Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
July 7, 2024 ·  4 min read

Why Do Americans Love Ice In Their Drinks, But The British Don’t?

Americans love ice to make extra cold drinks, and oddly, sculptures. In contrast, Europeans and Asians may feel differently. There are many reasons it’s seemingly impossible to find the beverage enhancer in pubs and restaurants in many parts of the world. Here are a few examples.

Ice is Costly

A bottle of champagne chilling over ice. Blurred white tablecloth and dishes in the background.
Image Credit: Pixabay

Ice isn’t commonly found in beverages throughout Europe and parts of Asia, despite its popularity in the U.S. Interestingly, that wasn’t always the case. However, it was a privilege afforded only to the wealthiest and the elite. It became popular in Britain’s high society in the 1800s, and the trend would continue worldwide. As such, cost is largely credited with the lack of ice available. However, it’s not the only reason.

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Less Ice, More Flavor

Row of spices in bottles and on dishes.
Image Credit: stevepb | Pixabay

Another reason it’s unlikely to find ice for your beverages in Europe is preference. For instance, most of Britain, and warmer places like Italy and Greece, prefer their beverages to be at room temperature or warm. This is because colder beverages may seem less flavorful. After all, the cold can numb the tastebuds. Therefore, consuming an icy beverage may make for a “less intense experience.” As such, it might be beneficial to drink sugary sodas and juices at room temperature to accurately assess whether they’re too sweet, as many drinks found in the U.S. are loaded with sugar.

Water Quality Matters

Wastewater sewage pipe dumps the dirty contaminated water into the river. Water pollution, environment contamination concept
Source: Shutterstock

Sadly, many parts of the world don’t have clean water supplies, or the resources to treat their water. Consequently, the water used for ice isn’t heavily regulated. As such, many places in Asia and Europe avoid it merely because it’s likely unclean or contaminated. However, with the growing toxins, microplastics, and other pollutants entering our water supplies, the U.S. may not be far from a similar fate. (It should be noted that places with untreated ice also have untreated tap water so always have bottled water and avoid drinking the tap water.)

Heat is Better than Ice

Tea in a glass with mint leaves. Blurred greenery in the background.
Image Credit: Miryiams-Fotos | Pixabay

In many parts worldwide, ice isn’t found in stores, homes, and restaurants because some believe cold beverages aren’t good for your body on a hot day. For example, in Turkey, it’s believed that drinking hot or warm beverages on a hot day will help cool your body more quickly because it’ll cause you to sweat more. Conversely, they believe a cold one on a hot day causes your body to work harder because it has to be warmed to reach an internal body temperature. However, there’s some medical discrepancy regarding the validity of that idea.

Another Medical Conflict

adult and child hands holding intestine shape, healthy bowel degestion, leaky gut, probiotics and prebotics for gut health, colon, gastric, stomach cancer concept
Source: Shutterstock

Another belief in parts of Europe is that cold beverages, or any beverage during meal time can upset the stomach and digestive tract. In contrast, sources report no web links have been provided for studies to confirm or disprove this.

Not Applicable to Water

Close up of a glass of water with ice. Blurred counter in the background.
Image Credit: insightzaoya | Pixabay

Lastly, Britain’s preferences also pertain to “valuable real estate” or quality. Essentially, the more ice in a glass, the less room there is for the beverage. Additionally, it melts into the drink causing it to become flat and watered down. However, neither idea applies to those who prefer to drink water with their meals, rather than a cocktail or fizzy drink.

Read More: 30 things Europeans do that leave Americans raising their eyebrows

Ice in Rome

white wine of the Roman castles produced on the hills around Rome called Castelli Romani from Malvasia grapes
Source: Shutterstock

Ice in drinks, or chilled beverages, goes back to ancient times when the Roman elite chilled their wines and champagne. Chunks of ice were “harvested” and brought down from Mount Vesuvius. Iced food and beverages were a privilege allotted only to the wealthy, a trend that would continue worldwide.

Boston in the Late 1700s

Frozen pond with trees and sky in the background.
Image Credit: Matthias_Groeneveld | Pixabay

In 1783, Frederic Tudor was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a wealthy family who frequented a pond in Rockwood for the Summer. He grew up enjoying ice cream and chilled drinks from ice “harvested” from the pond in winter, and stored in an ice house. As a result, he became inspired to spread the wonder and convenience of ice. Although he experienced a handful of setbacks, he persisted. Ultimately, Tudor priced his ice lower than his competitors and became well-known among the wealthy in India because the ice was also cleaner and purer.

Ice Trend Leaves Europe

Glass of water spilled into shape of world map
Source: Shutterstock

In the mid to late 1800s, ice was popular among the wealthy in Britain. It was popular for chilling food and beverages at high society parties, not to mention the allure of using frozen water to create elaborate sculptures. Unsurprisingly, it was an expensive commodity thanks to shipping and storage costs. Moreover, Tudor had become so successful that he now had expensive equipment to help him with the “harvest.” Therefore, despite Tudor’s low prices, the ice “trend” died out because even the wealthy didn’t want to continue paying premium prices.

While there’s not one definitive answer, and in many cases, it’s a matter of preference, ice is something that most Americans can’t imagine not adding to their beverages, especially on a hot sunny day.

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  1. Why do Europeans not put ice in their drinks? Coalition Brewing
  2. Why Do Europeans Hate Ice? Ctd.” The Dish
  3. Why Do We Use Ice in Drinks?Snopes
  4. Why Don’t Other Countries Use Ice Cubes? Smithsonian Magazine. Lisa Bramen. August 12, 2011.
  5. This Is Why Americans Love Ice in Their Drinks and the British Don’t.ToH. Morgan Cutolo. February 24, 2023.