As Seen On: Explore Tulsa, The CW, News on 6, KWHBTV47, Tulsa World
Book Today: 918.877.3833
Harper's Hut

Shaved Ice, Italian Ice and Snow Cones – What’s the Difference?

Shaved Ice, Italian Ice and Snow Cones – What’s the Difference?


What’s the Difference?

 Before snow cones were even a dessert option, it was hard to even come by ice for a cold drink.  In the early 1800s, ice was only available to the wealthy, who would harvest ice from ponds and streams in the winter and store it in ice houses to use during the summer. New England businessmen started to export this natural ice to the southern states, creating a new market for the commodity. It wasn’t until the end of the century that artificial ice and refrigeration changed the market and made ice more readily available to everyone.
Kids would follow the ice wagon and ask for scrapes of ice from the blocks. Their moms would make egg custard to flavor the ice. Thus, the first snow-cones were made. Later, movie theaters would shave ice by hand and serve the ice to keep their patrons cool. This ice was seen as an upper-class treat.
During the 20th century, sno-cones became an affordable treat. A man in Texas invented the sno-cone machine. An ice block shaver was invented in Louisiana. Ice cream also became widely available during this time frame, because of the technological advances in refrigeration.


Frozen Desserts

You’ve probably seen Italian ice, water ice, shaved ice and snow cones. Do you know the difference?
  • Italian ice – this concoction is closer to ice cream or sorbet, but it doesn’t include any milk. The ingredients are mixed together and frozen like ice cream. It’s also called water ice.
  • Granita – this dessert is related to sorbet or gelato, but it typically has a coarser texture, more like a sno-cone. Granita is a mixture that is frozen then scraped to separate the crystals before serving.
  • Sno-cone or snow cone – Sno-cones are usually coarse and granular ice covered in a syrup usually served in a paper cup or cone. Plain ice is crushed into fine pieces.
  • Shaved ice or snowballs – Water is frozen into blocks, then finely shaved right before serving, almost like a snow. The small pieces of ice absorb the flavoring, which is added after shaving. In Texas, it might be referred to as a raspa, or raspado. New Orleans calls them Sno-balls. Each culture seems to have their own name for this type of dessert.
  • Slushie – this frozen drink is made with a mixture of sugar, flavor and water. The machine stirs the mixture and keeps it from freezing hard, so that wet, slurry mixture is created.
  • Snow cream – this could refer to snow ice cream, where snow is mixed with a sweetened dairy base to make a fun dessert. It might also be a cream-based dessert or whipped cream.

Which Is Better?

There’s clearly a difference between all these types of frozen desserts. You can find each of them in a variety of flavors. Of course here at Harper’s Hut, we’re partial to shaved ice, but it really depends on your preference. The one thing we can all agree on is that these popular treats are excellent ways to cool off in the hot summer months, especially here in Tulsa.
Back to Blog
Harpers Hut Shaved Ice