The other week, my buddy Spike happened to be passing through the town where I live. He wanted to know if he, his girlfriend Annie and their very good dog Edgar could crash overnight. I was away on vacation myself, but we figured out how to get them a key, and they made themselves at home. I was glad. But when I got home a few days later, I felt a strange sense of disappointment. It wasn’t just that I’d missed hang time with good people, and it certainly wasn’t that they’d trashed the place or anything. It was a deeper sadness.
They hadn’t left a Smirnoff Ice for me to find.
This may be difficult to understand for anyone who was not of drinking age and shitlord comportment in the spring and summer of 2010, when the “icing” craze swept through 20-something culture like sugary wildfire. Although the origins of this game remain murky — and truthers still believe it was a marketing stunt cooked up by Smirnoff itself — the rules have never been in doubt: If someone presents you with a Smirnoff Ice, you take a knee and chug it down, unless you have an Ice of your own to “block” theirs, in which case they are forced to chug both bottles.
The fad was catalyzed by a short-lived website called “Bros Icing Bros,” which collected photos and videos of bros being forced to gulp various flavors of the gross, frequently room-temperature alcopop.
Back then, Spike and I and other pals were icing each other constantly. You never knew when it might happen, and it always cracked us up. Our weekend at Sasquatch Music Festival was the height of this nonsense, though I also remember icing both a bride and groom at their wedding afterparty (the bar had to cut us off), and a few of us left Spike a sneaky Ice in his luggage during a trip to Amsterdam so he’d stumble across it when packing to fly back to the U.S. and have to chug it all alone, on the honor system (he did). Eventually, though, like everyone else, we stopped investing in Smirnoff six-packs for these puerile purposes.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself… why?
Now, eight years later, icing is more powerful a gesture than it ever was. It represents a commitment to history — and a triumph of memory. The isolated Smirnoff Ice is nothing short of miraculous, and the further we get from the malt beverage’s true heyday, the funnier its spontaneous appearance becomes, because who the hell is doing this in 2018? Heroes, that’s who.
The unspoken rule of icing is that the game cannot end. The people keeping it alive understand this, and they won’t let us forget it.
I happen to believe that we’ve arrived at the perfect moment for an icing renaissance. It’s the dog days of summer, everything is on fire, and we may as well pickle our brains in a drink that nobody actually enjoys.
Consider how the Awl co-founder and booze expert Alex Balk wrote about the icing phenomenon just after its peak: “America was in a bad place. The economy, which had nearly collapsed two years earlier, was still struggling badly, and the political will to address its problems was lacking.” The prankish fad, he argued, “was almost some sort of mass delusion in which society convinced itself that if everyone decided to participate in the icing our problems would mysteriously vanish and life would return to the normality we knew just a few years earlier.” You know who else could use that kind of communal escape? ALL OF US, RIGHT THIS MINUTE.
I realize some will say that intoxication needn’t be a competitive sport, that real adults can enjoy a regular beer or craft cocktail without these theatrics and that society may fall apart if we go hard on the icing again. I say: Bring it on.
Ice your parents. Ice your professor. Ice the dude whose pizza you’re delivering. Add the inalienable right to ice to the Constitution and vote for anyone who promises to ice Ted Cruz as soon as they’re sworn into Congress. Can you imagine that miserable shit trying to choke down 32 ounces of this milky carbonated swill on C-SPAN? What’s he going to do, refuse?
If only to accelerate the annihilation of our garbage country and failed species, we should welcome Smirnoff Ice back into our daily routines. We should wonder at every moment, “Will I, at any point in the next hour, have to pound a so-called ‘Peach Bellini’ that feels like it’s dissolving my tooth enamel?” More optimistically, I’m envisioning a future where instead of Kendall Jenner handing a riot cop a Pepsi, she ices him — and the crowd goes wild. We are so enmeshed in the hostilities of “owning” and “triggering” each other these days that we’ve forgotten the power of benevolent trolling to promote egalitarian bonds.
For icing takes as its prime ingredient the acceptance of small miseries in light of a greater good. The icee does not fight their fate but bravely submits to the ritual, quite aware that they’re expected to uphold a sacred code.
And that soon enough, they’ll have their revenge.