Arbitrary Food Junk food Liquids

Arbitrary: The First Slurpee of the Season

Fresh from the tap, it's the first Slurpee of the summer season. On April 22, no less.

There’s something magical about the first Slurpee of the season, isn’t there? The sweet, frosty, icy, slushy soft drink is a staple of the summer season in this part of the world, and there is much to celebrate on the first day warm enough to enjoy one outside, on a walk through the neighbourhood. Nothing banishes winter to the back of our memories like sucking on an ice-cold Slurpee on the back deck, preferably while grilling something yummy on the barbecue.

What’s that? You come from a part of the world where Slurpees don’t exist? Well, then, here’s a quick NEAROF! Slurpee primer for those who have yet to encounter this amazing summer beverage.

Four of my local 7-Eleven's taps. I'm a Coca-Cola guy, but to each their own. Note the trays on the left? Useful for office Slurpee runs.

The Look: A semi-frozen soft drink served in a cup — either plastic or waxed cardboard — and sipped through a spoon-straw. Plastic dome tops are optional.

The Flavours: Coca-Cola is the standard, with other flavours like Crush (orange, grape, lime), 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, fruit punch, pineapple, cream soda, etc. rounding out the selection. These days, I stick to Coca-Cola.

Often Imitated: Maybe it’s because I spent my elementary-school years in Winnipeg making regular trips to 7-Eleven, but I’m partial to the Slurpee brand. Other similar drinks are often nearly as good (the Froster at Mac’s is usually an acceptable substitute), but quality varies widely outside of the official Slurpee formula.

The Mix: Different shops each have their own ratios of syrup to ice crystals to air/carbonation (note, though, that there’s no air in official Canadian Slurpees). The best places (ie. 7-Eleven, naturally) are generous on the syrup and very careful with the temperature, allowing the mixture to freeze in small crystals with ample liquid to make the mix suckable through a straw. If the ice crystals are too big, you’ll suck out all the liquid, leaving you with a big ol’ cup full of flavourless ice chunks.

The Slush Puppy: Is NOT the same thing. Yuck! (See above, re: flavourless ice chunks.)

You can check out the mix ratio through the circular window in each tap. Too dark/intense, and it's probably too thin and not frozen enough. Too white, and it's probably not strong enough. Winnipeg children know this by the age of 3.

The Swamp Water: It exists in Slurpee land, too. Mix flavours from different Slurpee taps, and see what it tastes like. The greater the flavour selection (some stores, including my Calgary local, have eight taps, boy howdy), the more combination options you have. True story: When I was a kid, a woman once paid me (enough to buy a package of Alf cards, I think) to custom mix her a Slurpee at the 7-Eleven. Slurpee mixology is a fine art.

The Soupy, Watery Mess: Beware particularly hot days, where a steady stream of thirsty customers can drain Slurpee taps of their frozen contents faster than the machine can freeze it. Some people like a watery Slurpee, but I’m not one of them.

The Brain Freeze: Drink your Slurpee too quickly and you’ll end up with a temporary headache that feels like it’s going to explode through your eyeballs. To avoid this, drink slowly, and don’t let the ice-cold slush blast against the roof of your mouth. I think it has something to do with the placement of optic nerves. Or something. I’m not a goddamned scientist.

The Taste: Ice-cold bliss.

The sticky mess of the cup, straw and lid counter. Sorry about the photo quality; I left the giant DSLR at home and shot spy-style with the iPhone.


Cost: $1.69 for a medium (651 mL / 22 oz) Slurpee at 7-Eleven in Calgary.

Value for cash money: Grand.

Availability: You’ll find Slurpees at 7-Eleven shops in most of the western half of Canada, and I’m sure I’ve seen them at 7-Eleven in the U.S. Other convenience stores sell variations under their own brand name. Some are good, and some are garbage.

Nutrition?: Who knows. Probably reprehensible. Moderation, friends. (There’s some nutritional info on the 7-Eleven website here.)

The verdict: The first Slurpee of the spring/summer season is a moment to be savoured. Get out there and enjoy it, eh?

Yeah, it's April, so maybe it isn't jumpin' at the ol' Sev yet. But come July, well ...

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