Keeping cool throughout history


Published: Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 20, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.

For as long as there have been heat waves, we've been trying to beat them — leading to such innovations as swimmin' holes, air conditioning and, of course, icy drinks.

Using ice goes back to ancient Greeks, Romans and Hebrews who stashed snow in insulated pits, notes an article in History Magazine. In the 1600s, southern Europeans chilled drinks overnight "in water in which saltpeter was dissolved," the article says. Early settlers here stored foods in caves and cellars, adds foodtimeline.org.

Through the 1800s, various inventors developed refrigeration systems to replace chemical cooling that was a practice in Europe. Dr. John Gorrie, an Apalachicola physician, in 1851 developed a system to cool the air for his yellow fever patients. It also made ice, and it's conceivable the doctor dropped a few chips into beverages like lemonade or tea to sip when he was off duty.

Historians agree the slushie as we know it today was a happy accident in the 1950s. Kansas Dairy Queen owner Omar Knedlik stashed some bottles of soda in a freezer when a soda machine broke, according to the Kansas Historical Society. The mostly frozen concoction was a hit with patrons.

He experimented with a machine to make the product consistent, and eventually developed a frosty brew dubbed ICEE. He later sold rights to the 7-Eleven convenience store chain, which changed the name to Slurpee.

Today, ICEE and Slurpee combined sell about 656 million servings every year, according to their websites — not counting all that are tossed on "Glee" cast members.

A slushie, generally, is a carbonated or flavored drink chilled to an icy, slurry-like mixture. A smoothie, on the other hand, includes some kind of dairy — milk or yogurt — with ice and fruit. It likely goes back further in the 20th century, notes foodtimeline.org; maybe to the 1930s.

In the 1970s, New Orleans entrepreneur Steve Kuhnau gave smoothies a capital "S" when he began his Smoothie King chain and its line of nutrition-packed meal replacements. Nowadays, its rare the eatery or coffee shop that doesn't sell smoothies.

Then in 1995, a Starbucks operator in Santa Monica, Calif., experimented with coffee and ice in his store, developing a beverage as a variation on iced lattes and mochas demanded by patrons, according to an email from a Starbucks company spokesperson. The proprietary blend became known as the Frappuccino.

Though iconic at Starbucks, frozen java drinks found new fans two years ago when McDonald's added the similar mocha and caramel frappes to its McCafe line. Rival Burger King has since joined in, unveiling a near identical line of frosty drinks this year.

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