There are many reasons you might want an alternative to the old-fashioned icy pole. Perhaps you’re looking for something a little more natural for your kids. Maybe your tastes have evolved and you want some real fruit in the mix. Or perhaps you have a big event planned — a signature upscale icy pole could be just the thing, especially if it’s boozy.
I’ve taste-tested some of Australia’s best gourmet iterations to help you find the brain-freezing delicacy that’s right for you.
Made by best friends, Pure Pops have been going strong since 2011 when the creators, Alice Storey and Georgi Larby, took a freezer load to Bondi Farmers Market to test their theory that the beaches of Australia needed a freshly made, slightly more sophisticated take on the icy pole. Now you can find the pops in small grocery shops around Australia (many IGAs and Coles Local stores carry them) and at David Jones, plus they can be ordered for special events. They come in ultra-refreshing flavours, like Passion Fruit Quench and Watermelon Berry Mint, and they’re still made by hand on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
I stumbled upon Flyin’ Fox in the freezer section of my local organic food mart, and I’m so glad I did. This range of natural icy poles from Murwillumbah in New South Wales is gluten free, has both low- and no-added sugar options, and uses marine-safe, compostable packaging. But the thing that impressed me most was the flavour. The watermelon version, in particular, tastes exactly like the sweet, cold fruit yet still captures the magic of eating a frozen treat on a hot day (in other words, it doesn’t feel like you’re eating an iced fruit salad).
Juicies come from New Zealand and are mostly sold at schools (made with 99.9 per cent fruit juice, they’re easier to swallow for parents and educators than the sugary concoctions found at the local milk bar). The Tropical flavour is now also available at Woolworths, offering an alternative to mass-produced brands. But of all the pops I taste-tested, these were the most obviously child-friendly — their main draw is that they’re a natural option for kids, not an adult version of a childhood snack.
I couldn’t resist including at least one boozy icy pole in the mix, and there are plenty to choose from these days. Pops by Launch is one of my favourites, not just for the fun flavours, including Gin & Tonic, Mojito and Pina Colada (which doesn’t taste even a little bit like sunscreen), but also for the gorgeous packaging that will suit the aesthetic of just about any pool party or hens’ event — and at only 0.4 standard drinks per pop, they’re a reasonably responsible way to day drink. Pops by Launch are available at a few retailers, but the easiest way to get your hands on them is to order directly from the website.
The Melbourne-based company Popstic also makes alcohol-infused pops (as well as a dizzying range of ice cream creations), but what won me over is the adorably shaped sorbet icy poles. The Raspberry Sorbet pop is (somewhat incongruously) shaped like a pineapple and is just slightly creamier and more tart than the classic Peters Raspberry Icy Pole. And, OK, if you must (you really must!), go ahead and try the Mandarin Cumquat Gin Icy Pole, made with Four Pillars gin and shaped like a toucan.
Illustration by Col McElwaine