August 8, 2016
Reader, the Icee is the gold standard of frozen drinks.
This declaration is, naturally, influenced (biased, even) by my childhood experiences with Icees. You see, growing up, we lived a mile from one of those huge old Sears department stores that used to exist in Midwestern cities. While Wal-Mart has made its fortune by deliberately (and perhaps exclusively) placing stores outside of urban centers, Sears used to put huge brick buildings right in the city. In the 1980s, there was one in south Minneapolis.
Being dragged around on errands was perhaps my least favorite part of being a child. The day I was old enough to stay home and quietly read in my room while my mom went to Sears (or later, Target) was among the greatest of my young life. What made the Sears trip worth it, however, was getting an Icee. This was before they offered different flavor options. All Icees were cherry. You could not get a Coke or Mountain Dew Icee. Also, the polar bear on the cup was not sporting Ray-Bans.
In any event, I have fond, nostalgic memories of Icees. That notwithstanding, the Icee is among the greatest frozen drinks on the market. Before anyone comments that I am a corporate shill or something, I readily admit that, in my opinion, the top tier is populated by heavy-hitters Icee and Slurpee. But lest you think I am merely kotowing to Big Freeze, it is a fundamental truth that the other big-dog in the frozen drink pack, Slush Puppy, is a totally subpar product.
After playing a mediocre show at The Sanctuary, a former church sanctuary that has been converted into an arts and music venue, we hit up a convenience store and there it was before us: the Icee machine. It offered two flavors: Coke and Cherry. I am not necessarily the sort of person who always gets the same dish at a restaurant: I will leave the safety of my favorite dish in order to explore a new option if it looks tasty. Sometimes you get burned but you gotta live, right? That said, if I am back in Minneapolis visiting and I hit up Pizza Luce, I am going to get an Athena or a Mock Mufeletta. Yes, their menu has expanded a bit since I moved south but if I only get to eat Luce twice/year, I am gonna stick close to home. I don’t consider that “conservative”– just “prudent.” As such, I went directly for the Cherry Icee.
Even as it flows out of the spigot, you can tell that you are getting something truly special with an Icee. There are no ice crystals visible; no liquid syrup. It is truly the idealized embodiment of plasmid viscosity. It seems to be almost a “foam” as I fills the cup: it does not conform to the shape of the cup but is merely contained by it. The Icee accumulates around itself, expanding in all directions at once. On that note, the Icee cup is also a vital component of this paragon of frozen drinks: the Icee cup has a domed plastic lid allowing you to fill the cup beyond the lip. Glorious!
Needless to say, this Icee was far and away the best frozen drink of the trip. The flavor is nothing short of divine: sweet without being cloying and consistent throughout. Now, as a child, the urge to drink fast did lead to textural inconsistencies. Because the Icee is viscous, it is possible to leave one’s straw in the same location throughout consumption. With something like a milkshake, this strategy is fine. Maybe at the end, you will have to sweep around the edges of the cup to locate the last bits of shake but, in general, you can drink your entire milkshake (or Paul Dano’s) with a single straw placement.
With an Icee the results of such a drinking practice can be disastrous. While the Icee is, as indicated above, a virtually undifferentiated texture, by sucking from a single, central straw-position, it is possible to “dehydrate” your Icee and allow the ice to fall out of solution. As such, the experienced, disciplined Icee-drinker understands the importance of 1) moving the straw, and 2) occasionally shaking the cup in order to re-mix and re-integrate the solution. By following these steps (and assuming a well-constructed base product), one can expect to enjoy an Icee that is almost perfectly consistent throughout. [Note: Come ratings-time, some may argue that this Icee maintenance regimine produces an unfair advantage born of my long experience with Icees– that, given 30+ years, I may have found a similar strategy for consuming the execrable Love’s frozen drink as well. Believe me, I have thought about this fact at length and come to the determination that I cannot, and have no interest in, controlling for the multitude of confounds present in this system. Therefore I can only rate based on my own experiences with the frozen drink in question, regardless of circumstantial inconsistencies.] In this instance, I was able to create a remarkably consistent texture and flavor with only about a 1/4 teaspoon of uncolored, unflavored ice ultimately remaining at the bottom of my 24oz cup.
- Quality: 10
- Consistency: 9
- Quality: 9
- Consistency: 8