Who invented ice cream and when?

The first ice cream was not at all like the real one. It was something like popsicles (frozen juice) or sorbet – chilled fruit puree mixed with sweet syrup. The first options were generally a mixture of snow and juice of fruits or berries.

In the papyri of Ancient Egypt, there are records of a dessert consisting of two vessels. One with snow, the second with fruit or berry juice. Snow was either dissolved in juice to cool it, or they took a lump of snow, soaked it with juice and ate it.

In ancient China, about 5,000 years ago, they also ate snow or ice, mixing them with slices of citrus fruits and pomegranate seeds. The Chinese kept the secret of making cold desserts until the 11th century AD!

The Mongols made ice cream as follows. Milk sweetened with honey or juice was poured into the wineskins, and then the horses carried the wineskins high into the mountains. On the way, the milk churned into cream, and the low temperature in the mountains froze them.

However, after descending from the mountain, it was necessary to wait until the cream thawed a little in order to squeeze it out of the wineskin. So the Mongols got something like a thick milkshake.

Antonio Paoletti, Venetian Ice Cream Vendor

In ancient Greece, ice cream was not allowed to be invented by Hippocrates himself. The famous physician harshly criticized any attempts to refrigerate food and beverages, including the wine that the Greeks loved.

Cold irritates the stomach, Hippocrates argued. – Snow from the lower reaches of the mountains leads to disease, from which the Greeks have colic and cramps!

The Roman philosopher and statesman Seneca, educator of the Emperor Nero, also condemned cooling in cooking, but for economic reasons: “All this self-indulgence is expensive for the treasury of the empire.” But the Romans and Nero were very fond of chilled drinks, so they got rid of Seneca. After that, Nero came up with a legend, how he went to the Alps to collect snow to prepare a special sorbet – a mixture of snow, honey and wine.

Lucius Anne Seneca
Lucius Anne Seneca

Let’s return to the problem of freezing cream. The solution turns out to be ingenious in its simplicity. All you need to add is … Salt! It acts as a catalyst and the cream freezes at a higher temperature. Strong frost is no longer required.

Who was the first to guess that salt takes heat from cream (endothermic effect) is unknown, but the Indians are the first documented. The recipe is mentioned in the 4th century AD in their poem Panchatantra. It is from this poem that Kipling took the plot of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”.

The entire technique of making ice cream was described much later, in the 13th century. And not cooks, but a representative of medicine – the Arab doctor Ibn Abu Usaybia. In his treatises, he recommended ice cream for the treatment of certain diseases.

According to one version, it was Arab traders who brought ice cream to Europe. However, the most popular (and most inaccurate) version associates the appearance of a cold treat with Marco Polo. Allegedly, a great traveler and no less great inventor stole the recipe from the Chinese. But in none of Polo’s travel notes mentions any ice cream or desserts similar to it.

Some historians point to Catherine de Medici as the pioneer of the fashion for fruit sorbet. Presumably, the future queen of France brought it as a wedding present to Henry II in 1533. The French managed to invent their “aromatic ice” almost a century and a half later, at the end of the 17th century.

Catherine de Medici
Catherine de Medici

The further evolution of ice cream is more associated with the emergence of refrigeration chambers and the simplification of freezing. This made it much cheaper and more affordable for people with any income.

After the advent of carbonated drinks, carbonated “ice cream” appeared. It was accidentally made by 11-year-old boy Frank Epperson in 1905. He left a glass of soda and a spoon in the backyard of the house. The frost hit at night, and the soda froze. Frank pulled a spoon in the morning, and a new kind of ice cream came out of the glass. The boy ate it immediately. And only 18 years later, at the request of children, Frank patented his “invention”.

Another innovation is soft ice cream. The same thing that is squeezed out of tubes into cups. It is soft for a reason. It is being pumped into … Air! So ice cream is cheaper and takes up more space. They came up with this, of course, in the United States, in order to increase profits.

Italian soft ice cream
Italian soft ice cream
Фото: Alessio Damato, Corbis,

We can talk about the history of ice cream for a long time, but it’s time to summarize. When exactly people invented it is unknown. The earliest mention of modern ice cream prototypes dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. Most likely, the first who tried the delicacy were the inhabitants of the Middle Kingdom or their neighbors, the Mongols.

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