Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

Illustration: Nick Wanserski
Illustration: Nick Wanserski

When Dairy Queen introduced the Blizzard in 1985, it was a big step forward in ice cream shop innovation. Before, you had hand-dipped cones and soft serve, sundaes and splits. If your shop knew what it was doing, you might be able to swing a chocolate- or sprinkle-covered cone, and there was always the milkshake. Blizzards changed all that, blending popular sundae toppings—toppings with name brands, even—with Dairy Queen’s signature soft serve. You didn’t just have to have a spoonful of Oreos on your vanilla ice cream anymore. Now, thanks to the magic of the DQ Blizzard machine, you could have a spoonful of Oreos in your ice cream.

Thirty-five years later, the DQ Blizzard has been ripped off and blown up, with the Warren Buffett–owned chain now offering no fewer than 15 Blizzard options at all times, plus seasonal options and off-menu selections. And while Blizzards are inherently customizable—you can add mint flavoring to just about any of the options, for instance, or make any of the Blizzards with either chocolate or twist ice cream—the classics remain classics for a reason. Right?

Spurred by the knowledge that we could ostensibly be paid to consume an insane amount of ice cream in an ill-advisedly short amount of time, The Takeout set out to taste and rank all of Dairy Queen’s available Blizzards. Using an extremely scientific metric, we calculated each item’s tastiness and/or grossness on a 20-point scale, and our resulting list is in this slideshow, in ascending order of greatness. Please feel free to tell us we’re wrong in the comments and on Twitter.

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15. M&M’s (4 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

Here’s the thing with M&M’s: They’re great on their own and terrible in ice cream. Unlike other prepackaged treats that give a bit of themselves to the Blizzard’s dairy base, M&M’s keep their flavor hidden below their hard outer coating. Not just that, they also only get harder when in cold conditions, making their presence in a Blizzard a potential dental concern instead of a simple sweet treat.

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14. Choco Brownie Extreme (5 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

Another variation on a theme, Choco Brownie Extreme blends chewy brownie pieces, chocolate chunks—sorry, “choco chunks,” as per the DQ site—and “cocoa fudge” into vanilla soft serve. You’d never know it was vanilla, though, as the whole thing turns into an extremely chocolatey mess that’s more like candy than ice cream. Nothing plays together and nothing is enhanced, making the whole thing entirely forgettable.

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13. Snickers (6 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

This was a pretty huge disappointment, especially for those of us with a soft spot for Snickers. The Blizzard is simple enough—a chopped-up candy bar and vanilla ice cream—but that simplicity means it’s impossible to ignore how ill-suited these two are for each other. Some Snickers fragments are pointy shards that poke into your gums, some are heavy, dense nuggets that are so chewy they threaten to pull your teeth out. Snickers has always been an aggressively sweet candy, and when combined with the ice cream, it’s just the taste of sugar on sugar. As odd as this might sound, this Blizzard makes a persuasive case for chopped, frozen Snickers to be blended into cold, unsweetened whipped cream, or maybe even (gasp!) frozen yogurt, but never, ever ice cream.

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12. Heath (7 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

Although one of our A.V. Club colleagues has intimated that this entire list is invalid because of the Heath Blizzard’s placement in the rankings, we’re sticking to our guns and maintaining that this toffee-heavy Blizzard is kind of a bummer. It’s too crunchy, and the toffee flavor lingers in a way that’s fairly unpleasant, even for people who like toffee. It’s unbalanced and off-kilter and, in our opinion, too much.

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11. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (7.5 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

Cookie dough is a utility player in the world of Blizzards. It can nestle itself along any of the name-brand candies without upstaging them, and it can fit in with any base flavor well. But those assets are exactly why it ranks so low when isolated. It has an artificial cookie dough flavor, the kind that blends in with the vanilla ice cream too easily. It’s pleasant and inoffensive, but it’s not worth writing home about.

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10. Heath Caramel Brownie (8 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

Speaking of things that are inoffensive and not worth writing home about, we have the Heath Caramel Brownie Blizzard. The best thing this has going for it is that it’s an improvement upon the regular Heath Blizzard. Whereas that one was too crunchy and sticky with toffee pieces, this has all the toffee flavor with a more balanced and pleasant texture. Brownie chunks form a bridge between the smooth ice cream and the shard-like Heath crumbles, though it’d be nice if the brownie pieces were a bit larger, to give you something to really chew on. (Maybe DQ is accounting for those customers who try to eat this thing through a straw.) The consistently annoying thing about this Blizzard is its ribbons of caramel, which zoom straight to your molars and don’t add enough flavor to justify picking them out of your teeth all day.

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9. Turtle Pecan Cluster (10.5 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

The Turtle Pecan Cluster Blizzard is Dairy Queen’s attempt to join Blizzards and sundaes in some sort of unholy union. What makes a Blizzard work is its ability to have flavors mix, while a sundae is all about toppings. The Turtle Pecan Cluster does an admirable job of marrying these two opposing desserts, but it’s hard to nab a single bite that captures the Blizzard’s opposing halves. When everything comes together in a perfectly balanced spoonful, it’s satisfying in a way few other Blizzards are. Sadly, that’s rarely the case.

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8. Mint Oreo (12 points)

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Among the most divisive of all the Blizzards—due in part to one of us not being a fan of mint—the Mint Oreo Blizzard is the one that strives to stand out from its brethren. Fans of mint chocolate chip ice cream will find a lot to love here, in part because the Oreo flavor pairs well with the base. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if mint lovers ranked this one highest out of the pack.

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7. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (12.5 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

Few candies are as divine as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. This is due in large part to peanut butter cups not allowing for much tinkering. There are some novelty shapes here, a bigger size there, and occasionally some different types of chocolate used, but it’s about as straightforward as candy gets. It only makes sense that a Reese’s Blizzard works well even if it’s not the most dynamic. It’s a simple item and one that’s rightly considered a classic.

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6. Butterfinger (13 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

Although the candy sticks to your teeth a little, the Butterfinger Blizzard lands toward the top of this list because of its balance. It’s a little salty, a lot sweet, a little crunchy, and a little squishy. It’s the best of all worlds, with the crispity, crunchity candy bar somehow lending its peanut butter essence to the ice cream via osmosis, taking the whole creamy mess to a whole other level.

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5. Oreo (15 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

The mix-in is what truly defines a Blizzard, and each candy option has its loyalists. That being said, Oreos are a staple of ice cream shop menus for their sheer versatility. They can be crunched up as a topping or swirled inside and work well in both presentations. As the mailman sitting next to us at the Dairy Queen noted, “You can’t go wrong with Oreo,” and he’s right. It might not be the flashiest item on the menu, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s damn good just the way it is.

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4. Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough (16 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

Some snickerdoodles are essentially a butter cookie accentuated with a whisper of cinnamon. Not at Dairy Queen. This frozen interpretation uses so much cinnamon that it toes the line between enjoyable and overload, fortunately stopping just before it goes too far. With plentiful bits of raw cookie dough to be found, this Blizzard is less like a snickerdoodle and more like the ultra gooey, almost raw center of a freshly baked cinnamon bun, served a la mode. If only Dairy Queen could find a way for this Blizzard to be served hot and cold at the same time. Until that sort of technology exists, this chilly cinnamon bun more than suffices.

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3. Royal Reese’s Brownie (17 points)

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As we’ve already established, peanut butter and chocolate are perfect together, so there’s really no way for this to go wrong. And as good as the regular Reese’s Blizzard is, the Royal is exponentially better. If there’s one gripe to be found with Reese’s, it’s that as the price of chocolate has skyrocketed, the quality of the peanut butter cups has noticeably declined. But in the Reese’s Royal Blizzard, chunks of rich chocolate brownies more than make up for any cocoa cost-cutting. And then, in an attempt to reestablish balance between the powers of sweet and salty, the soft serve is given a thick ripple of peanut butter sauce. The resulting Blizzard still flirts with being too sweet to fully enjoy, but if it’s split among friends, it’s a delightful, indulgent treat.

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2. Harvest Berry Pie (18 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

This is the sort of Blizzard that makes you wonder why the hell it took so long for someone at Dairy Queen to mix raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and pieces of graham cracker pie crust into vanilla ice cream. It also makes you wonder if that person got a massive raise and a promotion to Super Duper Executive Vice President, because they deserve it. The berries themselves are real (not gloopy, chemical-tinged “pie filling”), and as they’re individually quick frozen and not thawed before blending, you’ll occasionally find yourself with a whole plump, tart blueberry in your mouth, which is an unexpected delight. This Blizzard tastes like the perfect piece of summertime pie that becomes all the more magical as vanilla ice cream slowly melts atop it, seeping into its cracks and crevices to create a multitude of textures and flavors. It’s luscious and satisfying without being too sweet, and it’s nearly impossible to think of a way for it to be improved upon.

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1. Royal New York Cheesecake (18.5 points)

Illustration for article titled Dairy Queen Blizzards: Our updated rankings

We swear we’re not trying to shill for DQ’s Royal Blizzards here, but they really are pretty good. While Royal Reese’s is more of a daily eater (Note: Don’t do that unless you’re Michael Phelps or something), Royal New York Cheesecake is more suitable for a mini-sized snack. Rich and surprisingly light for a dessert that’s made of presumably shitty cheesecake and a bunch of ice cream, the Royal New York Cheesecake Blizzard is enhanced by the strawberry sauce at its core, which adds a crisp fruitiness not really present in most candy-and-chocolate-centric Blizzards. While many of the Blizzards on this list tanked because they tried to do too much, Royal Cheesecake succeeds on its restraint.

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