You can thank a little St. Louis Custard stand for the tradition. 
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Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN / Staff / Getty Images

At this point in the ice cream and fast food chain's 80-year history, almost every American has heard of Dairy Queen, but fewer people have actually been to a Dairy Queen. That much was evident from some of the confused reactions to Joe Biden flipping a DQ Blizzard upside down in a tweet from the campaign trail.

Was it a confusing gaffe from the former vice president? No. In fact, it was an homage to a longtime tradition that probably requires some explanation. 

According to DQ legend, the story of the flipped Blizzard can be traced back to the St. Louis area — and actually comes from a rival custard stand called Ted Drewes. As St. Louis Magazine tells it, back in the summer of 1959, a local 14-year-old named Steve Gamber kept going by a particular Ted Drewes location every day, constantly asking for thicker and thicker malts. Because 14-year-old boys have a tendency to be incredibly annoying, Ted Drewes, Jr. eventually reached his breaking point. 

"Just to shut me up, Ted turned the malt upside down right in front of me and said,'Is this thick enough for you? If it falls out, it's free,'" Gamber told St. Louis Magazine back in 2009. Thus, the "concrete" shake, a St. Louis staple, defined by its gravity-defying marketing angle, was born.

Fast forward to the 1970s, when St. Louis businessman Sam Temperato, who owned dozens of area Dairy Queen franchises, enters the story. Surprised by the ability of the comparatively small Ted Drewes brand to successfully withstand the blitz of Dairy Queens, Temperato decided to do what enterprising captains of industry have done for hundreds of years: take an existing successful idea, modify it slightly, and pass it off as his own invention. 

By 1983, Temperato proposed the idea of a frozen treat made with super-thick soft serve, throwing in bits of fruit and candy to compliment the product. Using a phrase Dairy Queen had trademarked in the 1950's, the Blizzard would eventually make its debut in 1985, selling 100 million units in its first year alone. The idea of flipping it upside-down before serving, a selling point from the beginning, only added to the phenomenon. 

Thirty-five years later, the Blizzard flip endures. To this day, Dairy Queen still occasionally reminds folks that their Blizzard is free if the employee who serves it to you doesn't successfully complete the flip first. Of course, it's worth pointing out that an FAQ page indicates that the "flip or free" offer is up to the discretion of individual DQ franchisees.

Of course, even a guarantee that your Blizzard is thick enough to chill out upside down without falling out isn't accurate 100 percent of the time, as indicated by the 6,000 comments in a Reddit thread chronicling the experience of people who've seen their Blizzard spill. Maybe that little element of risk adds to the excitement?

Regardless, don't think of the Blizzard flip as a recent viral phenomenon, but as an enduring homage to an incredibly thick frozen treat that should serve as an enduring point of civic pride for St. Louisans — no matter what they may choose to call it.