This summer shall be known as The Summer of Hipster Shave Ice. Why? Because Sugar + Shake have developed a wicked weekend shave ice habit (it is so, so, so, so very hot!) and our preference is for the style we have dubbed “hipster shave ice.”
So what IS hipster shave ice? Well, first, it MUST come in a cup or bowl—the better for Instagramming. You can’t set a traditional shave ice cone down and get your filter game on, you know.
Second, hipster shave ice uses locally made (frequently in-house), often organic, no-additives syrups.
In general, this means that hipster shave ice is less vivid in color than your typical rainbow cone. Definitely no not-found-in-nature colors—no Smurf-blue tongues for you, kids! And, lots of times, you find bits of “stuff” in the syrup—chunks or shreds of real fruit, speckles of vanilla seed.
Our weekend must-stop is The Local over in Kailua. We’re really enjoying their mix of tried-and-true (strawberry, pineapple) and eclectic, adventuresome flavors (mountain apple, guava Hawaiian chili pepper). They also have a rotating selection of seasonal flavors—right now, pickled mango is a Shake fave.
Hipster or not, you gotta get ice cream in the bottom. It doesn’t look pretty, but when you mix it all up as it gets down to the end….mmmmmm…frosty goodness! A downside to the large bowls that The Local serves their shave ice in is that it doesn’t quite achieve the right frosty ice cream consistency. I think it’s because there’s too much bowl and not enough ice cream, and the way the ice melts and combines with the ice cream in that amount of space just doesn’t work the same way as in the tiny, old-school paper cones or Dixie cups.
Bonus hipster points if the shave ice shop also sells minimalist graphic shirts and double bonus hipster points if they carry beard-grooming products. (The Local: Check and check.)
Once we decided that hipster shave ice was a thing, we tried to see if there were other hipster shave ice spots.
Shake had done a story once that featured shave ice from Kailua General Store, and he remembered that their syrups were better than the average shop’s and he thought that some of them were housemade. So we tried there. On our first try, we struck out: Store closed on Sundays. The next weekend, we switched our grocery day and tried again: Shave ice machine busted. But we had the opportunity to look around inside and scope out the menu. Not as hipster as Shake had recalled. (They did earn the bonus points for the graphic tees, and although I didn’t spot any beard-grooming products, they are reputed to carry shaving soap…) They offer “natural” syrups, but they do seem to be in those incredi-bright colors traditionally associated with shave ice. And served in cones. So, not quite our definition of hipster shave ice.
I found Country Shave Ice on Instagram. I have a term for some people in my circle of acquaintance: Hipster-adjacent. As in, they’re really not hipsters themselves, but—either due to circumstance, personality or profession—they hang out with a lot of hipsters and have adopted some hipster-ish qualities. Country Shave Ice is hipster-adjacent shave ice.
In some respects, it fits the hipster shave ice bill: Served in a cup (albeit not as spiffy as The Local’s); housemade, no-additives syrups. But, we decided, it’s not really hipster shave ice, because it’s not really shave ice. Not in the traditional sense. Country Shave Ice serves up HUGE portions—a 16-ounce cup overflowing with extremely finely shaved ice. Because the ice is so fine, instead of simply pouring the syrup on top, they layer it in. (If you’ve ever been to Waiola Shave Ice, or other places with extremely fine ice, you’ve probably had the experience of finding some pure white, syrupless spots deep inside the mound of ice.)
Another part of the reason for the layering is because Country Shave Ice’s syrup is not so much syrup as it is puréed fruit, so it doesn’t really drip down through the ice. This makes for intense, amazing flavor, but it also makes it more of a shaved ice treat, rather than “shave ice.” I know, it’s a very fine distinction. But if you grew up with shave ice, you know what I mean. (You also know better than to call it “shaved ice.” It is always “shave ice.” “Ice shave” is acceptable if you are weird and from the Big Island, like Shake—although he hasn’t called it that in decades.)
Country Shave Ice doesn’t offer ice cream for their shave ice, but you can get condensed milk. The Strawberries & Cream flavor, in fact, automatically includes it. Once you consume the top dome, you can mash together the layers of ice, fruit syrup and condensed milk, and it turns into delightful (unpretty) frozen goodness.
I haven’t been to Kaua‘i in more than a decade, but I did discover (via Instagram) a hipster shave ice joint there. I REALLY must go to Kaua‘i so I can go to The Fresh Shave. I mean, mustache straws—how much more hipster can you get?!
Hipster shave ice isn’t cheap. It’ll run you at least $6, often more if you add extras like ice cream or condensed milk, while a large bowl from Waiola runs $3 and a large at Matsumoto’s is $2.75 (prices without extras). On the other hand, the quality of the syrups is much higher, and in the case of Country Shave Ice, I’d say the serving is much larger. And it wouldn’t be hipster if it weren’t an expensive version of something old-school that used to be cheap, right?
The end of summer is right around the corner, but it’s immensely hot (and shows no signs of cooling down), so I’m sure we’ll be indulging in hipster (and hipster-adjacent) shave ice every weekend for the rest of the year. Let us know if you’ve found a hipster shave ice spot we don’t know about!