Magnum or Heart? Splice or Split? Icy Pole or the discontinued Cool Shark?
Every Australian has a favourite ice-cream or block, no matter their age and postcode. Some, like the Cool Shark, exist only as a memory, wiped from kiosks across the country decades ago. Blokka, Fruit Bat and Sunnyboy, you are missed.
Meanwhile, classic brands such as the Drumstick continue to rise in popularity. Sleepwear designer Peter Alexander released Bubble O' Bill pyjama shorts in November and they sold out almost immediately.
"Gelato Messina is a hot topic of playground conversation these days, but I find children still gravitate to the old-school ice blocks too," says Sydney-based Petrina Baker, director of business development consultancy Baker & Frost.
"I'll grab ice-creams with the kids after school on a Friday and five-year-old Poppy is all about the Weis Bar. Jones [seven] goes straight for the Golden Gaytime. He probably wouldn't have gone for it a couple of years ago, but it's a step up from a Paddle Pop, right? A little bit more sophisticated."
Weis Bars, Paddle Pops and Gaytimes are made by Streets, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2020. Founded by grocer Edwin "Ted" Street and his wife Daisy in a small shop near Wollongong, NSW, today the ice-cream brand is owned by British-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever.
Similarly, Peters was established in Sydney in 1907 and has grown to become part of Froneri, Europe's largest ice-cream producer.
Has multinational ownership affected the quality of the rival brands' products, though? Is the Weis still as rewarding as it was after a beach swim in the '80s? Has Bill's bubblegum nose become better or worse with time?
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age set about tasting classic Australian ice-blocks to create this list of all the flavours still worth a lick this summer. A definitive list, by the way, and in no way just the opinion of one man who spent $50 at the servo and now feels a bit ill.
10. Bubble O'Bill, Streets
The bullet hole in Mr O'Bill's hat is brilliant. The rest of the confection, not so much. A Neapolitan fever dream with a nose that tastes like P.K. on the turn. Fortunately, the corner-store cowboy drips nostalgia in spades, which does a fine job of excusing his shortcomings. Never mind that Bill hails from 1980s New Jersey; the bloke became an Australian citizen when Paul Hogan was still paying taxes.
9. Rainbow Paddle Pop, Streets
According to its wrapper, this caramel-flavoured sugar stick contains no artificial colours, which seems like the world's most outrageous claim since Warnie declared he was off the darts. As much as the hyper-coloured ice-cream resembles a unicorn's tongue, few treats say "school's out, let's party" like this guy. Also, how much does Nickelback's lead singer look like the Paddle Pop lion?
8. Choc Mint Drumstick, Peters
Before Messina was creating queues for its cult gelato, ice-cream parlours were a harbour of hokey pokey, rum and raisin, boysenberry and pecan. Steadfast flavours you could trust. Choc-mint is another dependable classic, only made better when served in a wafer cone with more chocolate at the bottom. (Cornettos are fine, for the record, but the Drumstick is creamier.)
7. Lemonade Icy Pole, Peters
We're now entering the "put me in front of the television with something cold, I'm hungover and need to lie down" section of the list. Zippy, sweet and forever refreshing, it should be noted the Lemonade Icy Pole can also be crushed over ice with lime and vodka for a cracking afternoon. Just don't let the cure become the cause.
6. Pine Lime Splice, Streets
Certainly the only fruit-ice shell encasing a vanilla cream centre to be served on Qantas flights. Credit to Bulla's very similar lemon-lime "Splits" for having milkier core, but the Splice's pineapple tang is so summery it makes the Beach Boys look like Black Sabbath.
5. Lemon Calippo, Streets
Essentially a Zooper Dooper with tertiary qualifications, the Calippo is engineered for hammocks, sunbeds and the back seat of Holden Camiras. Anywhere you don't want to deal with drips and a stick, really. Miniature Calippos are handy on hot days requiring rapid delivery of reconstituted fruit juice.
4. Tropical Frosty Fruits, Peters
Buzzing with passionfruit, orange and pineapple, Frosty Fruits tropical favourite does a half-decent job of actually tasting like, eh, fruit. Native to pool kiosks and fish-and-chip shops that still have a pinball machine.
3. Mango Weis Bar, Streets
Forget your petitions to bring back Muncheros and Toobs. How about a return of the Whitlam-era Weis Bar range, featuring flavours such as muscatel and apricot brandy? The peach champagne number from 1973 sounds particularly great. C'mon, Streets, it's time. At least the mango bar is still going strong, created by brand founder Les Weis in 1957 and made with Queensland Kensington Prides. To be enjoyed on a verandah with cicadas and cricket commentary in the background.
2. Golden Gaytime, Streets
How can anyone say Australia doesn't have a modern national cuisine? In the past 70 years, we've created the Chiko Roll, mango pancake, Traveller Pie and Golden Gaytime. A menu to rival any French degustation, surely. Gaytimes first appeared in 1957, originally starring strawberry shortbread. The Golden version hit freezers in 1970 and became an instant classic thanks to its toffee ice-cream, chocolate dip and biscuit coating. The ultimate cream and crunch combo.
1. Monaco Bar, Peters
Missing, presumed extinct for the past five years, the Monaco Bar can still be found at independent grocers in NSW and Victoria. If you see one, buy it, eat it slowly and savour. More or less the better half of a Maxibon, Peters should spend less time marketing that bloated chimera and show more pride for the Monaco. A good time, all the time, with chewy chocolate biscuit sandwiching an ice-cream wodge that can hold its own against the Australian heat. Smooth, simple and deadset delicious.