The Great Torontoist Challenge: Slushy Edition

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The Great Torontoist Challenge: Slushy Edition

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Photo by mag3737.
Brimming with ice, syrup and syntho-flavours, the right slushy can truly hit the proverbial spot on a hot day. Refreshment possibilities aside, our research has indicated, as per undoubtedly reliable sources, that these concoctions are also capable of giving you the power of not only song, but dance—Broadway style! With that in mind, jazz hands a-ready, and our insulin levels relatively in check, we went slushy hunting.

The Contestants

  • Mac’s Froster. Based out of Laval, Québec, Mac’s convenience stores, or dépanneures as they’d be called at home in la belle province, have been serving up the slush since 1962. This is, of course, based on the assumption that as soon as the first location opened, cat-with-tam logo on display, the Froster machine was also immediately installed.
  • Dairy Queen’s Arctic Rush. Dairy Queen, or DQ for those of you with the spastic need to abbreviate everything, was founded in Chitown, Illinois in ’38. Though perhaps better known for their cream-based frozen edibles, the Arctic Rush, formerly and more flyly known as the Mister Misty, is widely available, and in more than one flavour/colour.
  • Esso On The Run’s Cryo. Don’t let the name throw you, the Cryo is, from what we could tell, 100% frozen-head-free.
  • 7-11’s Slurpee. The largest chain store of any category in the world, 7-11 has been delivering Slurpees since 1967 in so many flavours that it’s actually kind of astounding. We like the fact that Wikipedia took the time to also note that the Piña Colada Slurpee is, unfortunately, not kosher.

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Photo of Dairy Queen sign by pilipala9; photo of Arctic Rush by Julie Reitsma.

The Criteria

  • Container/Straw. The slushy requires a more creative containment situation than other drinks. The straw should also be capable of spoon-like functions, and be of proper girth. This is no time to mess around.
  • Texture/Appearance. Is there enough ice? Is it broken down properly? Is it smooth or chunky? Is the syrup-to-ice ratio proper or do you have the ice floaty with the syrup pool at the bottom?
  • Taste. Does the flavour fit the colour? Is it just the right amount of synthetic without being too chemically? Is it intense and sweet without making you gag?

Additional Criteria

We have ranked these frozen bevarines from least to most costly per millilitre.
7-11 ($1.15 for 355 ml.); Esso ($1.31 for 375 ml.); Mac’s ($1.45 for 350 ml.); Dairy Queen ($2.19 for 500 ml.).
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Photo of Slurpee by Julie Reitsma; photo of 7-11 sign by DimsumDarren.

Results

  • Container/Straw. Mac’s Froster—17/20. The real standout with the Mac’s containment situation was their fantastic supa-straw, which was so huge we initially thought several straws had been stitched together.
  • Texture/Appearance. 7-11—15/20. A good ice balance was achieved, allowing for the ideal pour, stir and scoop.
  • Flavour. Esso On The Run’s Cryo—17.5/20. What can we say? This reminded us the most, of all the contestants, of our childhood.

Conclusions

The tip-off that Dairy Queen’s Arctic Rush wasn’t going to do so well in our challenge presented itself before we even paid—it didn’t come out of a machine. Instead, this contestant was created by pouring syrup into a cup, which was then topped with icy water. This, of course, doesn’t bode well, as the amount of actual slush present was negligible. We at Torontoist always try and find a positive in each entrant, and the very best we could come up with was that it was cold; just like the Arctic. Otherwise, this slush was a failure—so sweet that one judge’s three-year-old daughter wouldn’t drink it, the flavour crossed the line into too artificial, tasting, in the words of our panel, the way we imagine a cherry all-purpose cleaner would. The cup was too squishy, with collapse a serious possibility, and the straw didn’t even have a scoop. Then again, what would be the point?
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Photo of Mac’s by Andrew3000; photo of Froster by Julie Reitsma.
7-11 and slushies seem to go together like Croc Rock and cougars—when you want to find one, you know this is probably the best place to go. The 7-11 we visited didn’t disappoint in terms of selection, with grape (our choice), cream soda, sour apple and even cappuccino on offer. The winner for texture and appearance, 7-11’s Slurpee was, as stated above, a well-balanced mixture of ice, water and syrup. The flavour was super sweet and quite artificial, and while to an extent this is a desired feature, we found that it bordered more into “purple” rather than “grape” territory. One of the features of the Slurpee that caused some division amongst the panel was the container situation. The straw had a fair-sized workable scoop—albeit with rather sharp edges, so please avoid eye-poking—and the cup was the only of our challenge to not be made of plastic. On the one hand the waxen-paper cup felt more robust, was probably better insulated, and created a medium by which colourful decorations were more easily displayed. On the other hand, without the side view, we were left in a state of mystery—does this need more stirring? Is there a syrup pool gathering at the bottom? What the hell is down there? Once calm, we were able to assess that this is a good slushy, but the ambitious flavour selection is perhaps not always well translated into a satisfying taste experience.
The Froster’s sturdy cup—which happily stood up to being held by the dome—and hyperbolic straw, were just the start of what was an overall respectable slushy experience. Mac’s available flavours include the relatively standard cream soda and Coke, but also venture into Powerade, and our choice, kiwi-strawberry. Of all the slushies tested, the Froster’s was the least intense and the most “authentic” tasting, meaning that we could actually discern kiwi and strawberry flavours, though it would have benefited from a bit more of a punch. The texture was a bit coarse and the ratio of ice to syrup was not well balanced, which would explain our previous comment of desiring increased flavour concentration. What was most interesting, perhaps, was the strange sensation experienced by our panel that this slushy either had alcohol in it, or perhaps should have alcohol added immediately. We enjoyed this slushy as is, and would accept it as a gift, but the desire to add vodka was inescapable, and we’re not sure if that’s the result they were really going for.
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Photo of Cryo by Julie Reitsma; photo of Esso sign by Reza Vaziri.
Esso On The Run’s Cryo flavour selection is, admittedly, quite pop-centric, which can be limiting—we selected Orange Crush, but root beer, 7-UP and Pepsi were also on hand. Limitations aside, the flavour achieved by our winner was pure Orange Crush loveliness—the perfect balance of intensity, sweetness and artificiality. Consistency-wise, the Cryo had an agreeable ice density, with a good stir-feel, and though there was a wee bit of syrup pooling at the bottom, the container was solid, if a bit noisy when held. Speaking of, the Cryo comes served in not just any old plastic cup, but in what can only be described as Soviet-era inspired, fitted with not just the word “Cryo” in a slightly forbidding font, but also four different and exciting images—a nuclear snowflake (pictured above), the head of a man who is wearing a bowler, a pair of gloves, and, lastly, a pair of Wellies. As one judge aptly put it, “I feel intense when I drink this.” There may be cheaper liquids available by the litre at Esso, but the Cryo is not going to kill you when consumed and, perhaps more importantly, is delicious.

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