students at the Cornell Dairy Bar counter

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A celebration of Big Red ice cream flavors (plus tips to concoct them yourself—or order them to enjoy at home)

By Beth Saulnier

It’s a locavore’s dream: the ice cream made at the Cornell Dairy processing plant in CALS’s Stocking Hall uses milk produced by cows residing in the Vet College teaching barn, a mere quarter-mile away.

The resulting confection is then scooped into cones and dishes just yards down the hall, at the Dairy Bar—run by Cornell Dining and a popular stop for alumni returning to the Hill for Reunion, Homecoming, or a casual visit.

One alum’s five-star review on Yelp might say it all: “It’s just the best ice cream in the world. Perhaps it’s just sentimental and there’s an attachment to this place from my college years, but [it] always hits the spot.”

It’s just the best ice cream in the world.

A Big Red Yelper

In addition to the Dairy Bar—which also sells other products made at the plant, such as chocolate milk and fruit-flavored yogurt—Big Red ice cream is available at various campus eateries and a few other places, including the Cornell Store on the Ithaca Commons and the café at Cornell Tech in New York City.

For Ithaca-area residents, membership in the Cornell Dairy Co-op allows for discounted prices on weekly orders of milk, yogurt, ice cream, butter, and cheese.

According to Dairy staffer Janette Robbins, Cornell’s is the only university creamery that’s certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. (That certification doesn’t apply to cheeses like Big Red Cheddar and A.D. White Cheddar, which use Cornell milk but are made in other campus facilities.)

The Dairy Plant lit up blue in the evening.
At night, Stocking Hall's Dairy Plant gives a futuristic blue cast to Tower Road. (Photo by Cornell University)

In a typical (non-pandemic) year, the Dairy produces about 30,000 gallons of ice cream in some two dozen flavors, including seasonal treats like Clocktower Pumpkin—named in honor of the famous McGraw Tower gourd—and Cornell Maple Walnut, flavored with real syrup from the University’s own Arnot Forest.

In August 2021, a new bespoke confection made its debut; the signature flavor of CALS Dean Benjamin Houlton, it's dubbed Red Benz and is described as "premium ice cream with a subtle licorice flavor, Cornell red color, and white chocolate pieces."

And at the end of the fall 2021 semester, another potential addition to the Dairy's repertoire was crowned, with the naming of “The Berry Great Outdoors!”—a mix of graham cracker swirl, fudge, toasted marshmallow flavor, and berries—as the winner of the annual food science class competition for best ice cream flavor.

Ordering up a taste of the Hill

A couple of years ago, the Dairy made its wares available for purchase online, packed in dry ice and shipping to 49 states, including Hawaii (sorry, Alaska). A long-distance taste of Big Red nostalgia is, admittedly, expensive, with a six-pint order priced at $79, plus shipping—so for many, it’s a special-occasion treat. The Dairy will also create custom flavors, with pricing dependent on ingredients and quantity.

Last year, the Dairy rebranded its packaging and some of its flavors. Now, even ones that are commonly found elsewhere have Cornell-themed names—look for Beebe Black Raspberry and Cascadilla Cookies & Cream—and the pint containers sport such imagery as a Dragon Day beast, the Cornell Chimes, and Touchdown the bear.

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But as always, many of the flavors made on campus are Cornell-specific. And to celebrate this tasty tradition, Cornellians teamed up with the Dairy to showcase these Big Red treats, including instructions on how to concoct approximations of them at home using common ingredients.

Get your cones and spoons ready for…

A hand holding an ice cream cone containing a scoop of vanilla ice cream with brownie pieces and a caramel swirl.

Big Red Bear Tracks

Named in honor of the University’s ursine mascot, it’s vanilla ice cream with brownie pieces and a caramel swirl. To recreate: cut up brownie pieces, add to vanilla ice cream, and drizzle with caramel sauce.

An ice cream cone containing a scoop of caramel ice cream.

Caramel Three Chimes

The Cornell Chimes are played three times a day during the academic year—and this treat is caramel thrice over, flavoring not only the ice cream itself but the swirl and candy cubes incorporated throughout. To recreate: add caramel sauce and salted caramels to vanilla ice cream.

A hand holding an ice cream cone containing a scoop of chocolate ice cream with cookie pieces and a fudge swirl.

Chocolate Gorges

This chocoholic take on cookies and cream—chocolate ice cream with Oreo-style cookie pieces and a fudge swirl—is named for the dramatic features of Ithaca’s landscape. To recreate: add crushed Oreo-style cookies to chocolate ice cream and drizzle with fudge sauce.

An ice cream cone containing a scoop of white chocolate ice cream with a tart cherry swirl.

Alumni Swirl

Traditionally made once a year for Reunion weekend events, this seasonal flavor wears Big Red colors thanks to white chocolate ice cream with a tart cherry swirl, plus pieces of chocolate fudge. To recreate: add chopped white chocolate and fudge chunks to vanilla ice cream and top with cherry sauce.

An ice cream cone containing a scoop of chocolate ice cream with fudge pieces and a fudge swirl.

Triple-Play Chocolate

Sold in a pint container bearing a photo of Hoy Field, this flavor is aimed at Big Red baseball fans. It boasts chocolate three ways: as the ice cream base and with fudge pieces and a fudge swirl. To recreate: add fudge pieces to chocolate ice cream and top with fudge sauce.

A hand holding an ice cream cone containing a scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate flakes.

Cornelia’s Dark Secret

Cornelia, the Dairy’s beloved mascot—a fiberglass statue that was once cow-napped and found abandoned in a field several years later—is the namesake of this combo of vanilla ice cream and chocolate flakes. To recreate: add small chocolate chips or shaved chocolate pieces to vanilla ice cream.

Top image and all ice cream cone photos: Jason Koski / Cornell University

Published October 5, 2021; updated June 29, 2022


  1. Amanda, Class of 2002

    Whatever happened to sticky buns ice cream? That was one of my go to favorites!! It was legen-dairy!

    • Darlene Robare-Kessler, Class of 2000

      haaaa no kidding! that was my team’s flavor we developed in 2000! (glad you like it!)

  2. Melissa Yorks, Class of 1975

    Butter brickle- my roomie and I bought a quart of that weekly. And I’m an actual chocolate fan but that was so good! (to fellow alums who grew up in Syracuse Marble Farms ice cream was just as good especially peppermint patty!)

    • Fran Berlin, Class of 2002

      Marble farms was epic!! Loved the peppermint Patty especially, I could go for that right now. I always got triple play chocolate though at dairy

  3. Brinda Govindan, Class of 1989

    Making me nostalgic for Cornell Dairy and trekking up to the Vet school for Microbiology class with Prof. Paul Vandermark. I now teach the same course to undergraduates in California!

  4. peter Ford nicholson, Class of 1958

    Cornell ice cream is the best but I don’t remember all the cookie candy sweet stuff. I’ll stick to the basic flavors of chocolate, fruit and vanilla bean. Mine was orange pineapple.

  5. peter kaufman phd, Class of 1986

    Where is my favorite flavor: peppermint???? This should be named a Cornell Classic. The flavor is red.

  6. Nigel Colborn, Class of 1968

    Oh how I remember my first ever Cornell icecream! Coming from England, where – in the 1960s – icecream was pretty revolting and something I never ate, my first taste on campus was a heavenly experience. Thanks mainly to Italians, our icecream in UK is a lot better. But nothing has yet equalled the ambrosian deliciousness produced up there in what we used to call the ‘Ag School.’ Long may it continue!

  7. Nancy, Class of 1984

    I was so disappointed that Cornellia Dark Secret was revamped – it used to be white chocolate ice cream with delightful DARK chocolate shavings. I missed the Coconutty Spring thaw this spring…hope it was just a Pandemic casualty.

  8. Howard Koster, Class of 1979

    So happy they now have this stuff at the Cornell Tech Cafe on Roosevelt Island. Worth the tram ride from Manhattan!

  9. Karen, Class of 1962

    Sorry, but I pass. Try Haagen Daz. No additives, just straight-up pure ice cream like grandma used to make.

  10. robert reed, Class of 1968

    HoJo had the best ice cream. The Dairy Bar’s have no additives.

    • Bill Barden, Class of 1975

      How do I order for home delivery? I didn’t see a link anywhere in the story.

      Agree that HoJo’s ice cream was the best commercially available.

  11. Cheri, Class of 2025

    My son came home after Freshman Year forever changed by Cornell Dairy and says our milk no longer tastes good. It is that much better than anywhere else. Will have to try some ice cream next time we’re back.

    • Debbie, Class of 1989

      I had to break home Cornell’s chocolate milk every trip. My family claims it tastes better than every other brand.

  12. Lois Roth-Johnson, Class of 1979

    I have great memories of the Dairy Bar. My parents enjoyed it also and it was always on the list of places to go when they visited me. A serving of ice cream or several small chunks of “miscellaneous cheese bits” (odd shaped, small pieces of cheese cut from larger blocks) made the perfect lunch.

    • Leaf Turner, Class of 1963

      Why doesn’t Cornell produce its excellent rum-raisin ice cream any longer? For university-produced ice cream today, I prefer the University of Wisconsin’s Orange Custard Chocolate Chip. Otherwise it’s Haagen-Dazs for me

  13. geoffrey+hewitt, Class of 1979

    great ice cream miss it a lot ; graduated over 40 years ago I will go back soon after Covid cases drop significantly because I am a transplant patient ; second choice is the creamery at Penn State where one of my sons went to school but BIG RED still #1

    • Shika Jones Pollard

      I’m a former employee (1976-1981, 1984-1988) who was kidnapped and taken away from my favorite dairy by an alumni. Lol! So, Bittersweet has been revamped? I’m so sorry. I would look forward to skipping the bus to the parking lot and detouring to the Dairy Bar on Friday’s for Bittersweet ice cream, cheese, and yogurt. I thought the Dairy Bar’s Bittersweet was superior to Purity’s, another local favorite. All things must change. We will definitely have to order a sampler to have it shipped!

    • Hindatu Mohammed

      Agreed! I had the Penn State creamery ice cream when I was in high school and thought it was the best thing ever…until I had ice cream from the Dairy Bar. I went to undergrad and then vet school at Cornell so I have many happy memories at the Dairy Bar.

  14. Lena, Class of 2012

    Can you share a “make it at home” suggestion for the Bavarian Raspberry Fudge flavor? I had that ice cream when I toured campus in my senior year of high school and was hooked! It will forever be my favorite!

  15. Sandy Buchanan, Class of 1978

    So many delicious memories of Mocha Chip hot fudge sundaes in the 1970s! Do they still make that flavor? Didn’t see it on a visit to the Dairy Barn last summer.

  16. Marilyn J. Fancher, Class of 1965

    My favorite was brandied peach many long years ago.

  17. Michelle Flowerman, Class of 2008

    So yummy! My freshman year Food Science 101 class made “CU in the City” — a winning flavor combo of vanilla with a swirl of Cabernet Wine-infused caramel and chunks of fudge — it was served in the dorms and NYC Cornell Club in 2005 to evoke the nostalgia/love of Finger Lakes vineyards

  18. Amy B. Cochran, Class of 1981

    If in Chicago, try lots of unique flavors from – Sarah Cochran, Class of 2015 Hotel School. Some of her flavors were inspired from her days at Cornell ( Chai there in honor of her roommate) as well as study abroad in New Zealand ( Hokey Pokey ice cream).

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