10 Crazy (But True) Facts About Ice Cream for National Ice Cream Month

July 06, 2016

Ice cream and chocolate design

As with so many things, we can thank Ronald Reagan for National Ice Cream Month.

“National Ice Cream Month?!”

Yes, friends, National Ice Cream Month. It comes around every July to make America great again. Can you think of anything better than spending an entire month celebrating—and eating—ice cream? No, we didn’t think so. Because ice cream is the best thing.

To echo President Reagan’s immortal words, we call upon “the people of the United States to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” But before you do, you best be prepared. To get you ready for all the ceremonies and activities, we hereby offer the following 10 crazy (but true) facts about the last 3,000 years of ice cream.

  1. “As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.” That’s what King Solomon had to say in the Bible about drinking icy drinks during the hot and sweaty harvest season.

  2. When Nero was emperor of Rome (54-68 BC), he’d have ice and snow harvested from the mountains and stored in pits throughout the warmer months. Romans would flavor the ice with honey or fruit or wine to beat the heat. Sounds OK, but if Nero’d had some Cherry Garcia on hand, maybe his reputation would be better.

  3. The appearance of something truly approaching the ice cream we know and love didn’t occur until the Tang Dynasty in China, AD 618-907. The Tang emperors apparently found a way to create and eat a “frozen milk-like confection” before anybody else.

  4. Antonio Latini (1642-1692), Naples, Italy, is believed to be the first person to actually write down a recipe for sorbet. (The secret ingredient? Sugar.) And as if he hadn’t already done enough for the world, he also concocted a milk-based sorbet—the first true ice cream!

  5. Ice cream finally reached America in the 1700s. The first ice cream advertisement appeared on May 12, 1777, in the New York Gazette. Many of the flavors most popular during colonial times remain popular today (strawberry, raspberry, vanilla). Some flavors, though, have gone out of favor. Oyster ice cream, anyone?

  6. As refrigeration became more commonplace, ice cream could be enjoyed by more than just the rich. But what many people would call the ultimate ice cream delivery system wasn’t perfected until 1896 in New York City. Ernest A. Hamwi, a Syrian immigrant, developed his own cone at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. He was selling crisp, thin waffles next to an ice cream vendor. When the vendor ran out of dishes, Hamwi rolled his waffles into cones to help him out. 

  7. Today, elite ice cream tasters use a gold-plated spoon to ensure that there’s no trace of any other flavors when they try a new scoop. It seems that wood and plastic spoons leave a very slight aftertaste.  

  8. The average American eats almost 22 pounds of ice cream every year, spending $13.7 billion (not counting restaurant sales) in 2013. Makes us wonder how much cash George Washington would be dropping on pints if he were alive today…

  9. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were born only four days apart in the same hospital in Brooklyn. Ben on March 18, 1951, and Jerry on March 14. Ben & Jerry’s was born 27 years later, May 5, 1978, in a former Burlington, VT, gas station. We’re glad—and you probably are too—that they went with making ice cream rather than their original idea, making bagels!