The Shave Ice tradition is as diverse as it is sweet and refreshing. The popular iced treat has taken on a lot of different colors since its East Asian origination in the 7th century. From The Aloha State, to Bourbon Street, and even the adopted home of Edgar Allen Poe, traditions have been born with nothing more than fresh ice shavings and some sweet toppings. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most celebrated iterations of shave ice.


Perhaps the most well known shave ice tradition is the one that first sprung up on the islands of Hawaii. The Aloha State has one of the most direct lineages to the East Asian creation of shave ice, as it was brought to the islands by Japanese immigrants that had come to work in the pineapple fields. 

After a hard day’s labor in the pacific sun, Japanese immigrants could be found under the shade of the pineapple groves shaving off sheets of ice from a block, and topping it with the sweet juice of the Pineapple. Eventually, shave ice came to be sold in the Japanese owned general stores. Customers would top off their weekly trip to the grocery with a cold and refreshing treat.

Today, the Hawaian shave ice is a staple desert of the Aloha State. This shave ice tradition is most commonly found topped with fresh fruit chunks or juice rather than syrups.

The New Orleans Snowball

The big easy is a proud city. Nobody celebrates as hard and as often as its residents. New Orleans is a city known for its festive traditions of live brass horn lines that belt out dance worthy music, pairing nicely with its fresh seafood and overflowing drinks. Among the many traditions of New Orleans is the converted “snowball.” 

Closely related to shave ice, the snowball is made with fluffed ice shavings that are heaped into a cup, creating a mounded top that is sweetly covered with syrups, or stuffed with some New Orleans signature toppings. Classic snowball flavors include strawberry and blue raspberry, but there are also flavors like wedding cake and toppings such as banana foster, ice cream-stuffed, and gummy bear infused that are only found in the Big Easy.

The Baltimore Snowball 

The citizens of Charm City have their own coveted snowball. While possibly lesser-known, it is actually an older tradition than that of New Orleans. The tradition dates back to the industrial revolution when ice salesmen would travel through the southern United States, stopping in cities like Baltomre. The owners of the ice block wagons would slice fresh ice shavings for children.

Though similar to the New Orleans snowball of mounded fresh ice shavings, the Baltimore snowball stands apart with its distinct local flavor creations. Popular favorites include egg custard, tiger’s blood (a mixture of watermelon, coconut and strawberry), and skylite (a blue flavor that is sure to transform your tongue’s color). Marshmallow is also a common signature Baltimore snowball topping.

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