The Latest News

The History of Ice Cream (It’s Older Than You Think!)

According to a recent poll by The National Confectioners’ Association, ice cream ranks as the second most popular dessert among a list of other worthy contenders, including cupcakes, cookies, pie and candy. It falls only second to cake, which we all know is a great companion to this delicious treat.

Yet, even as popular as it is, not everyone is aware of the two millennia-long history of ice cream, and how this creamy pleasure has changed since its inception. So let’s take a look at how it all got started.

Ice Cream’s Origins

As you’d expect, nearly every country in the world claims to have been the first to discover ice cream, but its origins likely began with a frozen milk and rice mixture made in China around 200 BC.

This naturally evolved into what might very well be considered the first ice cream “machine”, that consisted of an inner container containing syrup placed inside another outer container filled with a snow and saltpeter mixture that lowered the syrup’s temperature enough to make a sweet treat. But the advancement of ice cream didn’t stop there.

In Ancient Persia and other Mediterranean countries, people eventually began using milk as the primary ingredient when producing the earliest types of ice cream, usually sweetening it with various fruit juices and sugar, and then mixing in dried fruits and nuts. Even the Roman Emperor Nero had a particular fondness for the iced treat, ordering expeditions to bring ice from nearby mountain areas to be combined with local fruits.

As word spread about the delicacy, the expansion and progression of ice cream continued, and though the use of milk as an ingredient was somewhat sparse over the centuries, it was in Europe where the recipe more closely resembled the yummy dessert we know and love today.

Mostly enjoyed by the elite up to this time, the technique for making ice cream by the average person was released in London, England, in a publication known as Mrs. Mary Eales’s Receipts in 1718. And soon after, North America found itself indulging in the homemade sweet.

Ice Cream in the America

Before the United States of America was even established, ice cream was being enjoyed regularly by such founders as Ben Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In fact, shops were already opening up in cities and towns across the Northeast, each of them using recipes derived from various publications or from the Quaker colonists who brought their handwritten recipes with them.

By the mid-1800’s, inventors had already come up with hand-cranked designs that made ice cream production faster and easier, essentially giving everyone the ability to get make it any way they wanted. Nevertheless, and as you’d probably expect, the most popular flavors at the time were vanilla and chocolate, both of which are still enjoying a position as the top two flavors of today.

The growth of ice cream over the past 200 years has been exponential, and there are no signs of it ever slowing down. Not only are neighborhood ice cream trucks and entire sections of grocery stores dedicated to mass-produced ice cream the norm, but specialty shops such as our own Lighthouse Ice Cream Kompany are popping up in cities around the world.

What else can you expect? When it comes to desserts, ice cream is as good as it gets, and its history is just as broad and interesting as the impressive variety of flavors, mix-ins and perfectly paired treats available today.

Ready for some ice cream? Visit the Lighthouse Ice Cream Kompany in Tarrytown, New Jersey, today to view our selection of high-quality, scrumptious homemade ice creams, sorbets and gelatos put together exactly how you want them. We also offer a variety of hot and cold coffee drinks made with Stone Street Coffee, as well as a wide assortment of locally baked goods from Balthazar Bakery. Treat yourself!




Phone. 914-502-0339