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Scoops of creamy Thai Tea from Sweet Action Ice Cream —Photo by Rachel Adams

Denver’s 25 Best Ice Cream Flavors

The best tastes of summer’s sweetest treat.

By , |

Oh, ice cream! Is there a sweeter, more satisfying treat on the planet? Anything that symbolizes summer more? Nope, we can’t think of one either. In order to demonstrate our devotion to the dessert, we stalked the Denver and Boulder areas for the very best flavors. Here, the 25 scoops to add to your summer to-do list. (Catch ’em if you can, at all of these shops, flavors rotate in and out.)

Bonnie Brae’s Cappuccino Crunch combines coffee ice cream and chocolate-covered toffee pieces.

Bonnie Brae

Cappuccino Crunch

Ice cream lovers have been packing this old-school Denver creamery for 30 years, which is no surprise given the charming retro digs and extensive roster of rotating flavors (32 on any given day). Order a scoop of the crowd favorite, Cappuccino Crunch, and enjoy the satisfying combo of coffee ice cream and chocolate-covered toffee pieces on the sunny patio. 799 S. University Blvd., 303-777-0808,

Chaos & Cream

Ask for half Smart Cookie and half Strawberry Avalanche

Inspired by rolled Thai ice cream, Brian Rosen and Bernard Friedman recently launched Chaos & Cream, a mobile cart that makes regular appearances at the Cherry Creek Farmers’ Market. The duo pours thin layers of ice cream base on two wicked-cold (-10° Fahrenheit) metal plates, adds fresh ingredients like Oreos or strawberries, and smashes and scrapes the combo until blended. Once frozen, the treat can be rolled up and eaten on the spot. Chaos & Cream offers dreamy flavors like Sam’s Blackberry Cheesecake and Magically Delicious (Lucky Charms), but we prefer to order half Oreo and half Strawberry. 720-504-7655,

D Bar

Flavor: Strawberry Cheesecake

With so many ways to satisfy a sweet tooth at Uptown’s D Bar, choosing can be a bit overwhelming. We’ll make it easy for you: Go straight for the Strawberry Cheesecake gelato. This summer-only flavor features vibrant swirls of fresh strawberry compote and chunks of tangy cheesecake in a thick vanilla base. 494 E. 19th Ave., 303-861-4710

Em’s Ice Cream

Vanilla

This one-year-old food truck’s take on vanilla ice cream is anything but plain vanilla. The USDA-certified organic custard base is infused with fresh vanilla beans, extract, and powder for a triple threat of pure, dreamy flavor. It might not be the most exciting item on the menu, but New England–inspired Em’s certainly does it justice. Get it through October at Civic Center Eats every Wednesday; check out the cart on the 16th Street Mall (between Curtis and Champa streets); or enjoy a scoop at Red Rocks. 617-388-5349

Fior Di Latte

Peanut Butter Chocolate

You can be sure that every treat you sample at this sleek Boulder gelateria was made that day. That commitment to freshness means that even simple flavors—like our favorite, the rich Peanut Butter Chocolate—are stop-you-in-your tracks good. Pro tip: Don’t see the flavor you like? Leave a note for the chef. Fior Di Latte bases its upcoming flavor selections on customer feedback. 1433 Pearl St., Boulder, 720-269-4117, also in Denver at the Union Station Farmers’ Market

From bottom up: Frozen Matter’s Manquila Sorbet (mango-tequila), Absinthe Flambé, and Strawberries & Cream

Frozen Matter

Milk and Cookies and The Beet Goes On

Calling all Cookies and Cream lovers: Frozen Matter’s is the best we’ve ever tasted. The Uptown shop uses a large batch of Newman’s Own sandwich cookies—two-thirds of which steep in the organic base for 24 hours before being blended into the custard and one-third of which are chopped up as an add-in. The result is an ice cream that tastes like a chocolate malt studded with huge pieces of cookie. Also try the Beet Goes On, a gorgeous and delicate beet ice cream that resists falling into the vegetal category by leaning on sweetness from honey and cinnamon. 530 E. 19th Ave., 720-600-6358

Glacier Homemade Ice Cream & Gelato

Butter Pecan

A classic it may be, but finding a decent rendition of Butter Pecan isn’t easy. While many versions suffer from cloying sweetness or a synthetic butter flavor, the 15-year-old, Boulder-born Glacier chain restores the treat to its former glory. You’ll find a smooth, Philadelphia-style base infused with a hint of butter and studded with big chunks of nutty pecans. Multiple locations

Burnt Honey ice cream at Boulder’s Heifer and the Hen

Heifer and the Hen

Burnt Honey and Blackberry-Star Anise Sorbet

Pull up a swing at Heifer and the Hen’s float bar (it’s all exactly as it sounds) and revel in a scoop of the Burnt Honey. To make this flavor, Boulder chef Ian Clark swirls warm, caramelized honey from Longmont-based Highland Honey Bees into a sweet cream base. The herbal, slightly floral notes of the honey offset the rich custard. As an alternative, the Blackberry-Star Anise sorbet is tart, refreshing, and super sophisticated. 5290 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 720-328-3159

High Point Creamery

Mint Chocolate Bark

Ice cream used to just be a sweet treat, but at High Point Creamery in the Hilltop Neighborhood, the dessert morphs into sophisticated and complex territory. Take the Mint Chocolate Bark, which is a polished juxtaposition of steeped mint leaves and hand-chipped Callebaut milk chocolate. If you can’t decide on a single flavor, order an ice cream flight. 215 S. Holly St., 720-420-9137

Ice Cream Riot

Cheddar Goldfish

Among the tubs of ice cream studded with Apple Jacks, Fruity Pebbles, and Pop Tarts at this punky Capitol Hill space, you’ll find the Cheddar Goldfish variety. While the combo—comprised of a blended Goldfish and sweet cream base and topped with a generous sprinkling of the Pepperidge Farm crackers—sounds downright weird, the sweet-salty balance makes it surprisingly crave-able. (Heads up: The shop’s rock-star vibe comes with a too-cool attitude.) 1238 E. Colfax Ave., 720-475-1853

Inside Scoop Creamery

Lemon Crunch

At Inside Scoop, straightforward sweets like Lemon Crunch shine, thanks to their ultracreamy, unbeatably thick texture. The flavor is a perennial favorite, with a refreshing interplay of citrusy ice cream and crisp lemon wafer cookies. 1535 Platte St., and 5654 S. Prince St., Littleton, 303-798-4768

The Inventing Room

Salted Caramel

The key to the Inventing Room’s insanely smooth ice cream is ice crystals that are so minuscule, you can’t detect them. That’s what happens when science-loving chef Ian Kleinman uses liquid nitrogen’s extreme cold to freeze the downtown shop’s custard base. Taste the incredible results in the Salted Caramel, which perfectly melds the opposing sweet and salty tastes. 2020 Lawrence St., 303-885-2802

Liks Ice Cream

Chai Tea

The telltale spicy notes—ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon—of this Asian milk tea find a creamy balance in this Liks’ scoop. The Capitol Hill shop has been dishing ice cream since 1976, and flavors constantly rotate so if you see this flavor in the case, nab some. Order a cone or, even better, a milk shake and consider it the ultimate iced chai latte. 2039 E. 13th Ave., 303-321-2370, and 10903 U.S. Highway 285, Conifer, 303-816-5457, liksicecream.com

Little Man Ice Cream

Banana Pudding

Banana can go right or it can go wrong, but at Little Man it’s oh so right. Here, a banana ice cream base is generously swirled with Nilla Wafer crumbs and marshmallow. The result is an ice cream that isn’t uniformly mixed, so each bite offers more than one note or texture. 2620 16th St., 303-455-3811 (also available at the Milkbox Creamery, Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop St., 720-460-3707)

Lucky’s Bakehouse & Creamery

Malt Shoppe

This North Boulder shop scratch-makes its flavors daily, ranging from classic to wacky (Raspberry With Corn Streusel; Pineapple-Jalapeño sorbet). We can’t get enough of the Malt Shoppe, however: Malted milk powder flavors the ice cream base, and crushed, chocolate-covered malt candies are sprinkled throughout to add crunchy nuggets of texture. 3990 Broadway St., Boulder, 720-596-4905

Marczyk Fine Foods

Pistachio

We’re of the mind that a truly great pistachio ice cream is the Holy Grail. And we’re pleased as punch to announce we’ve found it in Marczyk’s freezer aisle. It’s not creepy green and it doesn’t skimp on nuts; instead, this flavor starts as a house-made pistachio butter that’s churned into a thick base. The treat is so absurdly rich that a few bites are all you need—and that’s a fine thing. 770 E. 17th Ave., 303-894-9499, and 5100 E. Colfax Ave., 303-243-3355

Nuggs Ice Cream

Tiki Torched Toasted Coconut

A just-made waffle cone filled with scoops of Nuggs’ Tiki Torch Toasted Coconut will set you right, no matter the occasion. The key to this flavor is the texture and heft that come from copious amounts of shredded coconut churned into a creamy base. The shop toasts about three-quarters of the coconut to bring out the delicate nuttiness, which offers dimension and decadence. 5135 E. Colfax Ave., 720-465-9473

SnowLab

Matcha Green Tea

OK, so Taiwanese-style shaved snow isn’t technically ice cream, but one bite of SnowLab’s Matcha Green Tea and we think you’ll forgive us. Bright green in color and earthy-sweet in flavor, each spoonful is as refreshing as it is decadent—especially when topped with mochi and drizzled with condensed milk. Check the board for seasonal flavors and for tried-and-true combos, or create your own. Bonus: Shaved snow is vegan and dairy-free. 4360 E. Evans Ave., 720-612-4546

Steuben’s Arvada

Chocolate Fudge Ripple

Shortly after Steuben’s opened its second location, in Arvada, last March, pastry director Nadine Donovan unveiled a new, scratch-made ice cream program. We’re glad she did, as the always-on-the-menu Chocolate Fudge Ripple hits the spot when we’re craving a nostalgic treat. Bonus: As of May, ice cream is now available at Steuben’s Uptown location as well. 7355 Ralston Road, Arvada, 303-830-0096, and 523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001

Scoops of Thai Iced Tea from Sweet Action Ice Cream

Sweet Action Ice Cream

Thai Iced Tea and Vegan Red Velvet

We couldn’t pick just one from this groundbreaking shop whose flavors always surprise. The Thai Iced Tea is so thick and earthy and rich (close your eyes and you’re in a Thai restaurant) that we order it whenever we see it in the case. And the Vegan Red Velvet perfectly illustrates Sweet Action’s counterculture niche: There are always at least four vegan flavors that entice. The Red Velvet—a coconut and vegan cream cheese frosting base swirled with what must be a whole red velvet cake—is good enough to order even if you worship milk and cream. 52 Broadway, 303-282-4645

Sweet Cow

Apple Pie

With 24 flavors a day (15 of which rotate bimonthy), Sweet Cow will likely have what you crave. As for us, we go straight to the Apple Pie. You know that perfect bite of apple pie à la mode—the one that gets a little of the tart-sweet filling, a little of the buttery and crumbly crust, and a little of the cool vanilla ice cream? Now, imagine a whole scoop of that Nirvana. Multiple locations

Two Spoons

Kiwi-Watermelon Sorbet

While the Oatmeal Cookie and Chocolate-Hazelnut gelatos tempt at this tiny Boulder cafe, the Kiwi-Watermelon sorbet is a sleeper hit. We could eat this endlessly refreshing frozen treat—which highlights both fruits at their juicy, vibrant best—every day in the summertime. 1201 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-545-0027

—All photos by Rachel Adams

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