Some sno-balls are just for grown-ups.
While sno-balls are a mainstay of Louisiana summers, the shaved-ice treats are getting an upgrade at a few south Louisiana establishments. Flavors like coffee with cream, or boozy cocktail versions, are taking the treats to a new, adult level.
“Nothing says summertime like sno-balls in south Louisiana,” said Josh Duke, co-owner of Olive or Twist, an upscale cocktail bar in Baton Rouge with 10 liquored-up sno-balls on its menu. The sno-balls, a seasonal treat, premiered last year with a shaved-ice machine mounted to the bar next to the beer taps.
This year, the menu expanded to 10 flavors that pair standard sno-ball syrups with a complementary alcohol. Their blueberry sno-ball is livened up with vanilla beans and a flavored vodka, while the Mardi Gras flavor gets a shot of rum. Each adult sno-ball has 50 percent liquor, Duke said.
Many of the sno-ball cocktails feature herbs or spices that add a richer flavor profile to the sweet syrups. The strawberry syrup has a taste of fresh basil, while the super-sweet tiger’s blood is spiced up with Sriracha.
“For the most part, a lot of them are inspired by cocktails on the menu where we could stay true to a sno-ball, where it actually has sno-ball syrup and the base is made like a sno-ball, and then we add different alcohols to it to bring the adult aspect,” Duke said.
Taking a break from moving day one afternoon last week, self-described “chocoholic” Brian DeJean ordered a chocolate raspberry sno-ball and shared a sip with girlfriend Lauren Webb on the patio at Olive or Twist.
“It’s just a great 4 o’clock kind of drink,” said DeJean, 27.
“We still get sno-balls all the time,” said Webb, 26. “This is an upgraded version of a sno-ball.”
In New Orleans, Bar Tonique on North Rampart Street has served a mint julep sno-ball for seven years, said Adrienne Miller, a longtime bartender there. Made of a homemade syrup, crushed mint leaves and whiskey, it is a favorite of visitors to the bar.
“People freak out when they see it,” Miller said.
Miller also is experimenting with another sno-ball, a maraschino cherry with cognac, which she plans to debut next week at Tales of the Cocktail.
While they don’t serve any alcohol, the team at Ninja Sno-balls serves some upscale, creative sno-balls at events all over the capital region. Founded in 2010, the Ninja food truck has changed hands a couple of times, but one of its signature items — the coffee cream made with Highland Coffees products — remains.
Made with a “proprietary recipe,” the coffee and cream flavor is made with a vanilla-flavored roast, said Mark Alan Zweig, who bought the business last year.
Ninja sees just as many adults as children, Zweig said. Its trucks mainly visit special events, businesses and movie sets. Fans keep up with their location via social media, following them on Facebook and Twitter.
“The adults are truly just bringing back their childhood when they get a sno-ball,” Zweig said. “A lot of people in Louisiana are brought up that way.”
Adding to the grown-up vibe, the sno-balls at Ninja are served in the paper take-out boxes used in Chinese restaurants. Sleek and black, they are functional and stand out, Zweig said.
“They look really cool, and when people need to carry five or six at a time, they can pick up the metal handles and carry them off,” he said.
Although the coffee flavor is surprisingly refreshing, most adults still seek out the flavors they loved as children, Zweig said.
“I would have thought that one thing they would want would be a piña colada or a daiquiri, which are flavors we carry,” he said, “but most times when adults come to the truck, they’re asking for blue bubblegum or flavors like strawberry, like the kids ask for.”