The modern snow cone is a symbol of summer, a representation of warm days, relaxation, and hours of enjoyment. Part of what makes this icy treat so enjoyable is the huge variety of snow cone syrups—you’re guaranteed to find a flavor that suits your preferences, and there’s always more to try.
Snow cones first came about in Rome, in the very first part of the first century A.D. An emperor sent servants into the mountains to bring back snow, which he then flavored with honey and fruits. The same recipe sprang up in Japan as well, and when Japanese immigrants landed in Hawaii, the flavored ice trend caught on quickly. In the United States, the first recorded instance of snow cone distribution happened in 1919, when Samuel Bert sold snow cones at the State Fair of Texas. He invented the snow cone machine in 1920 to help with his business. In New Orleans in 1934, Ernest Hansen patented the “ice block shaver,” which made the ice particles softer and more delicate in texture, creating a dessert more like snow than crunchy ice flakes. His wife, Mary, created many flavors of snow cone syrups. Finally, in 1979, the home snow cone machine became available, and the trajectory of the snow cone was complete.
Many varieties of snow cones and snow cone syrups are available today. The classic treat is a combination of shaved ice and syrup; the stuffed snow cone is a traditional cone with a scoop of ice cream in the middle. Italian ice is dissimilar from snow cones in that the syrup is mixed in with the ice as it’s being crushed, instead of poured on top at the point of sale. Each of these dishes is usually served in cone-shaped paper cups, bowls, or other hand-held receptacles paired with a spoon. The slushie, or slurpee, is similar to a snow cone in design, but is served with a straw.
Snow cone syrups are as varied as the method of preparation for a snow cone. Ready-to-use syrups are the typical variety found at most snow cone dispensaries. These are brightly flavored syrups in myriad flavors that come prepared and are pumped directly onto the cone. Cane sugar syrup is made with 100% cane sugar, a natural sweetener. It’s possible to get light snow cone syrup as well, which has fewer calories than regular syrup; for those with dietary restrictions, sugar-free syrup is also becoming widely available, and is usually made with an artificial sweetener in lieu of sugar. Organic snow cone syrups are growing in popularity as well. For those who prefer to make their own syrups, instead of using or buying ready-to-use syrups, two options are available: snow cone syrup concentrate, or making your own syrup at home. To use concentrate, simply combine the syrup concentrate with a simple syrup, made of sugar and water. It’s easier to find a wider variety of flavors when using syrup concentrate instead of making your own. However, snow cone syrup recipes are easy and inexpensive; they’re simply a mix of sweetened, flavored drink powder, sugar, and water. Sometimes food coloring is added to enhance the color. Add-ons are also extremely popular with snow cones; fruit, jams, and sweetened bean paste are the most common. Snow cone syrup is also used for more than just snow cones; it’s a great addition to coffee or tea, or poured over ice cream, pancakes, or popcorn.
Snow cones are the epitome of summer treats. Cool and tasty, they also come in a vast array of flavors, ensuring each customer or snow cone maker will enjoy their favorite flavor—or find a new one.