And the award for Best 99 is scooped by...
... McGreevy’s in Westport, Co Mayo, which impressed the lickeratti and ran a great campaign
Ronan and Donard McGreevy. Photograph: Brian Cross
You know that moment when you’ve reached the end of your 99? There’s just the point of the cone left, with just a tiny glob of ice-cream on top. You wish you could make that final bite last just a little bit longer. Well, we’ve reached that point in our hunt for the perfect 99. All through the summer months, “cone-oisseurs” have been scouring the four corners of Ireland in search of the one 99 to rule them all. They’ve visited newsagents, supermarkets, cafes and kiosks up and down the land, and selflessly sampled the ice-cream on offer, tweeting their verdicts, posting photos on Instagram and giving a rating on the 99 Ice Cream Finder app, which was designed by Showoff.
“We’ve had an absolutely unreal response to a pet project that was initially intended for a bit of summer fun,” says Shane Byrne of Showoff. “The 99 Ice Cream Finder app has recorded 19,300 votes. We had 7,170 active users, and 343 shops nationwide took part.”
Choosing the best 99 is, by its very nature, unscientific. How do you determine which is the best? For some it’s taste; for others texture. For many, it’s all about context: a well-deserved 99 at the end of a long walk or one enjoyed in an idyllic setting that evokes fond memories of ice-creams past. As one of our experts has noted: “The best 99 is the one that’s in your hand right now.” It really is all in the eye of the cone-holder.
Many readers emailed us with their ice-cream recollections and vignettes. Brian Hutton, deputy news editor of Press Association, shares his memories of going to Fiorentini’s in Derry with his grandfather. “Like clockwork, the same time every day, we pull up outside the Italian ice-cream parlour just before he closes his doors. Coins drop like keys from Granda’s hand into mine. ‘Two 99s,’ he gives the order.”
Stephanie Timoney tells us about her family tradition of making a weekly visit to Teddy’s in Sandycove. “On the years went, and my daughter arrived back from San Francisco and said, ‘We must get a 99 from Teddy’s’,” she writes.
Our hunt for the perfect 99 may not be as of national importance as, say, a byelection, but it did involve a little politicking on the part of some shops. The shops that came out on top rallied their customers, encouraged them to take selfies to post on Twitter and Instagram, and got them to click on the 99 Finder App.
The favourites and winner
Although more than 300 shops took part in our search, just a handful emerged as clear favourites with the lickeratti. Teddy’s was top of the tweets, and also the front-runner on Instagram, but fell way behind on the app’s leaderboard. Lynch’s in Arvagh, Co Cavan, led the field on the app, but was conspicuous by its near-absence on other social media.
The shop that scoops the award for Best 99 is McGreevy’s in Westport, Co Mayo. The Bridge Street shop talked a great game on Twitter and ran an imaginative promotion during Croagh Patrick weekend, encouraging climbers to take selfies on top of Croagh Patrick in exchange for a free extra flake. Nearly 200 people tramped in to the shop waving their smartphones in anticipation of a rabbit’s-ears 99. “McGreevy’s really embraced the competition across all platforms and made an event out of it,” says Byrne.
So, congratulations to McGreevy’s and to all the runners-up: may your 99s never droop and your flakes be crumbly. (All complaints can be directed to the ombudsman for ice-cream as soon as the Government appoints one.)
“Finding the best 99 through our app meant we could show off what makes Irish summers great,” says Byrne. “Our partnership with The Irish Times, the best summer in recent years, and the pride of every shop that participated are the reasons why this has been a huge success.”
The competition may be over, but you can still use the app to locate great 99s. Keep tweeting, texting and emailing your #best99 ice-cream experiences.
The quality of our ice-cream has not going unnoticed internationally: Hollywood’s Julia Roberts was spotted with a 99 at the parlour near Old Head beach Co Mayo last summer. And, in a recent chat with the Wall Street Journal, film director Francis Ford Coppola declared Ireland the “most underrated destination”, saving particular praise for our ice-cream. “Irish ice cream is among the best in the world, which no one knows,” he said.
Coming from an Italian, that’s high praise indeed.