Awful Awful - Gastro Obscura


Awful Awful

This Jersey-born frosty drink is now a Rhode Island favorite.

Why call a drink the Awful Awful, let alone pay to own the name? According to the origin story, a fan once described the 24-ounce beverage as “awful big and awful good.” In hindsight, however, one could also make a case for the name as a result of the drink’s ties to multiple bankruptcies.

Newport Creamery, based in Rhode Island, and Friendly’s, which began in Massachusetts, both distributed the “Awful Awful” in the 1950s. But it was Bond’s Ice Cream of New Jersey that invented the frosty prototype, which blends flavored syrup and “ice milk” (which, according to some recipes, is just an unspecific flavor of ice cream and milk), then trademarked the name in 1948. Bond issued a license to Friendly’s (then known as “Friendly”) and Newport Creamery to use the title, but only outside of New Jersey. Should either business expand into Bond’s territory, they’d need to pick a new name. 

In the 1960s, Friendly’s did exactly that. Customers entered ideas and “Fribble” won. Each of the three participants who suggested the word, which means “a frivolous person, thing, or idea,” won $100. Had Friendly’s waited until the following decade to expand, the contest would’ve proven unnecessary. Bond’s Ice Cream went bankrupt in the 1970s, and Newport Creamery leapt on the “Awful Awful” trademark, which cost them $1,000. 

Fribbles and Awful Awfuls were once the same drink that existed under different names. Today, they’re different recipes. Newport Creamery’s twelve locations (ten in Rhode Island and two in Massachusetts) stick to the original composition, offering flavors such as chocolate, Oreo, coffee, bubblegum, strawberry, and mocha. Friendly’s has changed their formula multiple times, but offers Fribbles made with any of their ice cream flavors. The business, which was started by two brothers selling double-scoops for a nickel in 1935, went bankrupt in 2011. Friendly’s now has about 174 restaurants, down from 360 in 2013.

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