14 Single-Scoops You Didn't Know About Baskin-Robbins

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iStock

Even if you've sampled all 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins, there are probably a few things you don’t know about the franchise.

1. BASKIN AND ROBBINS WERE IN-LAWS.

image of the balloons outside a Baskin Robbins restaurant celebrating its 70th anniversary
Rachel Murray, Getty Images

Irv Robbins grew up working in his dad’s ice cream shop, The Olympic Store. After he got out of the military in 1945, he opened a store of his own—Snowbird Ice Cream store in Glendale, California. When his brother-in-law Burt Baskin got out of the military shortly thereafter, he also decided to try his hand in the ice cream biz, and opened Burton's Ice Cream in Pasadena. They had eight stores between them just eight years later, and decided to combine forces into a single chain.

2. THEY FLIPPED A COIN TO SEE WHOSE NAME WOULD COME FIRST.

image of a hand flipping a coin
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Despite the Burton's Ice Cream and Snowbird Ice Cream merger, the franchise didn't become Baskin-Robbins until 1953. The brothers-in-law flipped a coin to see whose name would come first in the company. It just as easily could have been Robbins-Baskin.

3. THERE ARE WAY MORE THAN 31 FLAVORS.

image of a child looking at the flavors inside an ice cream counter
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It may be famous for its "31 Flavors," which is intended to represent a flavor for every day of the month, but the company has actually featured more than 1000 flavors over the years. Their top sellers, however, remain pretty basic: vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip, pralines and cream, and chocolate chip.

4. AND SPEAKING OF PRALINES AND CREAM …

image of someone scooping from a vat of praline dessert
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The company claims Irv and Irma Robbins invented the now-classic flavor. They had just returned from a New Orleans vacation and were snacking on some souvenir pralines when a light bulb went off. They mixed the nuts in with vanilla ice cream, then added a drizzle of caramel. The flavor was so good that they put it in stores, and it became one of their all-time best-selling flavors. They even ran out at some stores, prompting ice cream-addicted Americans to send petitions to the Baskin-Robbins headquarters. In 1985, the company sued Häagen-Dazs for adding pralines and cream to their lineup.

5. ROBBINS CAME UP WITH A BEATLE-THEMED FLAVOR ON THE SPOT.

image of the Beatles (the musical group, not the insect)
William Lovelace/Stringer, Getty Images

Just before the Beatles came to the U.S. for their first big tour, a Washington Post reporter called Robbins to ask what special promotion he had cooked up for the occasion. "Nothing," was the real answer, but Robbins quickly improvised, telling the reporter that "Beatle Nut" was on the way. The company scrambled to get the flavor created, made, and delivered in five days.

6. THAT'S NOT THE ONLY SPECIAL-EVENT FLAVOR.

image of President Gerald Ford standing in front of an American flag and pointing toward an audience
AFP/Stringer, Getty Images

Other special-occasion flavors include Baseball Nut, invented when the Dodgers moved to L.A.; 0031 Secret Bonded during the James Bond craze; and Lunar Cheesecake for the 1969 moon landing. For America's bicentennial in 1976, the company produced Valley Forge Fudge for President Ford to enjoy.

7. NOT ALL FLAVORS MAKE IT TO CONSUMERS.

image of a bowl of ketchup next to some tomatoes
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Among the flavors that were tested but never mass-produced: Ketchup, Grape Britain, and Lox and Bagels.

8. IRV ROBBINS WAS REALLY INTO ICE CREAM.

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Not only did he have an ice cream cone-shaped swimming pool, he also named his boat "32nd Flavor." And it was easy to spot Robbins driving around L.A.—his vanity plates read "31BR." He said people would occasionally spot the plates and stop him to ask for ice cream.

9. ROBBINS ALSO LIKED EATING ICE CREAM.

image of vanilla ice cream sitting on top of a bowl of what could be cereal, but probably isn't
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He liked to "douse" his morning bowl of cereal with banana ice cream and went through a quart every few days. The Robbins house in Rancho Mirage, California, came equipped with a six-flavor ice cream dispenser.

10. SOMETIMES IN-STORE PROMOTIONS AREN'T ALL THEY'RE "QUACKED" UP TO BE.

image of wine glasses filled with red champagne
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Robbins was particularly fond of a refreshing "Cold Duck" ice cream flavor, which tasted similar to cold duck sparkling wine. It had to be scrapped, however, when Japanese stores promoted it by hanging dead ducks from the ceiling. "We almost collapsed," Robbins said.

11. LOTS OF CELEBRITIES HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED BY BASKIN-ROBBINS.

image of a plaque marking Michelle and Barack Obama's first kiss at a Baskin Robbins
Scott Olson, Getty Images

Plenty of people scooped ice cream at BR before they went on to bigger and better things. The illustrious lineup has included Barack Obama, Julia Roberts, Taryn Manning, and Eric Dane. Obama has quite a history with Baskin-Robbins—he and Michelle experienced both their first date and their first kiss at a store in Chicago (which has since been commemorated with a historical marker-esque plaque).

12. HOWARD HUGHES WAS BRIEFLY OBSESSED WITH THE BANANA NUT FLAVOR.

image of Howard Hughes standing next to some other guy
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Howard Hughes, as we know now, was practically the poster child for OCD. So it's not terribly surprising to learn that when he developed a liking for a certain Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavor, he really developed a liking for it. When the billionaire found out Baskin-Robbins had discontinued his favorite flavor, banana nut, he ordered 100 gallons. The ice cream had to be stored down in the kitchens of the Desert Inn (the hotel where he was living)—and it was a real hassle when Hughes decided he preferred French Vanilla just a few months later. "Somewhere at the D.I., they still might have old gallons of unopened banana nut," ex-Desert Inn president Burton Cohen said in 2000.

13. BURT BASKIN DIED OF A HEART ATTACK IN 1967.

image of the exterior of a Baskin Robbins restaurant
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You've probably noticed that all of these stories center around Robbins, not Baskin. That's because Baskin passed away at the age of 54, just six months after selling the company to United Fruit Co. for $12 million.

14. IRV'S SON JOHN WALKED AWAY FROM THE BASKIN-ROBBINS EMPIRE.

image of three ice cream cones
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Not only did Irv's son refuse to be groomed for the position of Baskin-Robbins heir, he actively lobbies against the dairy industry. "My father told me he believed that I was very intelligent, very sincere, and very crazy," John Robbins has said. Once, when his father sought out medical help for health problems like diabetes and heart disease later in his life, his doctors unwittingly handed him a copy of Diet for a New America—a book on healthy eating written by John.

A version of this list first ran in 2016.

10 Frank Facts About the Wienermobile

Business Wire
Business Wire

This year marks the 83rd anniversary of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, that effortlessly charming, street-legal marketing tool on wheels. The next time you’re in the vicinity of one—a fleet of six makes up to 1400 stops annually—take the time to reflect on the past, present, and future of history’s most famous locomoting hot dog.

1. The Wienermobile started as a kind of land sub. 


Oscar Mayer

In 1936, Carl Mayer, nephew of hot dog scion Oscar Mayer, suggested a marketing idea to his uncle: build a 13-foot-long mobile hot dog and cruise around the Chicago area handing out his “German wieners” to stunned pedestrians. Crafted from a metal chassis, the vehicle was operated by Carl, who could usually be seen with his torso sticking out from the cockpit.

2. The Wienermobile was once driven by "Little Oscar."

Throughout the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, Oscar Mayer enlisted various little people to portray “Little Oscar,” a company mascot sporting a chef’s hat. Little Oscar soon assumed piloting duties for the Wienermobile, waving to crowds and dispensing wiener whistles that kids could use to alert other children to the presence of the car in their neighborhood. Performer George Malchan portrayed the character from 1951 to 1987.

3. The Wienermobile disappeared for decades.

While novelty automobiles were all the rage circa World War II, Oscar Mayer saw interest wane in the 1960s and 1970s, as kitsch gave way to more contemporary advertising campaigns. But when the company put a Wiener back on the road for its 50th anniversary in 1986, they discovered a whole generation of consumers who were nostalgic for the car. The company ordered six new models in 1988.

4. Wienermobile drivers train at Hot Dog High.

Since resurrecting the marketing campaign, Oscar Mayer has trained aspiring Wienermobile drivers at Hot Dog High in Madison, Wisconsin. The company receives 1000 to 1500 applications for the 12 available positions annually, typically from college graduates looking for a road trip experience. Those selected for duty are given 40 hours of instruction and assigned a different region of the country. The company tracks their routes with a GPS.

5. Wienermobile passengers ride "shotbun."

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Wienermobile motorists—a.k.a. Hotdoggers—typically ride in pairs, with the driver keeping an eye on the road and the passenger acknowledging and waving to passersby who want to interact with the vehicle. This is known as riding “shotbun,” and the greetings are mandatory. Some occupants have reported that even after going off-duty, they’ll keep waving to other drivers out of habit.

6. The Wienermobile interior is just as delicious.

Wienermobile fans who are invited to board—and promise to fasten their “meat belts” before rolling—are treated to a rare peek inside the vehicle’s interior. Ketchup- and mustard-colored upholstery surround the six seats, with condiment "stains" dotting the floor; for parades, occupants can wave from the “bunroof.” Two accent hot dogs are parked on the dashboard.

7. The Wienermobile once crashed into a house.

Though it can be challenging to pilot an enormous hot dog, most Wienermobiles log mileage without incident. A rare exception: a 2009 accident near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when a driver attempted to back the vehicle out of a residential driveway, thought she was in reverse, but shot forward and bored into an unoccupied home.

8. Al Unser Jr. drove the Wienermobile for laps at the Indy 500.

While one might expect the Wienermobile to have the handling of a tube-shaped camper, some models were surprisingly nimble. Race car driver Al Unser Jr. took to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1988 and drove it for laps. The dog reached an impressive 110 miles per hour.

9. There's a version of the Wienermobile called a "Wienie-Bago."

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile WIENIE-BAGO
Oscar Mayer

Super Bowl attendees who couldn’t snag a hotel room in San Francisco for the 2016 showdown between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos had a pork-based solution: Oscar Mayer auctioned off two nights in their Wienie-Bago, an RV that sleeps four. Missed it? If you're in Chicago, you can rent a Wienermobile that sleeps two for $136 a night. A bed, outdoor dining area, and a fridge stocked with hot dogs are all included.

10. You can buy a miniature Wienermobile.

For the 2015 gift-giving season, Oscar Mayer issued a limited-edition, remote-controlled version of the Wienermobile. The 22.5-inch-long mini-dog sent collectors scrambling on Cyber Monday, when the company released just 20 for purchase at a time. The Rover is able to hold two hot dogs for transport across picnic tables. You can still find them on eBay.

Autumnal Dessert Spices and Cubed Meat Collide: Pumpkin Spice SPAM Now Exists

David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

Does sipping on a pumpkin spice latte ever make you think: “Man, I wish this were cubed meat”? Soon, it will be. According to NBC News, Hormel will start selling Pumpkin Spice SPAM on September 23.

It all started back in October of 2017, when Hormel announced via its Facebook page that pumpkin spice SPAM was coming—as a joke. The post clearly stated that it wasn’t real, but that didn’t stop scores of people from making comments about how it would probably taste delicious and asking where they could purchase a can.

Now, a Hormel publicist has confirmed to NBC News that the limited-edition, fall-themed flavor will soon be available to order online from Walmart or Spam.com.

"True to the brand’s roots, SPAM Pumpkin Spice combines deliciousness with creativity, allowing the latest variety to be incorporated into a number of dishes, from on-trend brunch recipes to an easy, pick-me-up snack,” Hormel told NBC News.

While Pumpkin Spice SPAM might not yet be accepted into pumpkin spice canon alongside lattes and muffins, it’s far from the strangest product that has been imbued with the mysterious, cinnamon-y spice blend to date; we’ll leave automotive exhaust spray and light bulbs to duke it out for that designation. And the Facebook commenters might have actually been onto something when they dared to suggest that Pumpkin Spice SPAM had palatal potential. After all, ham recipes often include sweet ingredients like maple syrup, brown sugar, and honey. And, according to TIME, the word spam was invented as a portmanteau of spiced ham.

Wondering what other SPAM innovations you might be missing out on? Check out these recipes from around the world.

[h/t NBC News]

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