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When And How Was Ice Cream Invented?

The Obsession Of Alexander With Ice Cream

Alexander the Great was himself said to be addicted to the product of frozen milk, mixed with nectar, honey, and WINE! He would reportedly eat/slurp this at any opportunity, much to the annoyance of his political and military advisors.

Alexander the Great was an ice cream addict | Ahval

Stories About Chinese Emperor’s Ice Cream Fascination

Meanwhile, some traditionalists would say that ice cream is a Chinese invention, due to claims that Tang of Shang (reigned 1675–1646 BC) was in fact the first true consumer of ice cream.

After the Battle of Mingtiao, the Xia Emperor Jie was defeated, and Tang became the first emperor of the Shang Dynasty. Despite his popularity in lowering taxes and military spending, it seems that this economically conservative leader could not afford to not overindulge himself in the consumption of ice cream.

Tang of Shang – Wikipedia

Some ninety-four men were allegedly hired for the sole purpose of making the best quality ice cream for their emperor — buffalo milk, flour, and camphor — who most certainly passed this on to his successors, as there is evidence that by 200 BC (the post-Qing Dynasty era) flavors of ice cream were even being distributed to a great portion of the population, who mixed the product with rice!

The origin of ice-cream

The Origin Of Ice Cream

Of course, this does not prove once and for all that ice cream was a Chinese invention, as all this proves is that one of the oldest records which arguably could be that of the ice cream originated from that part of the world, and even that is dependent on whom you ask, for it is very unlikely that what we today know as ice cream would have looked the same way to the ancient world.

Some might throw their hands up at this statement and claim that it could not be ice cream, then, since ice cream is SUPPOSED to have a cone mixed with a round scoop of frozen dairy.

However, this would not be a fair statement in much the same way we wouldn’t consider a medieval house to not be a house just because its designs were different from a modern home while lacking electricity and plumbing.

I am not going to delve into what exactly specifies an ice cream since that is best left for users to decide. For myself, I am only interested in presenting a compilation of plausible theories proposed by other people in regards to when the ice cream itself was invented.

Claims Of Mughals About Invention Of Kulfi

Kulfi - Wikipedia

Kulfi – Wikipedia

Some people — most notable Iranians — claim that the ice cream was invented around 500 BC in Ancient Persia, to be consumed by the royal family members of that period (Xerxes II, the enemy of Leonidas of Thermopylae, for instance), with surviving records from that period including recipes combined with vermicelli and rose water.

Over the centuries, the “ice cream” of Ancient Persia/Achaemenid Empire presumably continued its evolutionary process until it turned into what is now widely regarded as Faloodeh.

Faloodeh – Wikipedia

The Roman Empire can definitely make claim to being the true inventors of ice cream, and while nobody can know for certain how Roman ice cream would have looked like, I am quite certain — as far as the ancient world is concerned — that the Romans probably had the closest adaption to the ice cream as we know it before the modern ages for reasons which will be explained later down below.


Locations such as Mount Etna, or any other mountainous region within the empire, for that matter, were frequently excavated by citizens of various classes, who would collect ice and snow suitable for consumption.

Emperor Nero himself would often send his servants to the mountains to scoop him some frozen snow and ice with the intention of adding fruits or other desirable flavors.

Throughout the next thousand years, it does not appear that ice cream itself changed very much, and yet it is in Italy — more than anywhere else — that the claim for the invention of modern ice cream is most repeated.

Bernardo Buontalenti – Wikipedia

                                               Buontalenti and the invention of the ice-cream maker

Bernardo Buontalenti (1531–1608) is often credited for being the inventor of the modern ice cream scoop as we know it. A military engineer and architect credited with the designs and decorations of multiple fortifications, palaces, and city gardens, his creation — while not strictly considered to be THE modern ice cream of North America — was indeed very close to representing the modern gelato.

Ingredients included:

lemon, sugar, egg, honey, milk, and a “drop” of wine (presumably for that Italian flavor).

Bernardo Buontalenti, the first inventor of the gelato

Inventor Of Ice Cream Cone

Buontalenti came from within the heart of what had once been the Roman (later Western) Empire, and his use of the gelato/ice cream was very similar to the recipe Alexander the Great had indulged in nearly two millennia earlier, and whose life story would have been very well known to the Ancient Romans, who were notorious for adopting the culture of Ancient Greece with a Roman variety attached to it (even the Roman Gods themselves were based on the Greek gods, who were adapted into a more “Romanised” personality).

During the Victorian Ages, the modern ice cream itself had no doubt been invented, as it was also during this time period that modern ice cream trucks began to appear.

In 1851 — during the “height” of the Victorian Era — an American by the name of Jacob Fussell even went so far as to industrialize the product; creating factories in Boston, Maryland, and New York in order to ensure that his supplies could be sold as quickly as they were demanded.

The Science of Ice Cream

There was, however, one major difference between how their ice cream was presented compared to our own:

The lack of an ice cream cone!

In 1888, a book authored by Agnes Bertha Marshall (1855–1905) was written called Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Book of Cookery was written, and it included one recipe for the creation of cornet with cream; quite possibly the first modern adaption of an ice cream cone.

Ices and Ice Creams

Quite appetizingly (or not!) Victorians who went to an ice cream truck of the nineteenth century had to lick their ice cream by holding onto a metal stick which held the ice cream itself together, and when they were done, the metal stick would be passed over to the next customer!

English Heritage

The Modern Type Of Ice Cream

Nearly a decade later, in an attempt to “simplify” the serving of ice cream, a thirty-year-old man by the name of Alfred Cralle invented the first modern usage of the ice cream scoop, which was formally patented on February 2, 1897.

Alfred L. Cralle – Wikipedia

To conclude, by the beginning of the twentieth century, with ice cream itself becoming easier and less time costly to make, individuals began creating their own, seemingly absurd, variety of ice cream.

The Ice cream scoop is born!

And I can only imagine that in the future — just as we are now comparing ice creams of the past to our own — the children of the next generation will look at a piece of cone popularised since 1888, with a modern scoop of ice cream as it was created in 1897 and say:

“What kind of ice cream is that?”


There is an entertaining claim that “vanilla ice cream was black” which was overwhelmingly debunked in the article linked below. Its claim regarding vanilla’s natural color (white) can also be confirmed by myself, since I have already made countless pastries with vanilla, and have yet to see it turn into anything other than the white color we currently have!

All images belong to their respective owners.


David Frigault
For the most part, my focus of interest is writing on topics related to history, though I enjoy being versatile, so you might see me on other topics all the same.