Homemade root beer is always a sign of a special occasion at our house, but there’s just something about fall and Halloween that makes this brew especially exciting. The magic (and the science) is in the dry ice. It’s available at most grocery stores, but you usually have to ask for it at the check out stand or at guest services. Made of frozen carbon dioxide, this solid changes directly to the gas phase, without a liquid stage between (a process called sublimation). In addition to the cool fog effect, the dry ice actually carbonates your drink as it dissipates!
(Be sure to use tongs or gloves when handling dry ice as it is actually so cold that it burns the skin on contact. Obviously, this also means you must give adequate supervision for children as you use this substance.)
We usually make our root beer following this recipe. Be sure to use a container with plenty of room at the top before adding the dry ice. Your liquid will obviously rise as you add the ice, but it will also begin to bubble like a witch’s couldron. Likewise, don’t seal your container while the ice is still doing its magic. Trapping in all that gas will build up quite a bit of pressure, and you may have an unintentional root beer bomb on your hands!
If you’re looking for a spooky drink on a simpler scale, try this drink from Quirky Momma. It was just the thing for my crew as we carved our Halloween pumpkins last night. The boys loved watching the dry ice “boil and bubble” as they waited for it to be ready to drink. (Quirky Momma also gives a good list of safety tips and FYI’s for those who haven’t used dry ice before.)
In addition to being a fun and exciting science experience, these potable potions help create a memorable scene that builds connections and creates lasting memories.