The jangle of music box melodies blaring from ice cream trucks heralds the start of summer in most parts of the world, but for The Daily Meal, it’s always ice cream season. In 2016, we scooped, spooned, and licked our way around the world to debut the World’s 35 Best Ice Cream Parlors and then went for a second helping in 2017 with World’s 35 Best Ice Cream Parlors, but now we’re back for another installment. We’ve expanded our list to 50 iconic ice cream and gelato makers, and we’re including ice cream parlors as well as scoop shops in the mix, offering up a triple scoop of the best ice creams (and gelatos) around the world.
Although first invented in the fourth or fifth century B.C., ice cream has existed in something close to its current form since the 1500s or 1600s in France, with recipes appearing in England in the 1700s. It was then that Thomas Jefferson first tried (and adored) it during a visit to Europe, and he is generally credited for its immense popularity in America. Although Jefferson is not believed to have actually introduced ice cream to the States, his cooks famously prepared it for him on a regular basis, and by serving it to his powerful guests he helped to make it trendy.
Determining who makes the best ice cream is serious business. The ice cream business in the U.S. contributes more than $39 billion to the national economy, according to the International Dairy Food Association. Due to ice cream’s storied history and our love of frozen treats and travel, we couldn’t possibly limit this list to only American ice cream shops (and American-style ice cream), so you’ll see Italian gelato (which is more dense than ice cream and has a slightly different recipe) and variations from several different countries around the world as well.
To compile the list, we turned to our talented team of travel and food editors, writers, and contributors who have traveled extensively, taste-testing ice cream in all corners of the world. We started with a list of 150 ice cream parlors and shops and whittled the list down via a scoring system that evaluated establishments based on six factors: recipe and preparation; ingredients (freshness, lack of additives, etc.); taste and texture; originality and creativity; ambiance, service, and experience; and acclaim (critical and overall popularity with locals and visitors alike). With the number of old school ice cream parlors dwindling and an increasing number of artisanal and experimental scoop shops opening, we expanded the judging criteria to scoop shops to allow for more establishments to be included.
Our list includes 50 ice cream purveyors in 18 countries and 41 cities. Half of the ice cream shops on the list are in the United States. Four of the original shops on our inaugural ice cream parlor list have shuttered: Vipiteno Gelateria in São Paulo, Brazil, 18 Smaker in Stockholm, Sweden, A.M. Scannapieco in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Tepoznieves in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. For the 50 who have made our list, we tip our spoons to these and all other ice cream makers who are striving to churn the best ice cream and gelato one scoop at a time. The future of ice cream creation is sweet, and we look forward to what’s next. In the meantime, we celebrate the World’s 50 Best Ice Cream Parlors.
Additional reporting by Dan Myers and Matt Sulem.