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Ice cream is one of the most delightful culinary creations known to humankind. Our travels around the world usually include tasting ice cream from diverse places like Greece, Cuba, China, Italy, and Brazil. And when something special like huckleberry ice cream catches our attention, we search high and low to find the best version of it. So an ice cream tasting is not only fun but can tune your taste buds into the subtleties of ice cream you can discover, whether far away or close to home.

Types Of Ice Cream Tastings

Ice cream tastings can take various forms. One way would be to taste several flavors made by a favorite brand. Haagen Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s are widely available and offer lots of choices. Another approach would be to try a favorite ice cream served in a variety of ways. Ice cream served in a cone, cup, hot fudge sundae, banana split, milkshake, ice cream pie, sandwich, taco, or cake are just a few ideas.

But we’re going to show you how to do a flavor tasting. This way, you will choose some flavors and compare them among a variety of brands. We’ll get you started with some of the best flavors to do across-the-board tastings. Check out our article on how to create a memorable tasting for more ideas.

1. Vanilla

You might be surprised that far from being “plain vanilla,” when it comes to ice cream, vanilla has more variations than almost any other flavor. Perhaps that’s why vanilla ice cream has reigned supreme as the favorite ice cream flavor for decades. It does make the perfect backdrop for any number of mix-ins, add-ons, toppings, and accents. But as a standalone flavor, vanilla offers a huge variety all on its own. Natural vanilla, classic vanilla, homestyle, French vanilla, extra creamy, slow-churned, and vanilla bean are just a few of the many styles of vanilla ice cream available for tasting.

If you’d like to have an all-vanilla tasting, choose a brand that offers many options, such as national brands like Breyers or a favorite local brand you may have. We love Babcock vanilla ice cream produced by the University of Wisconsin’s agricultural program.

2. Chocolate

For many, chocolate is the ultimate ice cream flavor. And like its opposite twin vanilla, there are plenty of chocolate ice creams to taste. You can go for regular chocolate or widen your choices to include classic, dark, Dutch, old-fashioned, milk chocolate, and more. Blue Bunny, Turkey Hill, Edy’s, Dreyer’s, and Haagen Dazs offer a variety of options. To broaden your chocolate ice cream tasting even more, you can include some chocolate plus chocolate mix-in varieties such as chocolate truffle, chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate fudge, or chocolate ribbon/swirl. Chocolate lovers will find this tasting irresistible.

3. Chocolate Chip

Our personal favorite, chocolate chip ice cream, offers the best of both worlds. Vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips provides the creamy deliciousness of vanilla with crunchy bits of chocolate speckled throughout. And though it seems like a pretty common combination, there is more variety here than you would expect. Some brands use regular chips while others use chunks of chocolate. The chips or chunks can be milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate and vary in size. If you want to be creative, you can extend your chip-based ice cream tasting to include other popular options such as mint chocolate chip, mocha chocolate chip, or cherry chocolate chip.

Graeters cherry chocolate ice cream.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

Our top choices tend to be local and regional brands such as Purple Door in Milwaukee or Chocolate Shoppe in Madison, Wisconsin. Cherry chocolate chip fans will not want to miss Ben And Jerry’s famous Cherry Garcia, which also has an interesting story about how it came to be.

4. Strawberry

While we may hold onto memories of sad, pink, chemically tasting strawberry ice cream from our distant youth, today’s ice creameries offer a whole lot of much better options. While you still might find the pinky goop of yore, today’s strawberry ice creams often contain pieces of real berries in them. That’s one of our favorite reasons for doing a strawberry ice cream tasting. Some may have a pink tone, while others appear like vanilla with strawberry pieces or slices mixed in.

You can decide which approach you like best by comparing them all. Haagen-Dazs and Breyers are two tasty and widely available brands to get you started. For those more adventurous, include additional flavors like strawberry cheesecake or strawberry shortcake to enhance your strawberry ice cream tasting. Local providers will likely have the freshest flavors, so try to include at least one local option in your ice cream tasting if you can.

5. Cookies And Cream

Cookies and cream ice cream didn’t always exist. In fact, its existence is credited to folks at the campus dairy plant at South Dakota State University who came up with the idea and made the first batch in 1979. The rest, as they say, is history. You can find cookies and cream ice cream from almost all the big ice cream brands these days, including the ice cream stores of our childhood, Baskin-Robbins. There is a heated debate among fans of the flavor as to whether the cookies should be ground up or left in chunks. Most agree that chocolate sandwich cookies with vanilla cream filling are the best for the flavor. Try different styles and decide for yourself which reigns supreme.

The Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Company.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

6. Cookie Dough

Also known as chocolate chip cookie dough, this flavor could be included among enhancements of the chocolate chip ice cream tasting. We think that this fairly new flavor is best approached in a category of its own. You might not be surprised to know that the idea for cookie dough ice cream came from a suggestion submitted by an anonymous fan in the first Scoop Shop of Ben and Jerry’s in Burlington, Vermont, in 1984. Everyone loved it so much that it is now not only a staple among B and J’s most popular flavors, but many other brands produce excellent versions of the double treat as well.

There is debate about the perfect ratio of cookie dough pieces to ice cream, but everyone agrees that they make great little treasures buried in rich vanilla ice cream. Along with versions from many ice cream brands, Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough ice cream offers the taste of that homemade cookie favorite recipe.

Moomer's Ice Cream, Traverse City, Michigan.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

7. Your Own Favorite Flavor Or Something New

One thing is certain when it comes to ice cream. There are a lot of flavors from which to choose. Another approach to a fun ice cream tasting is choosing your own favorite flavor or diving headlong into something new. There are classics like rocky road, buttered pecan, birthday cake, and pistachio. Oh, how we love pistachio!

Pro Tip: Haagen-Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s pistachio ice creams are delicious!

Or, throw caution to the wind and find something new that you see across several brands and give that flavor a tasting of its own. Enough brands offer new riffs on coffee, toffee crunch, various fruits, dulce de leche, turtle, salted caramel, red velvet, and many more to make for a fun tasting. Pick a flavor you enjoy and try several varieties for fun. You might just expand your ice cream horizons.

A Deliciously Sweet Food Experience

No matter how you choose to set up your ice cream tasting, it’s pretty sure that you’ll have a great time. You can create a scorecard to keep the brands and flavors clear in your mind. Be sure to sip some water in between tastes so that they don’t cancel each other out. If you like, you can break up some sugar cones and use the pieces as palate cleansers too. Once you have discovered the ice creams you prefer, you can keep some in your freezer for whenever the mood strikes. And, if you have some extra ice cream left from your tasting, you can use them up in other fun ways, from milkshakes to sundaes and even banana splits.

We can all thank Nancy Johnson, who invented the modern ice cream maker in the 1840s. And since the 1920s, I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream, has been a widely treasured tune. No matter the flavor we favor, ice cream is a universal treat we can all enjoy.

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