Tuesday, March 19

Get Your Sno-Balls! Hansen's Sno-Bliz in New Orleans Opens Today for 74th Season

First things first: a New Orleans sno-ball is not a snow cone, a pre-frozen, rock-hard concoction like those sold from ice cream trucks and concession stands elsewhere. New Orleans "sno" is a product of locally made, carefully stored, and expertly shaved-to-order ice. The sugary syrups that color and flavor a New Orleans sno-ball are equally important to the final product, and each sno-ball maker protects his own syrup recipes. In fact, a majority of the recipes at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz in Uptown, Williams Plum Street Snowballs near Riverbend, and Sal’s Sno-Balls in Old Metairie have survived several generations of stand ownership.

As you might expect to find in a subtropical city, New Orleans’ flavored ice tradition dates back to a time when vendors shaved the ice by hand and carried just a small selection of flavorings. “Tee Eva” Perry remembers choosing between just strawberry, spearmint, and pineapple syrups to flavor the coarse scraped ice at her neighborhood stand. Then, in the 1930s, two sno-ball pioneers—George Ortolano and Ernest Hansen—independently built the city’s first electric ice-shaving machines. While a version of the Ortolano machine is still produced and sold by George’s descendants at the company SnoWizard, Ernest Hansen built his machines primarily for personal use. His legacy is in the family sno-ball stand, still run today by his granddaughter, Ashley Hansen.

Today is opening day of Sno-Ball Season at Hansen's Sno-Bliz. If you're in new Orleans, hurry on over for your cream of nectar. Ashley is working the counter until 7 o'clock tonight!

If the Crescent City isn't in your travel plans, enjoy a virtual sno-ball by visiting our New Orleans Sno-Balls oral history project.