A Scoop of Cuba at Azucar Ice Cream
For anyone who’s a Miami native, Calle Ocho doesn’t just mean Eighth Street-- it means you’ve ventured into a miniature Havana, where rooster statues are a normality, people meet to gossip in between sipping cafecito, and the sound of dominos hitting the table all create an ambiance of the small Latin community that is Little Havana.
Finding Azucar Ice Cream Co. isn’t hard. Above its entrance stands an impressive, 29-foot colorful, Styrofoam ice cream cone-- and this artwork is only the beginning of the best relationship anyone could ever have with an ice cream shop.
Walking into Azucar Ice Cream, we stepped on colorful tiles that look as authentic as the city and smelled the gloriousness that is Cuban-inspired ice cream. The mastermind behind the bountiful flavors (that I’ll probably never be able to pronounce) is Suzy Batlle, who in our opinion, is a genius. She gave 7News the behind-the-scenes scoop of how she started, discussed new collaborations in the works and her son even showed us how to make their in-house ice cream cones…but of course, my cone didn’t make the cut, but I ate it anyway. Couldn’t resist!
During our interview with Suzy, we sat on guayaberas that were lined with a plastic covering and with a portrait of Celia Cruz behind us, I asked Suzy what made her ice cream “Cuban.”
“When I first started out, I wanted to make this the most Cuban ice cream store in the world,” Suzy said. “So basically it’s homemade Cuban ice cream because I’m Cuban, and I make it.”
Fair enough. And with one taste of her tropical flavored ice cream like mamey and coconut to her iconic Abuela Maria and mantecado ice cream, I swore I could speak Spanish when I opened my mouth. And when that didn’t work, I took another scoop of ice cream and it was just as gratifying.
She made a tradition into one of her best flavors. “Every good Cuban knows you have a Maria cracker, guava and a piece of cream cheese and we have that around 4 o’clock,” she said. “So we decided to make an ice cream and I called it Abuela Maria, so it’s all these things incorporated into an ice cream, which makes it a Cuban dream.”
The Abuela Maria created such a buzz for its uniqueness that Suzy even trademarked it. So the only place you can find the Abuela Maria is here at Azucar, where it was created and perfected-- as it should be.
Suzy has gained such popularity in Miami and for good reason. A little birdy even told me she was expanding from selling to restaurants like Sergio’s and Bongos to hotels like Loews and Eden Roc. And I hear some students at a university will be very happy… and may become part of that Freshmen 15 problem. “We’re gonna be in All Aboard, which is the railroad station that’s gonna be here in Downtown and we’re gonna open a store in FIU,” Suzy said. “And we’re starting with the Marlin’s [in February]. So that should be a lot of fun.”
Suzy’s working on a new flavor for the Marlins and let us in on the secret… kind of. “I’m coming up with something and it’s gonna be called ‘Home Run,’” she confirmed. “It’s an ice cream pie and it’s still in the works, so I don’t want to say what it is exactly right now.”
And while she’s coming up with the exact details of that recipe, her ice cream cone outside is drawing a lot of publicity, including one mayor who made a deal with the Ice Cream Queen.
“I have a 29-foot ice cream cone as a piece of art outside. It’s made of Styrofoam and I had to get an extra special permit for it because that’s never been done,” she said. “Mayor Regalado gave me the seal of approval and I promised I would change the landscape of Calle Ocho and I think I passed, so I think it’s sort of a cool thing to have that piece of art outside.”
But that’s not all. She’s been in business since 2011, but soon everyone will have the name Azucar on their lips. “It’s our fifth year now in July and the Commissioner is going to name 15th Avenue ‘Azucar Avenue,’ so that’s a big deal for us,” Suzy said.
And just around the corner, Suzy bought a warehouse where she makes and stores her ice cream in her “happy freezer.” She and a local artist showed me what it took to make mantecado. “When I first opened the store, we didn’t have a flavor called mantecado and I had no idea what that was,” she admitted. “So the gentlemen of course, across the street [at the Domino Park] helped me out with that. They would come in here everyday and say, ‘Where’s the mantecado?’ and I would say, ‘I have no idea where it is because I don’t know how to make it.’”
Suzy and the men who play at the Domino Park collaborated and came up with a recipe that was authentic and true to what anyone would taste if they went back to Cuba. “They would come and try it, I would take it for them and finally I got the seal of approval from Domino Park men that this was the way the ice cream tasted in Cuba and that’s the recipe and we’ve been making it like that ever since,” she said.
The egg-based ice cream is laced with cinnamon and nutmeg and nothing else, but if I didn’t know any better, it tasted like Cuban heaven. Does that exist? I think it does now.
I was one of her test-triers for the day, but Suzy admits that most of her calories come from trying each batch, which is all made in small quantities. “I have a lot of taste testers because a lot of people come in and they’re like, ‘Hey taste it on us.’ They taste it. If they like it, we move forward,” Suzy said. “First we put it in the store to make sure people like it and if they don’t like it, then we won’t make it again. That’s the part that’s fun.”
For every new flavor or item, it goes through her taste testers. And that also goes for her latest concoction she presented at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. “So when we start making ice cream sandwiches, we’re gonna be on the South Beach Food and Wine Festival,” Suzy said. “We’re gonna do two events this year. And I’m doing ‘Tacos After Dark,’ so we’re making a chocolate spicy cookie and we’re doing a Mexican vanilla.”
But over everything she makes, she has a rule of thumb. “If you put good quality things in it, it’s gonna come out well,” she said.
I need good things in my life-- and we all need a little Azucar. If it includes guava and cream cheese, who am I to refuse?
If you’d like to learn more about Azucar Ice Cream Company, click here: azucaricecream.com