You scream, I scream, we all scream for … popsicles?
The word "popsicle" conjures up memories of stained-red lips from a melting Firecracker; hazy July days at summer camp with a Strawberry Shortcake Bar; or fighting with an older sibling for the last Fudgesicle in the box.
Now, the brightly colored treats are growing up and going artisan.
“That humblest of treats has been reincarnated, first by Mexicans and now by urban artisans,” Gus Rancatore recently wrote in the Atlantic.
“This summer, your frozen treats will be on a stick,” added Florence Fabricant in the New York Times.
The summer of the popsicle is officially underway – though, more adequately and legally speaking, it may be dubbed the summer of the ice pop.
The story goes: On a cold night in 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson accidently left a cup of powdered soda, water and a stirring stick outside overnight. When Epperson awoke the next morning, he found the stick-in frozen treat and dubbed it the "Epsicle."
Later in his life, the frozen treat became a hit with Epperson's own children: they constantly requested to have one of “Pop's 'sicles." In 1923, Epperson officially changed the name, applied for a patent and a couple of years later, sold the rights to the Popsicle brand.
Whether officially a Popsicle or not, it’s evident the summer-on-a-stick phenomenon expands far beyond the mass-produced Popsicles of yesteryear.
"… While ice pops might hint at a bit of nostalgia to most, the high-quality, local produce we use creates a way tastier and healthier ice pop we ate when we were growing up,” explained Joel Horowitz. Horowitz is the co-owner of People’s Pops, a New York City-based ice pop vendor, along with David Carrell and Nathalie Jordi.
People’s Pops develops the stereotypically classic children’s treat into more grown-up and seasonal flavors like Strawberry-Basil, Rhubarb-Jasmine, and Blueberries and Cream.
“It’s a childhood thing, it stems back to growing up,” explains Steven Carse, better known to Atlanta, Georgia, residents as the “King of Pops.”
Carse, 26, previously held a job in the insurance industry, and “when AIG and all that happened, [he] kind of happened with it.”
The next logical career path? Make popsicles.
Carse, with no culinary background, purchased a used paleta cart from a now-defunct company in Dallas, Texas, and began his reign as "the King.” At the Irving Street Market, he offers sophisticated flavor combinations like grapefruit mint, tangerine basil and chocolate sea salt.
Then, there’s Summer Bicknell of Locopops. In 2005, after completing a three-month apprenticeship at a paleteria in Tlazazalca, Mexico, she began supplying paletas (or Mexican fruit-based ice pops) to Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina residents. One of her most popular offerings is the Mojito flavor: hand-crafted with tangy lime and refreshing mint to replicate the taste of the popular adult beverage.
Even small-batch artisanal ice cream vendors like Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco, California, have expanded their frozen confection business into ice pop territory.
And despite the pricing of upwards of $4 a pop, business is, well, popping.
Locopops now operates four stores and six satellite locations; People’s Pops is in its third summer season and averages 2,000 to 3,000 ice pops a week; and Carse, who only opened his cart in April, has customers already visiting four to five times a week.
Leaving only one question: what to do when winter rolls around?
People’s Pops said they’re considering year-round production, and plan on supplying some of their late-season ice-pop varieties, like Pumpkin Pie, through Thanksgiving. Locopops closes from mid-December through mid-January - adding on their website: “and if the weather is lousy, say 38 degrees and raining — we stay home and so should you!”
Steven Carse is unsure of his cold weather business plan - but for now, he’ll keep his title as the "King of Pops."