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What’s the Difference Between Sno Cones and Shaved Ice?

Bluebear Ice shaver machine

At Miracle Strip Popcorn and Concession Supply, we offer professional quality concession equipment for sale and rent in the Florida Panhandle area. If you look at our website, you’ll find that we offer both sno cones and shaved ice. However, most people don’t even know of the difference between the two. While we’ve touched on this topic in the past, we thought it would be worth repeating. Because to us, the distinction is an important and interesting one.

  • Sno cones are made using specialized sno cone machines, which work by crushing ice cubes into very small pellets. On the other hand, shaved ice is made using either a cubed ice shaver or a block ice shaver. Unlike sno cones, shaved ice isn’t crunchy.
  • With sno cones, when syrupy flavor is added to the ice, it often ends up running through the ice to the bottom of the cone-shaped cup—most of us can remember this from our childhood, slurping up the liquid after enjoying the treat. Shaved ice is different, as flavor tends to spread more evenly throughout the ice.
  • Sno cones typically come in one or two sizes, and generally you’ll see them in a six ounce cone-shaped cup, with the ice being rounded on top of the cone. You can easily slurp it with your tongue like you’d lick an ice cream cone. Shaved ice is served in various sizes of foam, paper or squat cups. While also generally rounded at the top, it typically requires a spoon-straw in order to eat it.
  • One of the major differences between sno-cones and shaved ice is the number of flavors available. Sno cones, which you generally find at county fairs and carnivals, come in two to five flavors like grape, cherry and orange. Shaved ice, on the other hand, typically comes in many more flavors.
  • Sno cones are traditionally quicker and easier to prepare. Shaved ice is made to order—it can’t be shaved in advance.

Miracle Strip Popcorn carries both sno cone and shaved ice machines for rent and for sale in the Florida panhandle area. Visit our website for more information, and give us a call to add either tasty treat to your next event. There’s one thing that sno cones and shaved ice will always have in common: They both do a great job of cooling down happy mouths from the Florida heat.

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Keeping Cool: The History of the Sno-Cone

With the arrival of a cold and snowy winter in much of the United States (but not here in Florida!), it’s nice to be reminded of summer times when snow and ice would have been welcomed as a cool reprieve from the scorching heat. In fact, this is precisely how the sno-cone came into existence. The tasty treat now widely enjoyed through all four seasons was created over time based on a unique set of circumstances and very practical purposes.

Before modern refrigeration, ice needed to be transported to warmer climates by wagon, in huge blocks to prevent them from melting. Stories out of Baltimore, MD from the mid-19th century describe children greeting the wagons on their way south, begging the driver to shave off a little ice to melt in their mouth and help them cool down. Eventually, mothers of the children began to make flavoring to prepare for the arrival of the ice. Before long, ice was being hand shaved at movie theaters so that patrons could enjoy flavored “snowballs” during the hottest summer months.

Snowballs spread gradually around the country, serving as an inexpensive, enjoyable treat during the Great Depression and an appropriate replacement for all the ice cream that was shipped to soldiers during World War II.

Meanwhile, the technology used to make what would come to be known as sno-cones was making big strides. In 1919, a man named Samuel Bert created a machine used to make sno-cones that he sold at the Texas State Fair. While Bert’s machine made sno-cones by crushing ice, a New Orleans man named Ernest Hansen introduced the block-style shaving machine in 1934. The new machine created ice shaving more in line with the actual consistency of snow, and made the icy cold treats a source of pride in the Big Easy.

Ever since, sno-cones have exploded into one of the most popular summer treats in the country. They’ve also inspired the creation of modern iterations like frozen coffee and adult beverages. The next time you cool down with a sno-cone, take a moment to think about just how far they’ve come.

To rent or purchase sno-cone machines and other fun concession and snack bar equipment for your business or event in Florida, contact Miracle Strip Popcorn and Concession Supply today.