11 Brain-Freezing Facts About Slurpees

TIM SLOAN, AFP/Getty Images
TIM SLOAN, AFP/Getty Images

With more than 13 million cups consumed every month, 7-Eleven’s Slurpee might be the most popular frozen beverage in the world. In honor of the iconic slushie, which has been around for more than 50 years, we’re dispensing some facts on its history, Slurpee milestones, and why you can’t fill a kiddie pool with the slush.

1. THE SLURPEE WAS DISCOVERED BY ACCIDENT.

Slurpee’s origins have roots in that oasis of deliciousness, Dairy Queen. In 1959, franchisee Omar Knedlik found that his soda fountain wasn’t working. After freezing some pop bottles to keep drinks cool, he discovered customers loved the icy consistency. Using an automotive air conditioner, Knedlik invented a machine to dispense pure Tundra-sourced slush, called it ICEE, and then licensed the equipment to 7-Eleven in 1965. The company renamed it Slurpee in 1966 in honor of the sound a person makes while trying to slurp up the gunk through a straw. (The ICEE brand is still used in other convenience chains.)

2. A TV COMMERCIAL MADE SALES SOAR.

Slurpee sales were idling at an average of 50 per store per day until 7-Eleven launched its “Strange Things” series of television commercials. In one spot, a man swears his life was modest until he sampled a Slurpee—the next day, he became an airline pilot. Even though the ad didn’t explain what a Slurpee was, it created so much interest around the product that individual store sales soared to 300 a day.

3. THERE WAS A SLURPEE SINGLE.

The 1970s were a strange and terrifying time for pop culture: the decade gave license for 7-Eleven to release a single on 45 RPM vinyl, “Dance the Slurp,” as a promotional track for the drink; it was given out free in stores. The piece features a groovy tune accompanied by a slurping sound. It’s well worth your time.

4. IT REVOLUTIONIZED THE STRAW.

As Slurpee began to conquer the convenience cold-drink market, 7-Eleven realized that customers were having issues getting the remaining bits of syrupy chunks from the bottom of the cup. The solution? Inventor Arthur Aykanian’s spoon straw, which added a little scoop at the end. Debuting in 1968, it has become synonymous with Slurpee. In 2003, the company took Slurpee delivery development further with an edible straw. The candy rod was bendable until it hit the ice-cold liquid, where it stiffened into a useable utensil.

5. “BRAIN FREEZE” IS TRADEMARKED BY 7-ELEVEN.

Everyone is aware of the dangers of drinking a Slurpee too fast: searing, thudding pain in the cranium that can bring a sturdy individual to his or her knees. While “brain freeze” started out as a colloquial term, 7-Eleven saw the marketing opportunities—and trademarked the phrase. The actual medical term for that type of rapid-onset headache caused by an overabundance of cold temperatures to a key artery in the throat is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. You can make it dissipate faster by pushing your tongue against the roof of your mouth or drinking something warm.

6. YOU COULD CHEW SLURPEE BUBBLE GUM.

For decades, 7-Eleven was pretty protective of the vaunted Slurpee brand, preferring to keep it to ice-encrusted drinks and non-edible items like key chains. In 1998, the company had a change of heart and expanded the Slurpee umbrella to include a frozen ice pop and blocks of bubblegum that had a liquid center.  

7. SOME CUPS WERE MADE FROM WAVEFORMS OF MATING WHALES.

For a promotional stunt in Australia in 2015, 7-Eleven recorded a series of radio spots featuring whales mating and screaming soccer fans. The waveforms—visual representations of the noises—were then used to create a 3D-printed series of special cups that customers could get in stores or print at home (if they had a 3D printer). 

8. THE SLURPEE KING WAS CROWNED IN KENNEWICK, WASHINGTON.

From 2007 to 2008, more Slurpees were dispensed at a Kennewick, Washington-area 7-Eleven than anywhere else in the world. Their secret? A wall of Slurpee machines that was enough to meet the demand of a nearby high school football team. Store owner Don Mariotto said increasing his supply from six to 12 barrels was just barely enough to keep up. “Man, those big hosses would come in during August practices with sweat pouring off of them,” he told Franchising in 2007, “[and] head straight for the Slurpee machine and hit it like it was a [rival] Pasco linebacker.” The title was taken by Manitoba in 2009; Mariotto complained that the tally was changed to count cups, not volume, costing him the title of Slurpee King.

9. ADULTS USED TO BE ASHAMED TO DRINK SLURPEES.


Ashlee Martin via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

For all of Slurpee’s success throughout the 1970s and 1980s, there was one problem: adults were slightly embarrassed to be seen with one. Because much of the marketing was targeted at children, adults would sometimes ask for Big Gulp cups to deposit their slush in. Taking note of the ignored demographic, 7-Eleven partnered with MTV in 1995 to sponsor its summer "Beach House" programming block: young adults could use a slide that ran right into a pool of Slurpee. Sales of the drink rose 10 percent that year.

10. THERE WAS ONCE A DUAL-CHAMBERED SLURPEE.

Pioneering a new method of Slurpee delivery, 7-Eleven introduced a highly innovative dual-flavor Slurpee for the product’s 45th anniversary in 2011. Customers could choose two flavors that would be dispensed into one cup with two chambers; a dual-piped straw could be inserted, allowing them to either enjoy a mixed drink or activate a valve that would allow for one flavor to be sucked up at a time.

11. BRING YOUR OWN CUP DAY GOT A LITTLE OUT OF CONTROL.

During promotional stunts in 2015 and early 2016, 7-Eleven allowed patrons to bring their own container to Slurpee machines for a flat price of $1.50. While most kept their cups to reasonable portions, a few carried in kettles, fish bowls, teapots, and even a plastic sled. One consumer brought an inflatable swimming pool. 7-Eleven eventually mandated that containers had to fit through a cardboard measuring hole to ward off anyone thinking of bringing in a trough.

10 Delicious Facts About McDonald's Shamrock Shake

McDonald's
McDonald's

Many people overdo it with the drinking on St. Patrick's Day, but it's not always Guinness or Jameson that gets them into trouble. Sometimes it's the Shamrock Shake, McDonald's uniquely green and often elusive seasonal treat. Here’s the skinny on the 660-calorie indulgence.

1. The Shamrock Shake wasn't originally known as The Shamrock Shake.

The original name of the cult classic milkshake was slightly less alliterative. It was called the St. Patrick’s Day Green Milkshake. Catchy, no?

2. The Shamrock Shake is a charitable endeavor.

What does the Shamrock Shake have to do with the Ronald McDonald House and the Philadelphia Eagles? Everything, according to the fast food giant. When Eagles tight end Fred Hill’s daughter was being treated for leukemia in 1974, Fred and his wife spent a lot of time in waiting rooms and noticed many other emotionally depleted families doing the same. He thought it would be healthier for families if they had a place to call home while their children were being treated, so he used his football connections to get in touch with a local advertising agency that did work for Mickey D’s. They agreed to give profits from the Shamrock Shake toward a home near the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, which ended up becoming the first-ever Ronald McDonald House.

3. Uncle O'Grimacey used to be the Shamrock Shake's ambassador.

Back in the early ‘80s, a fairly offensive character named Uncle O’Grimacey was used to promote the seasonal shake.

4. No McDonald's restaurant is required to offer the Shamrock Shake.

In 2012, it was announced that, for the first time, the Shamrock Shake would be available in all McDonald's nationwide—but not all restaurants have to carry them. Regional managers decide whether their stores will carry the shakes each year.

5. Jimmy Fallon once depleted a New York City restaurant's entire Shamrock Shake supply.

If you’re a New Yorker and you didn’t get a much-craved Shamrock Shake in 2011, it’s probably Jimmy Fallon’s fault. When he caught wind that a Union Square Mickey D's had the elusive dessert, he totally cleaned them out—purchasing more than 100 shakes for his audience. New Yorkers were not pleased with Fallon.

6. The Shamrock Shake got an ice cream offshoot (that didn't fare so well).

Despite the smashing success of the shake, the Shamrock Sundae was a dismal failure. Introduced in 1980, it was discontinued after just a year. Apparently people prefer their unnaturally green desserts in shake form as opposed to scoop form. Though this year, they're trying again: in honor of the Shamrock Shake's 50th anniversary, McDonald's is also introducing an Oreo Shamrock McFlurry.

7. There have been many super-sized versions of the Shamrock Shake.

For a few years, a giant shake was poured into the Chicago River to help contribute to the green hue it’s dyed every year. A donation was also made to the Ronald McDonald House.

8. The McDonald's app will help you track down a Shamrock Shake.

Are you one of those unfortunate souls who has to hunt the shake down every year? McDonald's official app can help. In 2020, for the first time in three years, the Shamrock Shake will be offered at all McDonald's locations. If you're not sure of the nearest one near you, the McDonald's app has a full directory to help.

9. You can make your own Shamrock Shake at home.

If you still can’t find a shake, you have one other option: make your own.

10. In 2017, McDonald's engineered a special Shamrock Shake straw.

In 2017, McDonald's unveiled an amazing innovation for Shamrock Shake lovers: the STRAW. Short for Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal, the STRAW was designed by real engineers at the aerospace and robotics engineering firms JACE and NK Labs—specifically with the Shamrock Shake in mind. What sets the device apart from conventional straws is the sharp bend in its shape and the three, eye-shaped holes in addition to the opening at the bottom end. The extra holes are positioned in a way that allows drinkers to take a sip of a new layered version of the frosty treat that’s equal parts top mint layer and bottom chocolate layer.

Wales Is Home to the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence

Baked Bean Museum of Excellence
Baked Bean Museum of Excellence

If you don't think it's possible to get excited about beans, you've clearly never been to the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence in Port Talbot, Wales. The site is filled with memorabilia celebrating canned baked beans, but the legume-loving "superhero" in charge of it all may be the most intriguing attraction.

Before legally changing his name to "Captain Beany" in 1991, the owner of the Baked Bean Museum was a Welsh man named Barry Kirk, according to Atlas Obscura. He was born in 1954 and spent the early part of his adulthood working in the computer department of a British petroleum plant in South Wales.

But his life took a much different direction in 1986 when he broke the world record for longest time in a baked bean bath at 100 hours. He fully adopted his Captain Beany persona five years later and began painting his face and head orange. He also started dressing in a gold-and-orange superhero costume. Since then, he's raised nearly $130,000 for charity by performing various bean-related stunts like pushing a can of beans along the beach with his nose. His biggest claim to fame, though, is his Baked Bean Museum, which he opened in his two-bedroom council flat in 2009.

Baked Bean Museum of Excellence.
Baked Bean Museum of Excellence

Visit Captain Beany's home and you'll find more baked bean swag than most people see in a lifetime. His lavatory has been transformed into the "Branston Bathroom," with the British product's logo embellishing every surface, and the kitchen is all about Heinz. The museum also features vintage advertisements, collectible cans, and knick-knacks like a pair of baked bean cufflinks. And if you ever start to feel overwhelmed, Captain Beany will be there as your personal guide in one of his tomato-sauce-orange outfits.

Baked Bean Museum of Excellence.
Baked Bean Museum of Excellence

The Baked Bean Museum of Excellence is technically free to enter, but Captain Beany does accept donations that he gives to charity. You can visit the Port Talbot institution from Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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