Jimmies | New England Lexicon

Jimmies (known as “sprinkles” outside New England) are the granddaddy of ice cream toppings, but where did the name “jimmies” come from?

By Yankee Magazine

Aug 06 2020


Jimmies (known as sprinkles outside New England) are a classic ice cream topper.

Photo Credit : Thinkstock
Jimmies (known as sprinkles outside New England) are a classic ice cream topper.
Photo Credit : Thinkstock

Jimmies are the granddaddy of ice cream toppings, and credit for their creation is claimed by Brigham’s, a Boston-area ice cream company in business since 1914. Company records don’t reveal why the miniature chocolate rods (outsiders call them “sprinkles”) were dubbed jimmies. But with or without jimmies, Bostonians consume more ice cream per person than residents of any other city in the world.  –Karen Cord Taylor

Fun Fact: Today Brigham’s makes an ice cream flavor called “Just Jimmies.” Here’s how they describe it: “We start with our signature Vanilla Ice Cream and load it with pieces of chocolate-covered sugar cones and real chocolate jimmies.” Yum!

The jimmies vs. sprinkles debate has also led to some interesting feedback from the Yankee audience.

The Jimmies / Sprinkles Debate

Letters from Our Readers

January 1995: Your sweet story in the August 1994 edition describing the creation of “jimmies” triggered a poignant childhood memory. A special after-school treat was a visit to the pharmacy in South Peabody, Massachusetts, for an ice cream cone. One day, during the height of World War II, I asked Mr. Balligan, the owner, for a vanilla cone with jimmies. His quick response was: “No Jimmies — Jimmy gone to war.”
–Miriam A. Quinlan-Towey, Arlington, VA

Comments from Facebook

Some of our friendly Facebook fans have also weighed in.

When I was going to secretarial school in Boston many moons ago, one of my classmates, from NJ, was really missing her boyfriend, named Jimmy. We got together and got her a cheering-up basket and put “Jimmies” from Brigham’s (where else??) in it along with other essential items. She looked at us puzzled and said, “Why are you giving me sprinkles?” –Jan B.

Some think there ARE sprinkles out there, but they’re not the same as jimmies.

Jimmies and sprinkles are two different things. Sprinkles are small round and different colors. –Kimberly R.

Of course, not everyone agrees with that, either.

As a New Englander, everyone I know always called them sprinkles or shots. Never once were they called jimmies, not even in the ice cream shops. –Rosalie C.

More New England Ice Cream

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Depicting a clown face made of ice cream, the Friendly’s Cone Head sundae is a sweet childhood memory.

5 Favorite New England Ice Cream Flavors

New Englanders love ice cream, but some regional flavors are especially popular. Here are 5 of the most unique New England ice cream flavors.

Do you call them jimmies? Sprinkles? Have rules for both? Let us know!

This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated.