June 11, 2014

The Modern Evolution of Ice Pops

Ice pops are a reinvented summer treat.Spending a summer afternoon in a Texas culinary arts program might cause you to reminisce about the vibrant yellow boxes of Popsicles that came in three simple flavors: orange, cherry and grape. Those were the ice pops of the past, saved for lengthy, hot days when the ice cream truck neglected to pass through the neighborhood and it was too humid to move more than a foot away from the air conditioner anyway. They weren’t the fanciest or healthiest snacks, but they were great for remaining cool. Today, ice pops have seen a renaissance of flavor and innovation, evolving into multi-flavored treats of varying texture, consistency and even alcohol content. As the blistering heat approaches, rediscover this pleasant childhood treat as it has been reinvented.

Rise of the gourmet ice pop
Ice pops, much like doughnuts, cupcakes, pies and most other desserts, have been transformed mainly in regards to quality. Ice pop creators are putting newfound focus on what ingredients they use, where their ingredients come from and the depth of flavor they are creating. This is done in  ways such as adding fresh fruit rather than artificial flavoring, removing artificial coloring, using organic and vegan-friendly ingredients, and using multiple complementary fruits, spices and herbs to layer the flavor. Take for example Good Pops in Austin which creates gluten-free, organic popsicles in flavors like watermelon agave, coldbrew coffee and hibiscus mint. Their ice pops are produced in small batches so they can get fruit from local farmers and focus on quality, and though Good Pops are a great regional grocery option, perfect for consuming at home, they’re only the tip of the iceberg.

Another Texan, John Doumas, sells his homemade creations, Pop Star Handcrafted Popsicles, at local farmers markets out of a retro utility van. Offering flavors like mojito, Doumas caters to local communities that can’t get enough of his handmade, frozen concoctions. The owners of People’s Pops, a New York-based ice pop business found in local markets and restaurants, dedicate themselves to using local, sustainably grown fruits to provide the best ice pops for their loyal clientele.  Vendors like People’s Pops are”popping” up in urban areas across the United States. There are gourmet ice pop shops as well. Pleasant Pops Farmhouse Market & Cafe in Washington, D.C., offering up a diverse, rotating selection of nearly a dozen pops. In many ways, ice pop flavors have become as wide-ranging in options as ice cream or cocktails, and the opportunities are only expanded when using one of modern day ice pops’ most common ingredient: booze.

Alcoholic ice pops
The strong flavor of alcoholic beverages as an added component to an ice pop brings the overall taste to a new level. Gourmet ice pop creators are taking their favorite fruit combinations and pairing them with liquor that enhances the natural flavor. The Neapolitan of Las Vegas offers a variety of boozy popsicles in flavors such as Watermelon Patch, a pop that is created with watermelon, chopped cucumber, tequila, and chili salt. Almost any alcohol can be used, and many of these alcoholic ice pops are based off of traditional cocktail ingredients.

Tips for making homemade ice pops
For those in love with culinary projects, ice pops can also be made easily at home. A couple of quick tips:

  • Use ripe fruit that’s in season. This will enhance the flavor of your ice pop.
  • Remember, alcohol will lower the freezing point of your creation, known as a poptail. Fresh fruit will thicken your mixture and help set the shape of the ice pop.
  • Patience is key, give your ice pops ample time to harden before removing from their mold.
  • Be creative! Using recipes is a good way to get started, but combining your own favorite flavors will help you create a signature ice pop.