A local sweet treat perfect for these hot and humid dog days of summer is the Northern Kentucky Ice Ball. It’s a cold and colder situation– a combination of a snow cone and ice cream. The Ice Ball is bound to cool you off – and also might give you a brain freeze if you devour it too quickly.
Ice balls are served at Schneider’s Sweet Shop on the Avenue in Bellevue, Kentucky, and at the Sweet Tooth in Newport, Kentucky, both owned by Schneider brothers Jack and Robert Jr., respectively. Schneiders Sweet Shop was founded in 1939 and is also famous for their legacy opera crème candies. Operated by Jack Schneider since 1986, son of the founders Robert and Lillian Schneider, it’s a local icon for candy during the winter and ice cream in the summer. My mom grew up roller skating there from her family house in Dayton, Kentucky, during the summer months to sample their homemade confections.
The Sweet Tooth is run by older brother Robert Jr., who opened it in 1969. And although the two Schneider family businesses operate independently, the Sweet Tooth carries just about the same sno cone flavors, with one difference: they also offer sugar free syrups.
The genius of the Northern Kentucky Ice Ball is the combination of the rich syrupy coldness of the sno cone, with the rich creaminess of the ice cream below. Why the Italians never came up with this– with their gelato and Italian ice – is beyond me. I can see tens of thousands of tourists devouring these on the Spanish Steps in Rome during a summer vacation. There’s also the crunchy texture of the ice, against the smooth texture of the ice cream. And with the variety of flavor combinations – you could get one all summer long and still not exhaust all possibilities.
At Schneiders, you can mix and match any one of their 18 plus homemade ice creams:
vanilla, chocolate, banana, butter pecan, strawberry, chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, cookies and cream, peanut butter, coffee, coconut, moose tracks, chocolate chip cookie dough, black raspberry, chocolate with peanut butter chunks, birthday cake, and German chocolate cake
with their 20 flavors of ice:
Cherry, nectar, lemon, lime, grape, orange, root beer, blue raspberry, peach, strawberry, pina colada, pineapple, tiger blood, cotton candy, watermelon, green apple, amaretto sour, sour cherry, black raspberry and rainbow.
If you do the math, that’s hundreds of possible combinations. Although you can be your own mixologist, some popular combinations are amaretto ice with coffee ice cream, tiger’s blood ice with coconut ice cream, and cotton candy ice with birthday cake ice cream.
Although Schneiders and the Sweet Tooth are the ones known for the Ice Ball, there may be a rival for the first Northern Kentucky stand to add ice cream to a sno cone. In 1919, Ann Wolburn Bezold opened her Ann’s Iceballs and IceHouse behind her husband, Bob’s tavern, where the Green Derby Restaurant now stands. When her husband sold his business in 1940, Ann moved her stand one block east to a small brick building at Ninth and Orchard streets. Ann originally sold her ice balls without ice cream for 3 cents in 1919, then it was 5 cents in the 1950s and 1960s and for 15 cents you could get a scoop of ice cream in the center, which is what Scheider’s calls their ice ball. After Ann’s death, the business was run for 21 years by Bertha Caudill, a long time employee. After going through several more owners, Tom and Sylvia Bush bought the business in 1997, and continued to use Ann’s recipe for sno cones. Sadly, Ann’s is now closed.
I think the next step, at least for this adult beverage lover, is a boozy version of the Ice Ball.