A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 11, 2009
Boston Cooler

A “Boston cooler” means several things:

. Vanilla ice cream in a cantaloupe. In the Boston (MA) Journal of 1901, this Boston cooler of vanilla ice cream inside a cantaloupe was described as the “latest idea.” This appears to be the first “Boston Cooler” and it appears to have originated in Boston.

. A sarsaparilla drink. At the beginning of Prohibition in 1919, the New York (NY) Times wrote of the locals serving a “Boston Cooler” of two ounces of cream and one bottle of sarsaparilla. In Dr. Chase’s Recipes (1920), a Boston Cooler contained a bottle of sarsaparilla, a bottle of ginger ale, lemon and ice. The origin of this drink is unknown; it is not served today.

. Ginger ale and vanilla ice cream. The now-familiar “Boston Cooler” of ginger ale and ice cream was cited in the 1920 Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer, described as “well known” and a “favorite of the golf links.” Vernors ginger ale was first made in Detroit in the mid-1800s and is one of America’s oldest soft drinks. Detroit’s Boston Boulevard is near Vernors, and it is claimed that this is the origin of the “Boston” in “Boston Cooler.” It is also claimed that there is citational evidence of a Vernors ginger ale and vanilla ice cream combination as early as the 1880s. Detroit newspapers have not been digitized from this time period, although Ohio and Illinois newspapers have. Citational evidence is lacking to support these claims. It should be noted that Detroit’s Boston-Edison district had its first occupied homes in 1905—four years after the Boston Journal citation of “Boston Cooler.”

. Root beer and vanilla ice cream. The combination of root beer and vanilla ice cream is called a “brown cow” or a “root beer float.” By at least 1935, an Iowa newspaper called it a “Boston Cooler.” This definition of Boston cooler still exists in the Midwest, especially in Ohio.

. An alcoholic drink. The cocktail book Old Mr. Boston’s De Luxe Official Bartender’s Book (1941) described a “Boston Cooler” with rum, ginger ale, sugar, ice, an orange peel and a lemon peel. This alcohlic Boston Cooler has had very limited popularity.

. Cola and vanilla ice cream. Cola and vanilla ice cream is often called a Coke float. In a Salt Lake City (UT) newspaper in 1946, it was stated: “A Boston Cooler may be made by floating ginger ale, root beer or cola beverage with vanilla ice cream.” The cola version is almost never called a “Boston Cooler” today.


Wikipedia: Ice cream soda (variations)
Boston cooler
A Boston cooler is typically composed of ginger ale and vanilla ice cream. Variations abound, however, with club soda, sherbet, rum, vanilla vodka, milk, sugar, or even coffee sometimes added or substituted for the key ingredients. In Ohio, the root beer floats are also referred to as a Boston cooler.

The origin of the Boston cooler lies in Detroit, Michigan, the city in which Fred Sanders is credited with inventing the ice cream soda. Originally, a drink called a Vernors Cream was served as a shot or two of sweet cream poured into a glass of Vernors golden ginger ale. Later, vanilla ice cream was substituted for the cream as a Vernors float. Unlike a float however, a Boston Cooler is blended like a thick milk shake. In fact, both Sanders’ soda fountains and the Big Boy restaurant chain used their milkshake blenders to prepare the drink (it was a signature menu item at Big Boy until its change in ownership in the 1980s). It is known that by the 1880s the Boston cooler was being served in Detroit, made with the local Vernors, an intense golden ginger ale, unlike the common modern dry ginger ales. The name almost certainly has no connection to Boston, Massachusetts, where the beverage is virtually unknown. One theory is that it was named after Detroit’s Boston Boulevard, the main thoroughfare of what was then an upper-class neighborhood a short distance from James Vernor’s drugstore.

It can be found most often in the Detroit region’s many Coney Island-style restaurants, which are plentiful because of Detroit’s Greektown district influence. National Coney Island is one of the few restaurant chains to list the Boston cooler in their menu. It is also found at the Detroit-area Dairy Queens and at Halo Burger, a mid-Michigan fast food chain.

A Boston Cooler is also available on the menu at the Chow Food Bar in San Francisco.

Wikipedia: Vernors
Vernors ginger ale shares the title of America’s oldest soft drink with Hires Root Beer. It was invented in 1866 by James Vernor, a Detroit pharmacist. 
(...)
Detroit menu items that include Vernors
A Boston cooler is an ice cream soda drink made from Vernors and vanilla ice cream, named not after Boston, Massachusetts, where Vernors is practically unknown, but after Detroit’s Boston Boulevard, where it was supposedly invented.

Historic Boston Edison Association - Detroit Neighborhood History
The Boston-Edison area was designed and developed by some of Detroit’s most prominent turn-of-the century citizens. Edward Voigt foresaw the logical growth of Detroit along Woodward Avenue and began acquiring land as early as 1884, platting the area between Woodward and Hamiliton (Voigt Park Subdivision) in 1891. Voigt Park Subdivision was incorporated into the city limits in 1891 with Hamiliton being the city line. The first homes in the current Boston-Edison historic district were built and occupied in 1905.

Dictionary of American Regional English
Boston cool n
1968 DARE FW Addit OH3, —Vanilla ice cream in root-beer; a root-beer float.

27 July 1901, Boston (MA) Journal, pg. 6:
A “BOSTON COOLER.”
“Try a Boston cooler,” suggested the sympathetic waiter to the hot-night diner who wanted something to eat. “I’ll make you one, and if it does not hit the spot don’t pay for it.”

This being a fair proposition the cooler was produced.

Now, this latest idea is not a drink, but a carefully prepared article of seasonable food. It takes the best of everything to make one, and if the mixture is not of the best the cooler will be unfit to eat.

This is a Boston cooler: Take a prime ripe cantaloupe (unless it is dead ripe it will not do), fill the halves with ice cream, and you have a dish fit for the President. This, however, is only the recipe for a plain cooler. If you wish to stand for the “whole thing” have sliced peaches or berries added to the mixture. The cooler is rather high-priced, but one is enough ffor an ordinary meal. Prices range from 25 cents for a half cooler to 45 cents for an entire one, including fruit. And the delicacy from the city of chilly culture is enjoying a large sale.

22 June 1906, St. Albans (VT) Daily Messenger, pg. 2:
In addition to serving tea, “Boston Cooler” and “Horse Neck”, two popular non-intoxicants, will be served.

25 July 1913, Monessen (PA) Daily Independent, pg. 1, col. 4 ad:
At M. and B. Confectionary
SUNDAES SERVED
(...)
Boston Cooler...10 cents

29 June 1915, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 5 ad:
“Boston Cooler”
RECIPE:
Select firm, ripe cantaloupes; halve them; scoop out the seeds; then fill centers with luscious Ice Cream. “Top off” with Maraschino cherries.
Hildebrecht’s
is the cream to serve with “Boston Cooler.”

20 July 1919, New York (NY) Times, “Near-Dry New York Amends Old Drinking Customs,” pg. 39:
27 July 1919, Idaho Statesman, “Florida Water and Extracts Now Give ‘Kick’ to Drinks on Gotham’s Gay White Way,” second section, pg. 7:
Boston Cooler.
Two ounces of cream, one bottle sarsaparilla, stir well.

Google Books
Dr. Chase’s Recipes
By A. W. Chase, M. D.
Chicago, IL: Stanton and Van Vliet Co.
1920
Pg. 56:
Boston Cooler. — In a large glass put skin of one lemon; 3 lumps of ice; 1 bottle sarsaparilla; 1 bottle ginger ale.

23 July 1920, Cleveland (OH) Plain-Dealer, “Talks to Homemakers,” pg. 10:
Because of its effervescent qualities, ginger ale adds life to fruit and other beverages. The well known Boston Cooler, the favorite of the golf links, is an example of its use with ice cream. The cream is placed in the glass and the ginger ale poured over it just before serving. The same creamy effect may be obtained with plain cream, being sure that it is absolutely sweet, or with evaporated milk. The addition of a little sugar syrup may be necessary if the latter is used.

20 June 1922, Cleveland (OH) Plain-Dealer, pg. 9 ad:
Ann Sawyer says:
Here’s a refreshing hot day drink. It’s called a Boston Cooler:
Put a generous chunk of vanilla cream into a tall, slim lemonade glass and pour iced ginger ale over it!

23 June 1922, Grand Rapids (MI) Press, pg. 3 ad:
At Kresge’s Fountain Tomorrow
Something for hot days, try a Boston cooler, always something good, always something new at Kresge’s.

30 May 1928, Warren (PA) Morning News, pg. 9, col. 4 ad:
We have just downed a delicious drink. Jim says it’s a Boston Cooler and what could be cooler. Let’s all go have another. What is it? Just ice cream stirred into cool and sparkling “400” Ginger Ale.

16 July 1931, Fresno (CA) Bee, “Helps for the Hostess,” pg. 9, col. 7:
Boston Cooler
Three squares of ice are put into each tall glass and the glasses are filled with equal parts of sarsaparilla and dark ginger ale. A spiral of thin lemon peel is arranged in each glass.

30 August 1932, Indiana (PA) Evening Gazette, pg. 10, col. 4:
Indiana Cooler
A split of pale dry Ginger Ale in a tall glass with Galliker’s delicios Vanilla Ice Cream. A mervellous summer drink...15c
(Heagy Drug Co.—ed.)

21 June 1935, Raleigh Register (Beckley, WV), pg. 5, col. 6 ad:
SATURDAY’S FOUNTAIN SPECIAL
BOSTON COOLER
Half Cantaloupe with Ice Cream...15c
(5 and 10c Stores—ed.)

11 July 1935, Williamsburg (Iowa) Journal-Tribune, pg. 3, col. 5:
Another soothing drink is a Boston Cooler which also goes under many aliases: root beer and ice cream combined.

Google Books
Everyday Living for Girls
By Adelaide Laura Van Duzer, Edna M. Andrix, Ethelwyn L. Bobenmyer, Benjamin Richard Andrews
PHiladelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Company
1936
Pg. 200:
Boston cooler may be made by putting a scoop of ice-cream in a tall glass and pouring ginger ale or other soft drink over it.

30 July 1936, Elyria (OH) Chronicle Telegram, pg. 13, col. 5 ad:
Refresh Yourself with a
BOSTON COOLER
Made with Hire’s finished Root beer Syrup. 5c
(Standard Drug Co.—ed.)

15 October 1937, Kokomo (IN) Tribune, “‘Soda Jerking’ Delights Kiddies,” pg. 17, col. 2:
Root beer with a serving of ice cream will make the famous drink known as a “brown cow.” Ginger ale mixed with ice cream results in the well known Boston Cooler.

Cocktail.com
1940s Boston Cooler
2 oz rum
2 oz carbonated water
1/2 tsp powdered sugar
fill cracked ice
fill carbonated water or ginger ale
spiral of orange peel
spiral of lemon peel

In a 12 ounce Tom Collins glass combine powdered sugar and 2 oz carbonated water. Stir. Fill glass with cracked ice and add rum. Top with carbonated water or ginger ale. Insert spiral of orange or lemon (or both) and dangle end over rim of glass.

From the book: Old Mr Boston’s De Luxe Official Bartender’s Book compiled and edited by Leo Cotton (Ben Burke, Inc, 1941)

27 July 1946, Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT), pg. 9, col. 7 ad:
THIRST TIPS
From WESTERN FAMILY Magazine
A BOSTON COOLER may be made by floating ginger ale, root beer or cola beverage with vanilla ice cream! It’s cool and inviting.

3 June 1948, Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel, pg. 21, col. 3 ad:
A BOSTON COOLER IS A MIDWESTERN DRINK. And I, an Ohioan, have the pleasure of introducing it to you. Just put a scopp of ice cream in the bottom of a glass and pour root beer or ginger ale over it. Serve with straws and spoon like a soda. A Boston Cooler is a bubbly, creamy dream served with rich Stop & SHop Ice Cream. I hope you all can take advantage of Stop & Shop’s wonderful ice cream sale this weekend.

Google Books
Discovering American Dialects
By Roger W. Shuy, National Council of Teachers of English
Published by National Council of Teachers of English
1967
Pg. 21: 
A GLASS CONTAINING ICE CREAM AND ROOT BEER: a float, a root beer float, a black cow, a Boston cooler. 

21 August 1975, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section E, pg. 4:
Another melon classic is the Boston Coooler. A cantaloupe half filled with vanilla ice cream.

11 September 1982, New York (NY) Times, “Flavor Footnotes From Readers” by Mimi Sheraton, pg. 46:
In that same column (August 7th—ed.), the combination of ginger ale with vanilla ice cream was called a horse’s neck. Helen Vamvas, still a Brooklyn resident, said, “On Ocean Parkway in 1935 that combination was called a Boston cooler.” Dee McCrystal, now of Shoreham, L.I., made that same observation and added, “A horse’s neck was ginger ale with a long curl of lemon rind served in a highball glass. It was the favorite of would-be sophisticates who wouldn’t drink alcohol out on a date.”

28 December 1994, New York (NY) Times, “Of Epic Hangovers and Hairs of Dogs” by Sarah Jay, pg. C4:
John Ruble, 30, a project manager for a construction company, learned from his mother, who instructed him to make her a Boston cooler. “Vanilla ince cream and ginger ale,” he said. “Eat it with a spoon first, and then drink the rest.”

Google Books
Webster’s New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts
By Steven Labensky, Gaye G. Ingram and Sarah R. Labensky
Edition: 2, illustrated
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall
2001
pg. 57:
Boston cooler A black cow ice cream soda made with vanilla ice cream and root beer soda.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Wednesday, February 11, 2009 • Permalink