1951) was an artist, art critic, poet, author, and humorist. He was born in Boston, and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a B.S. in 1887.
He is famous for writing the poem “The Purple Cow: Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who’s Quite Remarkable, at Least.” The poem first appeared in volume 1, number 1 (May 1, 1895) of the 16-page monthly magazine The Lark, published in San Francisco by William Doxey. It was edited and written primarily by Burgess, who took great delight in creating pseudonyms for himself. For example, in volume 1 four of the other “authors” are Burgess writing under different names. The final issue, number 25 entitled The Epi-Lark, was published May 1, 1897.
I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!
Having become associated with this verse, he wrote the following “Confession: and a Portrait Too, Upon a Background that I Rue” in The Lark, number 24 (April 1, 1897).
Ah, yes, I wrote the “Purple Cow"—
I’m Sorry, now, I wrote it;
But I can tell you Anyhow
I’ll Kill you if you Quote it!
“Purple Cow” has since been used as a brand name.
10 January 1930, Laurel (MI) Morning Call, “By The Way” by McRae, pg. 6, col. 4:
Purple, grape juice.
Purple cow, grape juice with ice cream.
30 August 1930, Hope (AR) Star, pg. 5, cols. 1-2:
Purple Cow Popular
MEMPHIS, Tenn., Aug. 30.—(UP)—“Purple cow” came into a type of vogue during the recent hot spell—a double helping of ice cream in a tall glass, the whole floated with grape juice.
Monday, Jun. 29, 1931
I have been in Exeter for several years, and I have as yet to meet such a drink, though I have met many fearful ones. For example: Welch grape juice in a milk shake, thus making their advertised “Purple Cow.” . . .
ROBERT B. HARRISON Exeter, N. H.
June 1943, Soda Fountain Management, pg. 18, col. 1:
Into a mixing container put:
2 ounces Grape Juice
4 ounces cold milk
2 No. 20 scoops ice cream
Mix on your malted milk mixer until smooth and creamy. Serve in glass or paper cup.
21 August 1947, Walla Walla (WA) Union Bulletin, pg. 18, col. 2:
Stir well in tall glass:
1/2 cup Church’s grape juice (chilled)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon milk or vanilla ice cream
Add, stirring well:
1/2 cup ginger ale (chilled)
1 large scoop vanilla ice cream
Another scoop ice cream. Serve at once. (Serves 1.)
25 July 1949, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, part 2, pg. A2:
At our house, we call this a purple cow: Ice cream in a glass of grape juice made from the new canned frozen concentrate.
30 July 1951, Christian Science Monitor, pg. 10:
Juices, Fruits, and Ice Cream Combine In Array of Cooling Summer Drinks;
Snowy Citrus Cooler, Mint Delight, Banana Dream, Potion Raspberry Cream Fizz, Strawberry Home Soda, Fresh Peach Soda, Purple Cow, Black Cow
By Eleanor Richey Johnston
2 September 1952, Carroll (Iowa)
1/2 cup chilled grape juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Vanilla ice cream
Put grape juice, sugar and milk into a shaker or fruit jar. Shake well. Add 1/2 cup of chilled gingerale and 1 serving of ice cream and stir with a spoon until blended. Pour into a large cold glass. Add extra gingerale if necessary to fill glass 3/4 full. Top with another serving of ice cream.
8 September 1955, Robesonian (Lumberton, NC), pg. 12, col. 2 ad:
Crazy Purple Cow
Pour 1 cup Sealtest Milk into bowl. Add 1/4 cup grape juice while stirring. Add 1 scoop Sealtest Vanilla Ice Cream; beat until well blended. 1 tall glass.
31 August 1956, Charleston (WV) Gazette, pg. 32, cols. 3-5:
Purple Cow, Youngsters’
Favorite, Easy to Make
Many years ago Gelett Burgess hoped never to see a purple cow.
But today’s young set would disagree with him, for Purple Cow is the name of one of their favorite drinks.
This frothy, foamy grape soda drink is easy to make at home.
JUST PUT A couple of tablespoons of the concentrated grape juice in a tall glass, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, fill with carbonated water and stir.
The tart-sweet flavor of the grape juice blends beautifully with the rich creaminess of the ice cream and the carbonated water gives the whole thing a zip.
Here is the recipe for a Purple Cow:
1 can (6 ounces) quick frozen grape juice, partly thawed
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 quart chilled carbonated water
Spoon two tablespoons concentrated grape juice into each of six tall glasses.
Add about one-third cup ice cream to each glass. Fill with carbonated water and stir. This recipe will make six servings.
5 June 1963, Ogden (UT) Standard-Examiner, pg. 4B, cols. 1-2:
“Purple cow” has moved from poetic imagery to a happy marriage of ice cream and grape soda pop.
2 March 1972, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section E, pg. 3:
2/3 cup canned grape Hawaiian Punch chilled
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
Mix punch and ice cream in tall glass, or whirl in blender until well-mixed. Serve immediately. makes one tall serving.
16 March 1972, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section E, pg. 9:
Purple Cow Is Visible
if you’ve always hoped to see a purple cow, here’s your chance. Just beat 1 pint of softened vanilla ice cream and blend in one 6-ounce can of thawed frozen concentrated grape juice. Gradually add 3 cups of milk.
To serve, pour 1 cup of the grape juice-ice cream mixture into a glass, add 1/2 cup of ginger ale, mix well and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
15 May 1975, Dallas (TX) Morning News section E, pg. 17:
Purple Cow, pour frozen concentrated grape juice (always add juice to milk); stir quickly and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Ice Cream!: The Whole Scoop
By Gail Damerow
Published by Glenbridge Publishing, Ltd.
Purple cow — an ice cream soda made with grape juice and vanilla ice cream
2 May 2002, Seguin (TX)
A treat for adults and children alike is their World Famous Purple Cow, made with grape soda and vanilla ice cream.
Purple cow??—General Chowhounding Topics
That’s funny - I remember something called a Purple Cow but it was totally different from yours! Mine was a purple ice pop filled with vanilla ice..cream?? milk?? I’m thinking ice milk since it was thinner than most ice creams. You bit through the grape-flavored outside to the milky inside. I enjoyed them then, but they’re making me uncomfortable now for some reason!
Catskillgirl Apr 21, 2008 10:46AM
My mom would stretch milk by mixing equal parts with grape juice for a “purple cow” drink.
Aimi Apr 22, 2008 07:03AM
re: Aimi A purple cow as far as I knew was grape juice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (a black cow was, and I presume still is, root beer with same).
A 3-second Google search didn’t yield anything. I know there’ve been threads containing links to companies selling all kinds of discontinued candies…
tatamagouche Apr 22, 2008 07:38AM
Austin (TX) American-Statesman
One Dish Wonders: The Hub
‘Fatty’ Burger with cheese and chips; ‘Purple Bubba’ float
By Mike Sutter
AMERICAN-STATESMAN RESTAURANT CRITIC
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Even if those teens are too cool for a Boylan’s grape soda float (the “Purple Bubba"), their nostalgic parents will eat it up.