Social distancing may keep you from heading home for the holidays this year, but these gourmet ice creams will still get you in the holiday spirit one spoonful at a time.
It’s the holiday season, but increased travel restrictions and a strong desire to protect our loved ones will prevent many of us from heading home this year. While there will certainly be fewer family hugs and a serious lack of ugly sweater parties this season, there’s no reason to celebrate any less. With all the calories you’ll save from canceled cookie swaps and avoiding the bubbly at awkward work functions, this is the year to indulge in gourmet ice creams while you spend the holidays exactly where you spent the rest of this traumatizing year—on your sofa (or in your bed…we’re not judging). With top brands offering mail-order pints nationwide, these are the best seasonal ice creams to make your season a little merrier.
Top Picks for You
Ample Hills Creamery
If grandma’s the one you’ll miss most of all this year, turn to Nonna D. She may not be your grandmother, but she’s the beloved nonna of Ample Hills’ co-founder Jackie Cuscuna, and her oatmeal lace cookie recipe makes its way into each pint of the famous Brooklyn brand’s Nonna D’s Oatmeal Lace ice cream. Crumbled throughout a cinnamon base, each little cookie crunch is like a hug from your own distant grandmother. And you won’t feel bad about making your way to the bottom of the carton because, after all, you know she’d be telling you to eat more if she were here, herself.
N!ck’s serves Swedish style ice cream, which means you can expect a consistency somewhere between traditional hard ice cream and soft serve. And ordering a few pints from this brand is a particularly prudent purchase if you’re trying to fend off the “COVID 19”–just to be clear, we’re talking about the extra pounds from quarantine snacking, not novel coronavirus or its resulting disease. These recipes were designed with diabetics in mind, but don’t expect a flavorless letdown; Nick’s ice creams are seriously rich and, if no one told you they were low-cal, you wouldn’t know. Check out Butter Pekan, which has an intense maple butter base chock full of pecan chunks that will transport you straight to grandpa’s house.
Ice cream’s creamier Italian cousin has exploded in popularity across America in recent years, making “gelato” a household culinary term nationwide. This year’s winter flavors from Gelato Fiasco include Red Flannel Whoopie Pie, Gingerbread Cookie, Dark Chocolate Peppermint, and Gluten-Free Carrot Cake, but don’t overlook year-round favorite, Torched Marshmallow S’more, to bring back fond fireside memories of family fun. With a graham cracker base generously complemented by hefty chunks of truly flavorful chocolate and gooey marshmallow centers, you’ll find it hard to believe this came from the freezer and not the fire.
Cozy Christmas breakfast with the entire fam may be off the table this year, but there’s no reason to miss out if this is your favorite tradition. Eclipse partnered with notable chefs across the nation to develop half a dozen seasonal ice cream collabs that will jazz up your entire season, but two in particular will amp up your breakfast. The sumptuously spiced Turkish Cardamom Coffee pairs perfectly with (or in!) your morning brew, and Figgin’ Delicious brings the thick jammy taste of ripe fig, ideal for heaping on top of decadent holiday waffles or pancakes, especially when drizzled with hot maple syrup. Best of all, all proceeds from these Eclipse seasonals go directly to the charity of the collaborating chef’s choice.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
If you’ve ever dabbled in the delicious world of gourmet ice creams, you’re no stranger to Jeni’s, which has even made its way into many grocery stores across the country. From Brambleberry Crisp to Salty Caramel, their year-round flavors are practically all popular. But this December, splurge on an assortment of this winter’s holiday flavors for some true holiday magic at home. Sugar Plum tastes like biscotti with jam (hello, indulgent holiday breakfast treats); White Chocolate Peppermint brings the flavor of mint chip nonpareils to your bowl; Cognac with Gingerbread evokes a sophisticated boozy cake à la mode; and Sparkling Perry Punch, though a sorbet instead of an ice cream, brings festive holiday brunch vibes to your spoon.
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams has been around for more than 70 years and, while their “no crap added” philosophy is legit, you can expect plenty of desirable add-ins throughout your holiday pints. Where other brands’ peppermint ice cream is often only slightly different from traditional mint, Peppermint Stick comes with chunks of actual candy for a true candy cane flavor and appearance. Reindeer Tracks also comes with peppermint candy pieces, along with chunks of chewy chocolate cookie in a rich chocolate base that takes the thin mint flavor to holiday heights. If you prefer your ice cream less texture-diverse, flavors like Egg Nog and Pumpkin Pie deliver exactly what you’d hope with uniformly solid spoonfuls.
Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream
Kentuckians who can’t make it home to the bluegrass state are particularly blessed by Lexington-based Crank & Boom, which uses local flavors like Kentucky dairy and, of course, Kentucky bourbon in some of its most popular flavors, but everyone can find a sprinkle of holiday cheer in its seasonal small-batch selection. White Chocolate Peppermint, like a melted bar of peppermint bark stripped pure and whipped into creamy goodness, works just as well in a bowl as in your morning coffee (no one’s looking!) and Spice Cookie Crumble brings mom’s cookies to the carton for an extra special pie topper.
Malai Ice Cream
If the holidays traditionally brought far-flung adventures to reconnect with family, or even just jet-set vacations to fabulous destinations, Malai can still get your tastebuds to some places you’d rather be. Inspired by the traditions and flavors of India, many of Malai’s ice creams feature bold spices for evocative bites, but you’ll find plenty of exciting upgrades to traditional favorites, too. For the holidays, try Toasted Nutmeg, created in honor of founder Pooja Bavishi’s grandfather, or Salted Browned Butter Pecan, made with ghee instead of butter, and accented with toasted pecans and a pinch of salt for a fuller flavor that warms your insides (as much as a frozen dessert can, anyway).
Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwiches
Plenty of seasonal ice cream flavors include some cookie crumble for the full holiday experience, but if cookies are at the top of your winter must-list, reach for Nightingale ice cream sandwiches instead of a pint. Made from generously-sized handmade cookies surrounding indulgent butterfat ice creams, these grownup versions of your favorite childhood treat are offered in plenty of classic flavors year-round but come in seriously unmissable combos during the holidays. Have a Caramel Chai with dulce de leche between brown sugar cookies by the fire on a snowy night, or a Chocolate Peppermint Bark between brownie cookies when you finish wrapping presents. Brits, or anglophiles in general, will especially want to bite into the half-dipped Chocolate Covered Orange sandwich.
Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts
Bubbies brings bits of Hannukah and Christmas together for holiday ice cream enthusiasts and steps up the fun by surrounding its premium ice creams in mochi, the rice-paste dessert shell traditional to Japan. You may not be collecting any Hannukah gelt from your cousins after spinning the dreidel this year, but you can still score bites from bubbie and snag a touch of Christmas on the side through the new gingerbread mochi from Bubbies, bursting with all the December spices you’ve come to love no matter which traditions you celebrate. Shinto, Jewish, Christian, or otherwise, ice cream love is universal!