Humphry Slocombe Reinvents the Coke Float Humphry Slocombe Reinvents the Coke Float

Humphry Slocombe may be the most popular ice cream shop in America. That is, if you count Twitter followers.

Their almost 300,000 followers know that the next best thing to a scoop of ice cream might be a lick of humor. The shop, which was named for characters in the 1970s British sitcom, Are You Being Served?, serves up ice cream, ice cream cakes and pies, as well as sundaes, floats, sweet sauces and a few other goodies like bacon peanut brittle. Their original shop is located in the Mission District of San Francisco, and a second location can be found in the San Francisco Ferry Building.

Humphry Slocombe's goodies are now carried by a major supermarket. They're working on an ice cream truck and will head back to the Outside Lands music festival this summer for the third time. In addition to a strong social media following, they've also partnered with a wide variety of organizations—from the Asian Art Museum to Virgin America Airlines to Project Open Hand.

The shop took off not long after opening in 2008, thanks to flavors with cheeky names including After School Special, I Have A Dreamsicle and Government Cheese. While there are versions of chocolate and vanilla, too, they usually go out on a limb creating totally original flavors. Bestsellers over the years have includedCarrot Mango Sorbet, Peanut Butter Curry, Foie, Elvis (the Fat Years) and Salt & Pepper. Like their Twitter handle says, this is “Ice cream with attitude."

Humphry Slocombe is comprised of Jake Godby, a pastry chef who worked at some of San Francisco's top restaurants, and Sean Vahey, his business partner and operations manager. They met at a local restaurant where Godby was “back of the house" and Vahey was “front of the house." And those are the roles they continue to to this day.


One of their most well-known treats is their nonalcoholic Bourbon Coke Float. Faced with slumping sales one weekend, Godby and Vahey retreated to a local bar when inspiration came in the form of the classic cocktail. Says Vahey, “Everyone orders a bourbon and Coke, so that was our mindset. We wanted to create an All-American, modern classic. Plus I went to college in the South, and Coca-Cola is in my blood."

Not surprisingly, the float was instantly a hit with customers. According to Godby and Vahey, “It's fun, and no one had seen it before. It seems like something you've had before, an adult ice cream treat is kind of neat. It's geared toward adults."

Vahey adds, “It had to be Classic Coke, and we even serve it with the bottle."

The Bourbon Coke Float features an ice cream with an intriguing name, “Secret Breakfast" which also encapsulates the philosophy of the shop. The combination of bourbon ice cream and crunchy corn flake cookies is both fun and sophisticated. It's also by far the shop's most popular ice cream flavor.

While the recipe for making Secret Breakfast ice cream is in the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, if you're not making your own ice cream, Godby suggests using a good-quality vanilla ice cream and an optional shot of bourbon. Just be sure to make the signature bourbon caramel sauce. It's the ingredient that takes the float from everyday to exquisite.
Bourbon Coke Float, Courtesy of Humphry Slocombe

2 scoops Secret Breakfast ice cream or vanilla ice cream


12 ounces Coca-Cola

1 Tablespoon Bourbon Caramel Sauce (see recipe below)

To make the float, drizzle the Bourbon Caramel Sauce inside a glass, add two scoops of ice cream and top with Classic Coke. Serve the remaining soda on the side.

Bourbon Caramel Sauce

3 cups sugar

1 cup water

¾ cup bourbon

2 tsp salt

Makes about 1 quart

In a large, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar and ½ cup of water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the sugar melts and the liquid caramelizes to a nice brown, about 10 minutes, being careful to stir and swirl to cook it evenly. Bring it to a semi-dark brown.

Stir in the bourbon, the remaining ½ cup water, and salt and stir to mix well. Continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring and swirling, until the sauce returns to a semidark caramel.

Store covered at room temperature; it will keep forever.

Adapted and Excerpted from Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book by Jake Godby, Sean Vahey and Paolo Lucchesi, photographs by Frankie Frankeny (Chronicle Books, 2012).