Ice cream has an extensive, storied, and international history. While its place of origin is unclear — everyone from the Arabs, the Chinese, and the Quakers has been credited with its creation — we know ice cream was once reserved as a luxurious treat for the elite, according to the International Dairy Foods Association. During the Roman Empire, Nero Claudius Caesar often sent servants into the mountains to fetch snow, which he had flavored with fruits and juices. More than 1,000 years later, Marco Polo is said to have returned to Italy from the Far East with a recipe that closely resembled what is now known as sherbet. Once ice cream production became a bona fide industry, its popularity soared, prompting the boom of ice cream parlors and decadent ice cream creations.
Many of us have been chasing down the ice cream truck since we were kids. Why do we love ice cream — and its counterparts gelato, frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet, frozen custard, and ices — so much? Perhaps because nothing captures pure joy and innocence like a dripping ice cream cone on a summer day. Ice cream is a universal obsession. From the ever-expanding diversity of out-there flavors to ice cream sandwiches, pops, floats, and sundaes, the ice cream spectrum continues to expand around the globe. At the same time, ice cream makers are can be seen returning to their roots, often sourcing their cream closer to home from dairy farms that raise cows hormone-free. And while some toppings are so off-the-wall there’s no way they could be natural, many shops opt for organic garnishes, resulting in unobstructed ecstasy in every lick.
Given all of the spectacular ice cream shops around the world, it’s no easy task to narrow down a list of the best ones. Competition was fierce. But we have the scoop on the best parlors to satisfy your creamy cravings around the globe, and we’re confident these parlors will live up to all your expectations. Our ice cream picks were selected based on five criteria. We looked at critical acclaim (any awards or recognition an ice cream shop has been given); the quality of ingredients (where they are sourced from and whether they are organic, dairy-free, etc.); originality (innovative approaches to making and serving ice cream); exceptional service (customer service that goes above and beyond); and customer experience (what people are saying about a shop).
Going off of last year’s 25 Best Ice Cream Parlors Around the World, this year we added a few more shops to our list that we felt deserved recognition. Some additions, like CoolHaus, known for its design-your-own gourmet ice cream “sammies” and which came in at number eight (previously Murphy’s), shined above many shops on last year’s list, knocking them to a lower ranking, given competitive factors like customer experience and originality. Other renowned favorites like Bar Gelateria Ercole, (ranked number two) famous for its tartufo (truffle), remained at the top of our list given its proven exceptionality in all the criteria we considered.
Specializing in excess, Denmark’s Vaffelbageriet’s most popular item is the "Amerikaner," packing up to four scoops of ice cream in a cone and topped with syrup, whipped cream, and a chocolate-covered meringue puff. Simmo’s Ice Creamery in Australia went from a tiny father-and-son creamery, founded in 1993 with just an old Irish recipe and an ice cream machine, to an award-winning shop with over 60 traditional and unique ice cream flavors like “Mango Macadamia,” “Rum and Raisin,” and “Orange Chocolate Chip.” In Italy, the ice cream sandwich takes an unusual form at Antico Caffè Spinnato, where gelato is served on fresh-baked brioche bread.
Think we missed out on a time-honored ice cream parlor or celebrated newcomer? We’re always on the lookout for new places and undiscovered gems that deserve to be celebrated so write us a note or comment on places we should be aware of below.
Haley Willard is The Daily Meal's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter @haleywillrd. Additional reporting by The Daily Meal’s special contributor Erica Rivera.
This article was originally published May 22, 2014.