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-one 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. Or, at least, that was our thinking.
Spurred by our new food section and the knowledge that we could ostensibly be paid to consume an insane amount of ice cream in a ill-advisedly short amount of time, The A.V. Club 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, and our resulting list is below, in ascending order. Please feel free to tell us we’re wrong in the comments below and on Twitter.
19. Banana Split (1 point out of a possible 20)
God, how this Blizzard sucks. In our test, it came out of the DQ kitchens with a watery consistency that was more like a smoothie than a Blizzard. When we finally managed to pour it precariously into our mouths, we were instantly turned off. The bananas were too ripe, giving the ice cream an almost sour taste, and the other toppings—strawberry topping and chocolate fudge—faded into the background—present, but not really. Supposedly there’s also pineapple in it, but we neither tasted nor observed any, though that would explain some of the wateriness. While the concept of a Banana Split Blizzard seems solid—it’s just one form of ice cream turned into another—in execution it failed in pretty much every way.
18. Salted Caramel Truffle (2 points)
On paper, the Salted Caramel Truffle Blizzard sounds like a good idea. It’s got the titular truffles, after all, plus toffee pieces, fudge, and chocolate chunks. In practice, though, it’s a mishmash of poorly layered flavors, all of which mix to form one funky aftertaste. It tastes like a Rolo you found in a winter coat you haven’t worn in years. While it’s kind of amazing how all the flavors really do arrive in waves—ice cream, chocolate, toffee, salt, caramel—there’s never really one that you want to invite to stay.
17. M&M’s Peanut Butter Monster Cookie (2.5 points)
Dairy Queen’s embodiment of a culture that believes everything must be pushed to the maximalist apex, the Monster Cookie Blizzard is the dessert equivalent of chewing on shrapnel. Every time the spoon dredges into this abomination, it’s fighting through a sea of M&M’s, peanut butter topping, chocolate chunks, peanut butter cookies, and utter sadness at the world we have created. Chewing is about as pleasurable as deciding to snack on the insides of a stapler: It’s sharp, jagged, and completely without reward. The peanut butter is okay, though.
16. M&M’s (4 points)
Here’s the thing with M&M’s: They’re great on their own and fucking terrible in ice cream. Unlike other prepackaged treats that give a bit of themselves to the 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.
15. Georgia Mud Fudge (4.5 points)
An off-menu item that doesn’t appear anywhere on the DQ website, the Georgia Mud Fudge Blizzard may have been one of the company’s seemingly brilliant ideas that never really panned out. Like so many Blizzards at the bottom of this ranking, the Mud Fudge Blizzard wastes delicious-sounding ingredients—brownie pieces, cocoa fudge, and pecans—on chocolate soft serve, making the whole thing into a flat-tasting chocolate mess.
14. Double Fudge Cookie Dough (5 points)
Everything we already said regarding Georgia Mud Fudge also applies here, though this Blizzard also kicks things up a notch by nixing the pecans and adding cookie dough. The result is weirdly chewy and needlessly intense. No one other than a chocolate-crazed kid with low standards should order this thing.
13. Chocolate Xtreme (6 points)
Another variation on a theme, Chocolate Xtreme 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 xtremely chocolatey mess that’s more like candy than ice cream. Nothing plays together and nothing is enhanced, making the whole thing entirely forgettable.
12. Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Smash (6.5 points)
The issue with this Blizzard is that it seemingly tries to double up on flavors, meaning that nothing really shines. The chocolate chip cookie dough mirrors the vanilla ice cream a little too closely, and the inclusion of both peanut butter and peanut butter cookies means there are two incredibly similar flavors pushing against one another instead of working together. This Blizzard should be great, but in practice, it suffers from an identity crisis.
11. Heath (7 points)
Although one fellow A.V. Club staffer has intimated that this entire list is invalid because of the Heath Blizzard’s placement, we’re sticking to our guns and say that, honestly, the toffee-heavy Blizzard is kind of a bummer. It’s too crunchy, and the toffee flavor lingers in a way that’s fairly unpleasant—again, even for people who like toffee. It’s unbalanced and off-kilter and, in our opinion, too much.
10. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (7.5 points)
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 into the vanilla ice cream too easily. It’s pleasant and inoffensive, but it’s not worth writing home about.
9. Royal Rocky Road (9 points, tied with Chocolate Covered Strawberry)
The lowest ranked of Dairy Queen’s three new Royal Blizzard flavors, Royal Rocky Road falters because it lives up to its name a little too well. There’s nothing wrong with rocky road as an ice cream, and that’s the problem with this Blizzard: It doesn’t offer anything a scoop of ice cream wouldn’t. Where the other Royals are distinct, the Royal Rocky Road Blizzard exists to mimic something that’s already behind the counter.
8. Choco Covered Strawberry (9 points, tied with Royal Rocky Road)
This one was divisive among our team. Some of us loved the fruity essence the strawberry brought—it was a welcome flavor during the onslaught of Blizzard tasting—while others found it fake-tasting and cloying. Still, Choco Covered Strawberry landed solidly in the upper half of the rankings, an especially good showing considering the Blizzard isn’t even on the menu most of the year. (Our friendly DQ cashier just asked us if we wanted to try it.) Choco Covered Strawberry tastes more grown-up than some of its creamy competitors, and while the chocolate supposedly “covering” the strawberry sauce has a weird aftertaste—a fact made all the more suspicious by the word “choco” in the Blizzard’s name rather than “chocolate”—it’s still worth a go once in a while.
7. Turtle Pecan Cluster (10.5 points)
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.
6. Mint Oreo (11.5 points)
The most divisive of all the Oreo 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. But for us, it’s just the start of Oreo’s dominance.
5. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (12.5 points)
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 may not mix in as well as a softer candy, but it’s not as jarring as M&M’s. It’s a simple item and one that’s rightly considered a classic.
4. Butterfinger (13 points)
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.
3. Oreo (15 points)
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.
2. Royal New York Cheesecake (16.5 points out of a possible 20)
We swear we’re not trying to shill for DQ’s newish Royal Blizzards here, but two-thirds of them really are pretty good. While Royal Oreo is more of a daily eater (Note: Don’t do that unless you’re Michael Phelps or something.), Royal 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 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 that landed at the bottom of this list tanked because they tried to do too much, Royal Cheesecake succeeds on its restraint.
1. Royal Oreo (17.5 points)
The thing with trying to upgrade a classic is that it will always be compared to the original. The Royal Oreo Blizzard doesn’t attempt to change the fundamental truth that Oreos and vanilla ice cream pair well. Instead it makes one simple addition: hot fudge in the center. While a single bite of the Royal Cheesecake might be more pleasing, it’s rich enough to wear you down. Instead, the Royal Oreo is the Blizzard that’s the most enjoyable and requires the least amount of effort over time. Even as it got warm and the ice cream got watery, the pleasant flavors remained. It may not be the most decadent option on Dairy Queen’s menu, but it’s certainly the most pleasing. All hail the Royal Oreo.