Fruit slush drinks

Who invented fruit slush drinks?

Who came up with the idea of fruit slush drinks?


OK, hands up, we admit it – we didn’t give you a completely straight answer last time. Did a caveman invent fruit slush drinks? Did Marco Polo bring back the idea of fruit slush drinks from China? It’s possible that either of them was the original inventor of fruit slushies but we can’t be sure. So Big Zero’s thanks go to a man who apparently invented fruit slushies by accident.

It wouldn’t have happened without electric refrigeration. In our last blog post we explained how, for centuries, only the rich could afford the luxury of iced drinks. Ice was hacked from frozen lakes and rivers in Norway or North America and transported in insulated ships around the world.

Things started to look up for less wealthy families in the early 20th century when ice wagons delivered ice to houses that posted their “Ice Today” signs in the window. Ordinary people could keep ice in wooden, metal-lined ice-boxes, and emptying the drip tray was a daily chore. The mass production of modern electric fridges was revolutionary, and it really took off after World War II.

And it was a veteran of that war who accidentally invented fruit slush drinks. He was called Omar Knedlik, and he used his military pay to buy some ice cream parlours after he left the army. Based in Kansas City, he owned a Dairy Queen business, but the old soda-fountain machinery kept breaking down. When he made do by keeping bottles of soda in the freezer he discovered – no surprise to us at Big Zero – that his customers loved the slushy, semi-frozen contents.

This was a bit of a Eureka moment for Omar Knedlik. He got to work with an air-conditioning unit from a car and managed to create a machine that could combine water, flavouring and carbon dioxide and freeze it into slush. Not as elegant as Big Zero’s lovely GBG Carpigiani machine, but by the early 1960s Omar’s ICEE machine was being sold to convenience stores and was about to take off.

Fruit slushies became cool in all senses after the 7-Eleven company licensed some machines in 1965 and operated them under their own fantastic name of Slurpee. The name says it all – the sound made when you slurp fruit slush drinks through a straw. Slurpees became a part of 1960s youth culture – here are some fun facts:

  • the cups had psychedelic designs to appeal to the original hippies
  • the daring flavours included “Fulla Bulla”, For “Adults Only”, and “Kiss me, You Fool”
  • 7-Eleven ran an ad campaign in 1970 that featured a song called “Dance the Slurp”
  • this tune reappeared in a 1999 album called “Brainfreeze”.

The original 45rpm recording of Dance the Slurp was sub-titled, “The Wildest … the Kookiest … the Slurpiest”. You can listen to it here:

That’s got us in the mood for Christmas parties, so many thanks to Omar Knedlik and next month we’ll be thinking about how Big Zero fruit drinks can help your festive season go with a swing.