Ice Cream Party & Sundae Bar Ideas

Take your ice cream sundae party to the next level with these sundae bar toppings & unique ideas

The beauty of a sundae bar is pretty obvious: minimal effort, maximum (sweet, creamy) return—especially when you're having a bunch of guests over in the sweltering summer heat.

All you have to do is chill some pretty ice cream glasses, open a few cartons of ice cream and set out a combination of toppings that lets guests feel like, well, kids in a candy store. Stick with the basics for your ice cream: We're talking vanilla and chocolate here, people. Anything more complicated will compete with your toppings, which is where all the magic happens.

Creative toppings and chilled glasses take sundaes to the next level.

Every great sundae, in our opinion, has the combination of a high-quality ice cream, a sauce (yes, whipped cream counts), something crunchy, something salty and what we're calling a "showstopper" to take it to the next level—in other words, a mix of textures and flavors you'd find in any well-balanced dessert. Extra whipped cream and a famed cherry on top aren't absolute musts, but they certainly don't hurt either.

Of course, you can go with store-bought candies, sprinkles and the like. Or you could go all out and macerate some cherries in bourbon or make our boozy caramel sauce (see the recipe). Grilling fruit gives it extra flavor and a little smoke. And, heck, even making whipped cream from scratch takes a sundae from ordinary to extraordinary.

To get you started on your sundae bar setup, we've come up with a handy list of toppings that you can mix and match to your heart's content. And just in case you're stumped on combinations, peep our equations for ice cream bliss, like the Midday Manhattan (chocolate ice cream, bourbon caramel sauce, chocolate-covered pretzels, boozy cherries) and Thanksgiving in July (vanilla ice cream, sorghum syrup, pumpkin seed brittle, crumbled piecrust, whipped cream).

Think you can top them? You do the math.