11 Things To Know Before Visiting Graeter's Ice Cream

Graeter's Ice Cream has been a beloved Cincinnati institution for over a century and a half. Its distinctive French Pot style of freezers creates a signature ice cream that has won over generations of dedicated fans even beyond Ohio's borders, including more than one celebrity. And for those living in the Cincinnati area, Graeter's also offers handmade baked goods such as cookies, pies, cakes, donuts, and more. It's all made fresh from scratch every morning with quality ingredients and pride.

Perhaps you don't live anywhere near Ohio, and Graeter's is your go-to pint at your local grocery store. Can't get enough of that black cherry chocolate chip? Or maybe dark chocolate brownie is more your jam. Did you have any idea of the history behind this decadent treat? Not to mention the numerous innovations in ice cream making since then that even go beyond the confines of the frozen dessert. Now is your chance to learn all about the famous Graeter family and their frozen legacy.

1. It has been operated by the Graeter family for over 150 years

Louis Charles Graeter began selling ice cream from a cart along the streets of Cincinnati way back in 1870. He made his ice cream by mixing cream, sugar, eggs, and flavoring in a metal French pot, about 2 gallons big, and allowed it to freeze. At the time, this is how everyone made ice cream. 

For a time, Louis Graeter left Cincinnati, handing the ice cream business over to his brother Fred. But at the turn of the century, Louis returned to the city, took back the business, and opened his first ice cream parlor. After being struck by either an automobile, Louis died. His wife Regina (pronounced with a hard G) continued the business with her two sons, Wilmer and Paul.

Known as "The Boss," Regina Graeter opened additional parlors in other neighborhoods, a totally new innovation at the time. Around 1926, the continuous freezer was invented, making the production of ice cream cheaper and more industrialized. However, this way of freezing cream puts more air into the mix, making the resulting ice cream fluffy rather than creamy. 

Regina rejected this modernization, sticking to the smaller batch, traditional French pot method, even though it was a more expensive and time-consuming process. When Regina died in 1955, the business was run by her children, then her grandchildren after that. Now Graeter's is owned by Regina's great-grandchildren, Richard, Chip, and Bob. That is over 150 years of family history.

2. Graeter's uses science to make creamier ice cream

When ice cream was first invented, and during most of its history, it was a dessert reserved for the well-to-do. In the 19th century, the hand-cranked ice cream freezer was invented by Nancy Johnson, making ice cream not only easier to make but more accessible to the masses.

Most people in the latter part of the century were using French pots, and Graeter's maintains that tradition to this day. The process today is more industrialized than it was back then.

Today, wet and dry ingredients are first mixed together before being pasteurized and pumped into a holding tank. From there, the mixture goes into another vat to be flavored, and it is then put into the "French pots." The 2.5-gallon metal container is then put into a special vat freezer and surrounded by a chilled brine solution. The pot is spun, using centrifugal force to push the mixture inside toward the sides. 

When the cream mixture hits the cold outside walls of the pot, it freezes. A paddle then scrapes it free to allow for more cream to coat the sides and freeze. This process continues until the cream mixture has turned into frozen ice cream. Robert Graeter explained to Dairy Foods that very little air goes into the ice cream during this process, giving the ice cream a lovely, dense texture. The result is science at its most delicious.

3. Graeter's chocolate chips are truly unique

Graeter's is especially loved for the large chocolate chunks it puts into the ice cream: These are so soft that they melt in your mouth. This, too, includes a special process.

Ten-pound bars of milk chocolate, semisweet, or dark chocolate are mixed with vegetable oil and melted at around 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The melted mixture is added by hand to the vats of spinning frozen ice cream. Centrifugal force pushes the chocolate against the sides and freezes it just as it did the ice cream, but the paddle is turned off. An employee uses a different paddle and breaks up the chocolate "shell," releasing it from the freezing vat's sides and mixing it into the ice cream.

It's the addition of vegetable oil that helps make the chunks of chocolate soft, and the different sizes of the chocolate chips are the result of a metal paddle breaking up the frozen shell. And because each employee works a little differently, each batch and its chunks will be a little different as well. But this individual treatment and lack of uniformity is part of the appeal.

4. Graeter's offerings are certified kosher

It may surprise some people to learn that not all ice cream is kosher, thanks to emulsifiers, which are food additives that help liquids like oil and water blend together. These can be either animal or vegetable based. Several dairy-based foods require emulsifiers to remain stable, including ice cream. So, close supervision is required for ice cream to be labeled kosher.

Graeter's goes through the extra effort to ensure that its desserts are kosher or pareve (dairy and meat-free, like the sorbet). It is rated Star-D, which means that the ingredients, as well as the plant equipment and manufacturing processes, are evaluated and certified. 

According to president and CEO Richard Graeter, the Star-D certification is indicative of the company's dedication to using high-quality ingredients, which the brand has held as one of its core values since the company was created in 1870.

The Cleveland Jewish News clarifies that it is the food itself that is certified kosher, and not the individual restaurants. The Star-K Kosher Agency, which issues the certification, does not monitor things like microwaves or food warmers. There is also an app called Is It Kosher? that helps you identify which Graeter's products are specifically kosher. 

5. Braxton Brewing Co. partnered with Graeter's to make beer and seltzers

Craft beer in the U.S. is consistently growing in popularity. Hard seltzers have also taken the market by storm in recent years. So is it any wonder that a business would want a piece of that pie? And what brewery wouldn't be constantly looking to innovate and hone its craft?

Local Cincinnati brewery Braxton Brewing Co. joined with Graeter's in bringing to market the limited edition Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Milk Stout, a beer based on one of Graeter's traditional ice cream flavors. For the 2018 relaunch, the recipe was tweaked to make it even better. 

According to Jake Rouse, the co-founder of Braxton Brewing Co., the beer was specially crafted to ensure that it would be appreciated by beer aficionados and foodies alike. The two companies have also come together to create another limited edition beer, Pumpkin Pie, which is also based on a popular Graeter's ice cream flavor.

Braxton and Graeter's got along so well that in 2021, they partnered yet again to create Smoothie Seltzers, the first of their kind. These are a marriage between Graeter's smoothies and hard seltzers. Rouse told Brewbound that customers are always looking for new and exciting tastes in seltzers, and using Graeter's smoothie to craft a drink has really catered to that demand. 

6. Want Graeter's at your wedding? No problem

If you peruse Grater's Instagram account, you may notice a recurring theme: People in wedding dresses and tuxedos. Graeter's at your wedding? You bet! In fact, Graeter's has a page on WeddingWire with multiple brides offering tips on the best way to serve it, whether you go for ice cream or cakes.

If you live near a Graeter's location, you can take advantage of its catering service. For ice cream, you can choose to have single-scoop tubs with or without a full sundae bar of toppings. You can also opt for ice cream sandwiches or reserve a Graeter's food truck to park outside your venue and serve desserts to your guests.

Graeter's also makes ice cream cakes and ice cream pies. The round cakes come in various flavors and are layered with ice cream plus frosting and toppings. The ice cream pies contain ice cream with a crust made of chocolate graham crackers. Like the cakes, the pies are topped with frosting and toppings. 

7. Yes, there are dairy-free and vegan options

In 2020, Graeter's Ice Cream, in partnership with innovative food developers Perfect Day, released an animal- and lactose-free dairy ice cream line called Perfect Indulgence. Yes, you read that right. No cows were involved in the making of this dessert. 

And this also works if you don't like coconut milk or other dairy alternatives. Genuine whey protein is made through fermentation using microflora, which means that if you cannot eat whey or casein, you won't be able to enjoy this dessert. But if you are vegan or lactose intolerant, you can go for it. 

Perfect Indulgence flavors include Graeter's favorites Black Cherry Chocolate Chip, Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip, Madagascar Vanilla Bean, and Cookies and Cream. Pints can be ordered from Graeter's website for local delivery or to be shipped through the mail.

Of course, there are other vegan and genuine dairy-free alternatives as well. Graeter's also has a satisfying selection of sorbets in rotation, such as chocolate, mango, strawberry, and watermelon.

8. The Graeter's ice cream truck has been to the Super Bowl

In 2022, the Cincinnati football team, the Bengals, became the American Football Conference champions, which took them to the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, California, to face the Los Angeles Rams. Countless fans followed to cheer on their favorite team. And Graeter's decided to send one of its ice cream trucks to give those fans a taste of home.

The trip was announced on Graeter's Instagram account, along with instructions for finding the truck once it arrived in California.  Pictures were taken of the truck along the way at key points, and Graeter's gave away free six-packs of ice cream to random followers on Instagram who posted where they were watching the Super Bowl from. 

One of the places the truck stopped to distribute ice cream in Los Angeles was the historic Downtown Arts District. The Bengals ultimately lost the Super Bowl to the Rams, but no doubt Graeter's helped make the trip to Los Angeles a little brighter for many.

9. The Cones for the Cure campaign raises money for cancer research

In 2007, the Desserich family established The Cure Starts Now Foundation in memory of their daughter Elena, who died from pediatric brain cancer at the age of six. Two years later, Graeter's Ice Cream teamed up with the Cincinnati, Ohio-based international foundation to help raise money for cancer research. 

Graeter's Cones for the Cure raised over $243,500 in 2022 alone. The initiative has earned $1,500,000 since it began. Chip Graeter said that the company had been invested in the cause since it began collaborating with The Cure Starts Now foundation, which was almost a decade ago.  

One of the ways Graeter's raises money is through the yearly limited edition ice cream flavor Elena's Blueberry Pie, a vanilla ice cream with blueberries and pie crust mixed in. Proceeds from the sales of this ice cream go to The Cure Starts Now. Customers can also donate directly to the cause. 

10. Graeter's has some famous fans

In 2002, Oprah Winfrey said on her TV show that Graeter's ice cream was the best ice cream she had tried, and sales skyrocketed. Since then, the brand has become even more popular. In 2005, Vanity Fair named Graeter's among one of the best ice cream companies in the U.S. 

Forbes reported in 2011 that Harry Connick Jr. is also a Graeter's fan. In 2011, Sarah Jessica Parker was added to the list. Bobby Flay has also expressed a love for Graeter's on both Twitter and the Today Show. His favorite is the Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. (No word on if he's tried the stout.)

On September 20, 2022, Chrissy Tiegen announced on Twitter that she would soon be visiting Cincinnati and asked locals for recommendations on where to eat. Several people suggested Graeter's, and one, in particular, mentioned the Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. While she did offer an update on Skyline Chili, she did not mention whether or not she stopped by a Graeter's shop.  

11. Graeter's delivers ice cream to all 50 U.S. states

By now, you're probably having some serious ice cream cravings. Or maybe you just really need to try that Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. But what a bummer if you don't reside in a city that sells Graeter's ice cream! But if you live in one of the 50 United States in the U.S., you are in luck. Graeter's delivers. And if your order doesn't arrive at your doorstep still frozen, Graeter's will replace it.

Oprah Winfrey gave the Graeter's delivery service a huge boost when she mentioned the ice cream on her show in 2002. It received more attention when Vanity Fair placed Graeter's on its 2005 recommendation for holiday gifts list. In fact, Oprah first tried Graeter's ice cream when it was gifted to her by a friend. 

During the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Graeter's made an extra effort to keep customers across the U.S. supplied with their product, whether that was in the restaurants, in grocery stores, or through their delivery service. Richard Graeter said on Forbes that the company was geared towards decadence and enjoyment in good times and comfort and solace in difficult times.