Melanie May chills with some of Ireland’s most innovative ice cream producers, talking sundaes, soft serve and sorbets.
There’s nothing quite like the first ice cream of the summer. It is the taste of lazy, sunny days and long hazy evenings. But ice cream is no longer just a humble 99 or block of raspberry ripple. Fun flavours, fresh ingredients and free-from options are all part of the growing artisanal Irish ice cream scene, which was kickstarted by the Murphy brothers back in the year 2000. Since then, an ice cream revolution has swept across the island with small-batch producers and ice cream parlours popping up all over.
Looking to cool down this summer with the hottest ice cream around? Here are our six best Irish artisanal ice cream makers dealing in delicious dairy.
Glastry Farm Ice Cream, Newtownards, Co Down
Glastry Farm on the Ards Peninsula in Northern Ireland has been in the Taylor family for six generations. The ice cream is made with the milk from the pedigree Friesian herd that munches on the grass and clover just metres from the production area. Not only does this contribute to a low carbon footprint, but the production process uses 75% renewable energy and is virtually zero waste.
Will Taylor and his son launched Glastry Farm Ice Cream in 2007. The first flavour was vanilla bean but the range has since expanded. Flavours are influenced by the local landscape and seasonal ingredients like fruit, herbs and honey. There is nothing artificial in any of Glastry Farm’s products.
Most of the products are naturally gluten-free too and the selection of sorbets are all suitable for vegans as they are dairy and egg-free, but still lush and full of flavour — the Pear Sorbet won bronze in the non-dairy category at Blas na hEireann, the Irish National Food Awards.
If you want to get your hands on a tub or two of Glastry Farm Ice Cream, you’ll find them in freezers across the island in Eurospar, Donnybrook Fair and select restaurants, hotels and independent food shops.
Glastry Farm Ice Cream Has Been Good Food Ireland® Approved Since 2009
We stand over our recommendations. With exacting selection and regular review processes, we ensure a rewarding local Irish ingredient-led experience. You can count on it! View Our Glastry Farm Ice Cream Review.
Fabio’s Ice-cream, Sligo Town
Fabio learned the basics of gelato making in his home city of Florence. Gelato is different to ice cream: made with a lower percentage of buttercream, it is churned slower and with less air, and served at a slightly warmer temperature. This makes gelato softer, gives it a denser, creamier mouthfeel with more pronounced flavours and aromas.
Now, using the same traditional methods, Fabio makes hand-churned gelato in his Sligo town café. Flavours change daily but the base of all his gelato is Irish milk. Other ingredients are local, seasonal, organic or wild. In spring, he loves adding Irish rhubarb. In summer, he uses wild, foraged elderflower and basil. He also sources the finest Sicilian pistachios and Tonda Gentile hazelnuts from Piedmont.
Fabio uses gelato as a canvas to tell the story of his home country and his adopted one. His marriage of Irish and Italian ingredients is a match made in heaven.
Fabio’s flavours are as fun as the man himself and include mascarpone cheese with caramelised figs and toasted walnuts and banoffee pie. “I enjoy experimenting with classic food combinations, turning savoury combinations into ice cream flavours,” he shares. “There is always something new on the way, like our Spanish Armada flavour, which is linked to Sligo’s heritage and made with almond and saffron.”
To get a taste of what Fabio is all about, he suggests you try a two-scoop cone with Bull’s Blood (dark chocolate and orange sorbet with cayenne pepper) and WhiteHag Session IPA sorbet. According to Fabio, “You will cry like a baby!” For gelato that will bring a tear to your eye, join the (inevitable) queue at Fabio’s in Sligo town.
Gino’s Gelato, Nationwide
Anthony Murphy and Jonathan Kirwan, both second-generation ice cream men, grew up touring the country in their dads’ ice cream vans. Their obsession with creating the very best ice cream lead them to Italy where they learned the art of gelato making from the masters.
In 2008, they founded Gino’s Gelato using the skills honed in Italy and combining them with the best Irish ingredients. The secret to Gino’s great tasting gelato? “All of our gelatos is made fresh in every store each morning in small batches using 100% organic Irish milk as the base,” Anthony tells us.
Well-known for its wide selection, Gino’s signature flavour is pistachio, which according to Anthony, is “mind-blowingly delicious. So much so that we have beaten the Italians in global competitions!” Not ones to rest on their laurels, Gino’s master gelato makers are always working hard behind the scenes to come up with delicious new flavours.
“We have lots of new flavours this summer including, Greek yoghurt, peach sorbet, coconut sorbet, our brand-new Belgian chocolate recipe and so many more! We are also introducing lots more vegan and dairy-free options to our menu including a whole new sorbet range and some other surprises.”
Spooney’s, Lahinch, Co Clare
Fancy a few scoops by the seaside? Head to Spooney’s in Lahinch for some fresh, small-batch ice cream made with raw Irish milk. This new kid on the block was opened in February 2021 by award-winning chef Denis Vaughan of Vaughan’s Anchor Inn in Liscannor. Spooneys is a family affair with his wife and sons also working in the business.
What makes Spooney’s ice cream so unique is its ‘cow to cone’ ethos. Each morning at 6.30 am Spooney’s collects raw milk from Lacey’s farm in Liscannor, mere minutes away. The milk is then pasteurised by Spooneys before being churned into rich, delicious ice cream using special Italian ice cream machines.
The queues along the prom tell you all you need to know about their delicious and quality offering. Try a simple cone with a scoop of mint or chocolate hazelnut or go wild with a kaleidoscopic Super Sundaes. Kids love the soft serve tubs loaded with toppings and sauces. Favourites include the strawberry themed Spooney’s Mess (a riff on Eton Mess), the bubblegum and Smarties Unicorn, and the Oreo Nutella chocolate feast.
Flavours change regularly, with classics like pistachio, fresh strawberry, vanilla and chocolate hazelnut joined by rum and raisin honeycomb and mint. Extra creamy, you can have your ice cream served in a crunchy waffle basket or cone, or slurp it as a milkshake. Perched on the Prom, overlooking the beach, this waterside ice cream parlour is in the perfect spot to enjoy every lick or slurp as you tuck in.
Bueno, Tullamore, Rathcoole and Castleknock
Bueno ice cream sprung to life as a pop-up during the height of the pandemic. A mighty testament to its popularity, there are now three locations across Ireland where you can treat your tastebuds to its silky soft serve, whipped ice cream.
At Bueno, the ice cream is made from scratch every day on-site. The base for the ice cream is the finest Irish milk and cream from the award-winning Village Dairy in Carlow. Once you taste whipped ice cream made from fresh raw ingredients you’ll realise that not all ice cream is created equal. You might have ninety-nine problems but your 99 ain’t one.
Bueno is known for its fun, playful concoctions including its scrumptious sundaes and marvellous milkshakes. Dairy decadence is the theme with menu items like the toasted s’moreo sundae with Oreo crumb, marshmallow fluff and chocolate sauce and milkshakes blended with locally made salted caramel and topped with real dairy cream. You can also make your own creations with all manner of fixings including fizzy cola bottles, breakfast cereal and a rainbow of colourful confectionery.
Scúp, Wexford Quay
Former Wexford hurler Willie Devereux set up Scúp handmade luxury Gelato in 2014 with his mother Siobhan. Together they make luxurious gelato, handcrafted in small batches using the finest natural ingredients.
It all starts, of course, with the cow. “Irish dairy produce is highly regarded as some of the best in the world, so that’s where we start, with Ireland’s amazing milk and cream,” says Scúp. Other ingredients are sourced locally and internationally including fresh Wexford strawberries, Sicilian Bronte pistachios and Madagascan vanilla. The mixture is churned into creamy, smooth, flavoursome gelato. Apart from the quality raw ingredients, the luxuriousness of Scúp gelato comes from its rich texture – the recipe was developed by an Italian master gelatiere.
Sorbets are also made using local fresh produce, for example, the frozen yoghurt sorbet is made using Killowen and Mr Jeffares Blackcurrants. Scúp supplies many of Ireland’s hotels and restaurants with sophisticated flavours like lemon and basil, bergamot and Campari, gin and Champagne.
Fortunately for us, Scúp has opened a stand-alone gelato shop on Wexford Quay where we can dine out on their gelato and sorbet. For those who love soft whip, Scúp has created a 99 which is made daily using fresh milk and cream.
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