“Snowballs” have been a staple of sweaty New Orleans summers ever since Ernest Hansen invented a machine to shave (not grind) blocks of ice in 1933. Hansen’s creation (U.S. Patent Number 2515923) allowed users to build mounds of flaky ice that would then be doused with syrup, with flavors ranging from basic (vanilla) to elaborate (like one that riffs on New Orleans’ iconic King Cake pastry).
Now you can try one here. Amy Milko and her daughter, September Howat, opened Beach Snoballs on St. Armands Circle earlier this year. The 900-square-foot shop is the pair’s second; they took over the original location in St. Pete Beach in 2011.
Stop by on a humid afternoon and you’ll spot lobster-skinned tourists scooping mounds of ice into their mouths to cool down. A pair of counters in the back displays the shop’s psychedelic array of flavored syrups. You can either stick with the shop’s existing recipes or experiment with your own custom creation. Sizes range from a satisfying mini cup to a Greenland-sized large serving; “spiked” snowballs come with shots of rum, tequila or vodka.
If you think snowballs are the same as those snow cones you used to order at the chuck wagon to console yourself after your Little League loss, think again. The ice at Beach Snoballs is like fresh powder snow, which allows the flavors to seep into every crystal. You don’t crunch, you let it melt. A cup of “prickly cactus,” flavored with cactus juice and a mist of Skittles-reminiscent sour syrup, has the power to turn your whole afternoon around.