Arts restaurant review

Ranch-flavored ice cream? Red Bull sorbets? Oh my

If you value your tastebuds’ sanity, stick with J.P. Licks’ classic flavors

J.P. Licks (Beacon Hill)
Ice cream, $
150 Charles St.
Boston, MA 02114
Sunday–Wednesday, 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
Thursday–Saturday, 10 a.m.– 11 p.m.

Established in 1981 by Vincent Petryk in Jamaica Plain (hence J.P.), J.P. Licks is Boston’s beloved kosher ice cream shop. It currently has 17 locations throughout Massachusetts. In any shop you can find 30 flavors at a time, 15 of which are classic — think cookie dough, mint chip, pistachio, strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, to name a few — and 15 of which are featured flavors. Each featured flavor is in stores for anywhere from three to six weeks. Current featured flavors include caramel apple, French vanilla almond, pumpkin custard, and midnight munchies.

In honor of its 40th anniversary this year, J.P. Licks is bringing back old favorites, such as French vanilla almond (currently in stores) and fruity pebble cereal milk. In November, carrot cake ice cream, which is actually marinated in carrot juice, will make its comeback. 

Alongside these comeback flavors, be on the lookout for brand new ones in the upcoming months like black raspberry cookies and cream and applewood smoked bacon (for a Johnny Cupcakes partnership). 

I had the opportunity to chat with Kim Diaz, J.P. Licks’ director of operations, about its two newest flavors: midnight munchies and strawberry lime Red Bull sorbet. Inspired by the return of hungry college students to Boston searching for late-night snacks, midnight munchies is peanut butter ice cream loaded with chocolate-covered pretzels, Kit Kats, and potato chips with ranch flavoring. Since every item in J.P. Licks is kosher, the flavor developers had to be creative to perfect the potato chips and ranch flavor. Extra salt, pretzels, and peanut butter were added before it was approved to roll out in stores. Strawberry lime Red Bull sorbet, on the other hand, was easier to craft. Puree and Red Bull were simply mixed together to create a tangy, sweet, and energizing ice cream.

I sampled these new flavors at J.P. Licks’ Beacon Hill location, located directly across the Longfellow bridge from MIT Sloan. Dipping into the midnight munchies, I could taste the Kit Kat bits encased in creamy peanut butter ice cream. However, the aftertaste quickly clapped back as a pungent garlic sting overwhelmed the peanut butter. I had to eat a couple more scoops before becoming accustomed to the stark contrast of the cool ranch Doritos substitute against the sweet peanut butter Kit Kat mix.  

At that point, I decided to move on to the strawberry lime Red Bull sorbet. The color of dark pink lemonade, the sorbet tasted like a typical fruity sorbet at first. I could taste the Red Bull after the ice melted. This flavor was less of a shock than the midnight munchies but after two scoops, I couldn’t eat anymore as the sweetness was  overpowering. 

Needless to say, J.P. Licks’ two newest featured flavors were disappointing. The midnight munchies mashed together two very different textures — sweet peanut butter with salty garlic-tinted ranch — the end result of which detonated my tastebuds. As a point of personal reflection, though, I now wonder how college students like me shove sweet snacks along with salty potato chips into our stomachs at once. On the other hand, though the strawberry lime sorbet complemented the Red Bull well, the outcome was an overwhelmingly sweet concoction.

If you ever find yourself visiting J.P. Licks in the coming weeks, I recommend sticking to their tried and proven classic flavors. This cycle of J.P. Licks’ featured flavors leaves more to be desired in the future.