Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Snort a Pterodactyl!

You know those drop dead bars that cater to tastes that nobody has? The ones with 300 different kinds of beer or insane varieties of margaritas?  (Pomegranate? Tuscan apple?)

Well, here's an idea for them.

It comes from Nicola Twilley over at Edible Geography, a site I like to read. Nicola recently talked to Dr. Paul Mayewski, director of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine. He was telling her stories about removing ancient ice cores from Greenland, Chile and the Himalayas and she asked if he ever tastes the ice he pulls from the glaciers. Yup, he said, we do. Not often and just for special occasions, but when they  are finished examining ice that's 10,000 years old and there's no further need for the sample, they shave off a piece, melt it and drink it. It tastes, he says, "about as clean as anything can taste." And here's the surprise: ancient ice comes with a kick.

Mayewski told Edible Geography:

Probably the most exciting thing about it is when you have real ice -- that's where the snow has been gradually compacted and eventually formed into ice, and the density has increased. When that happens, if the ice is old, it will often trap air bubbles in it. Those air bubbles can contain carbon dioxide from ten thousand years ago or even a hundred thousand years ago. And when you put an ice cube of that ice in a glass of water, it pops. It has natural effervescence as those gas bubbles escape. You get a little a puff of air into your nostrils if you have your nose over the glass. It's not as though it necessarily smells like anything -- but when you think about the fact that the last time that anything smelled that air was a hundred thousand years ago, that’s pretty interesting.

What a marketing opportunity! You place your nose very close to the glass, inhale, and what you get is air that has been frozen in place for 100,000 years. Air uncontaminated by coal mines, smokestacks or any of the nasty technologies of the Industrial Age -- air that's pre-Industrial. If you choose a bad year, of course, you might pull in a volcano blast or a really bad forest fire from long ago, but here is a Happy Hour extra that not only cools you down, it lets you time travel, it lets you dream.

Special Thanks to Geoff Manaugh at BLDGblog who also saw this and got me thinking; and to Allie Steinfeld, our illustrator, who imagined our bar in...this has to be Minnesota. Why? Cause of the moose head.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

Robert Krulwich
Robert Krulwich works on radio, podcasts, video, the blogosphere. He has been called "the most inventive network reporter in television" by TV Guide.