Around the turn of the 20th century, soda fountain jerks were hand-tossing stainless steel cups of creamy milkshakes from milk, ice cream, and flavored syrups. But the fruit smoothie hadn’t even been thought of yet, nor was it possible until Fred Waring marketed Steve Poplawski’s new invention, which came to be known as a blender.
The blender was first sold to drugstores with soda fountains and to bars and restaurants with bars. Milkshakes were the first drinks to be made in the new blender machines. These new machines didn’t come to be used on the beaches of California until around the mid-1960s.
The earliest fruit smoothies were thick, frozen drinks made from orange juice, strawberries, and ice, and although they shared the electric blender in common with the longer-standing milkshake, smoothies were a completely different drink aimed at cooling and refreshing beach-goers. Catering to the resurgence of macrobiotic vegetarianism in the United States, restaurants added smoothies to their menus, and the drink spread around the country.
Many commercial products have evolved since the late 1960s, and now the word smoothie is generic, meaning a thick drink blended from fruit juice and fruit. Today the international smoothie industry is a multibillion-dollar revenue generator with new drinks sporting supplements and herbal tinctures along with other healing substances.
Cookbook authors have expanded the smoothie category to include vegetables and dairy, bringing it right back to the milkshake. But the true smoothie will always be the icy cold fruit juice, fresh fruit, and ice beach quencher.