Oklahoma City News, Entertainment & Occasional Humor • Established 2007

Stuff Oklahomans Like: Sonic Ice


(edit.  For the second time this week we are ripping off a popular concept from another website.  We acknowledge that.  Enjoy.)

Oklahoma is mainly known for petroleum, but the biggest cash cow in this state is frozen water.  The technical term for it is “nugget ice,” but it can also be called “cubelets” or, according to one website, “rabbit turd ice.”  Around here, it has only one name:  Sonic Ice.

This comes about because Sonic, “America’s Drive In” which is based in this state, has become synonymous with producing little tiny pieces of ice that somehow take longer to melt and water down your overpriced soft drink.  While this style of frozen water can be acquired in any location that has shelled out for the fancy ice maker, it makes no difference whether the drink was purchased at a Sonic, a gas station, or in your company break room.  It is Sonic Ice.

Unlike Xerox, Coke, and Kleenex who have bristled at their brand names becoming the generic term for photocopy, cola, and facial tissue respectively, the Sonic Drive-Ins have benefitted tremendously by having their trademark associated with a product that is apparently as addictive as crack cocaine.

One probably thinks that it is impossible to become addicted to a specific variety of ice.  If that is the case, you obviously are not an Oklahoman.  Here, people take breaks at work, stop watching the game at home to get in the car, and sometimes even wake up in the middle of the night to get their ice fix.

My parents are a perfect example.  They have always had an unhealthy obsession with crunching their ice, but when Sonic built a restaurant walking distance from their house, their addiction shifted to ludicrous speed.  I came back from college one summer to find the pantry full of leftover Route 44 sized Styrofoam cups that had once housed Diet Cokes with extra ice.  The freezer was loaded with bags of nugget ice, and despite the fact that there was so much in there that no room could be made for a carton of Braum’s ice cream, my Dad was asking me multiple times a day if I wanted to run over to Sonic with him for a Coke””that he would order “easy on the soda.” 

Even though he had the ice, and the Styrofoam cups (which he put through the dishwasher like it were a real dish) the feel was not authentic enough unless it was brought out to his car by a high school kid in a funny red visor. To this day, my parents cannot come visit their grandson without first stopping by the nearest Sonic.

It is madness.  A madness that the corporate office in downtown OKC has to be loving.  While most places make a good profit margin on their soft drink sales, they lose some of that profitability because they offer “free refills.”  Sonic, who do not give refills at all, charges more than the average fast food place and improve the margin even more when people, like my parents, demand that the kid at the fountain maximize the amount of ice (which is practically free to the chain) in their soft drink.

So, do not be surprised some day when Sonic becomes the new Starbucks with people paying exorbitant prices for very little product.  It has already begun here.


  1. Yesterday, my 84 year-old mother sent me an e-mail that touted 14 things you can use a paper coffee filter for (everything from waxing your eyebrows to draining greasy bacon and 12 things in-between…) After reading Clark’s ripped off (love it!) article about Sonic ice, it made me think of other ways to become addicted to it: As an ice pack. For those of us who are all too familiar with sports-related injuries, icing your injury with a freezer baggie full of Sonic ice makes a a gel pack of blue frozen goo look like Ace bandages before Velcro! Sonic ice also contributes to the Perfect Margarita along with a healthy dose of Patron Burdeos.

  2. the addiction to ice is a sugar addiction.

    when i was in high school, i worked for the Sonic in Moore, where i was showed how they made their ice.

    they ran a hose all the way from their ice machine back (in the front) back into their walk-in fridge, where the other end of the hose was fed into a hole in the top of a 55 gallon drum. the drum held sugar water.

    every other day or so, they would pull out the drum and fill it with warm water, after which they would put several pounds of sugar in it and then stir.

    i dont know if this is common practice at every sonic, but it was at the one i worked at. the ice was good because it had sugar in it. and dont think that things didn’t get dipped into that drum, or contents of something weren’t emptied into it. i never personally saw anything, but it was always talked about. i still dont go back to that sonic.

  3. My sister in-law lives in Michigan, where they do not have Sonic. She is, however an ice (and being-a-little-bit-of-a-crazy-person) enthusiast. She now insists that Sonic be visited at least once every 6 hours when she visits.

    She’s odd.

  4. I have a picture of Homer Simpson in my head saying “Mmmmm rabbit turd ice” as saliva dribbles down his chin. Then he gets his head stuck in the ice machine.

  5. My sister and her husband live in Maryland. The closest Sonic is about 100 miles away…He goes every other day for his Sonic fix. I suggested she join the local Son-anon.

  6. Bill Maher told me if you use Sonic ice in your vaporizer(bong) that it makes the high much more natural. I’m pretty sure he was high though when he told me this.

  7. My daughter in law, who lives in L.A. CA is addicted to Sonic banana milkshakes. Even tho they have to drive over 20 miles to the nearest store, they go often.

    To read about the truly weirdest ice story ever, google “Fatty Arbuckle” or look him up on wikipedia.

  8. lol @ lucid gravity.

    Its true that sonic ice is the best for Waterpipes (bongs are illegal!!!) It stacks much more closer together and small shape allows for more surface area to contact the smoke. Its totally worth the $2.

  9. Cornercuttin, the 55 gallon drums of sugar would be the slush mix. I can see you were a model employee who really knew what was going on. 😉

    Two bucks for a bag of frozen pellets of water at my old Sonic. I even had a customer that used 44 sized cups of the stuff as part of her diet strategy. We even had to get the special “soft” ice for her or she’d send her 4 Route 44 cups back for a redo.

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