Not quite water, not quite ice, water ice is an intrinsically Philly treat — like the Mummers, the word jawn, and Gritty, water ice defies conventions and is universally beloved. Any Philadelphian worth her salt has eaten a soft pretzel and a cup of water ice — likely in a retro teal-and-purple paper cup or a flimsy frosted plastic one — instead of a balanced meal at least once. Don’t forget to dip your soft pretzel!
Legend has it that ancient Roman emperors sent fast runners into the mountains to bring back snow they would mix with fruit and honey. The best water ice today sticks closely to that original recipe: just fruit, sugar, and water. The texture — looser than Italian ice and smoother than shaved ice — is unique to producers in the Philadelphia area (as is gelati — not the Italian plural of what Americans know as gelato, but a combination of water ice and ice cream). Chunks of fruit often signal a good product. And the pronunciation is always “wooder ice.”Read More