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Azucar Ice Cream: A Grandmother's Recipes Give Heart to a Local Miami Business

By Rebecca Gaunt

Azucar Ice Cream Company sits in the heart of Little Havana in Miami. Opened in 2011, it pays homage to owner Suzanne Batlle's grandmother, whose intense love of ice cream and fierce determination inspired her. When the 2008 banking crisis hit, Batlle left her career and launched herself full-force at the challenge of starting a small business with the help of friends and family.

Batlle's grandmother was born and raised in Cuba and eventually married a sugarmill engineer. As they moved about from job to job in Central and South America, she collected exotic fruits which she would then use to make desserts. As a child, Batlle enjoyed her many concoctions.

"I think that people love the authenticity of our ice cream," Batlle says. "We make it handmade everyday with old Cuban recipes of my grandmother. We have unique flavors that we have trademarked, one being "Abuela Maria," which is a combination of guava, cream cheese and Maria crackers. This is a Cuban favorite." It is also the store's most popular flavor.

In addition to using those recipes, Batlle attended a program at Penn State Creamery, and a chef friend assisted her in creating flavors. Social media helped the store grow in reputation as she put in 14-hour days and her daughter donned an ice cream suit to walk around Little Havana. Local residents gave her feedback as she experimented with different concoctions. Visitors to the area can't miss the giant styrofoam ice cream that adorns the storefront.

Azucar's ice cream and sorbet is handcrafted using high-quality, locally-grown, seasonal ingredients. The red mamey comes from Los Piñarenos fruit stand down the street and the plantains are prepared at El Nuevo Siglo Grocery Store. Other items are purchased at farmers' markets.

The store does offer some flavors typical of an ice cream shop in the United States, such as strawberry and mint chocolate chip, but the seasonal and signature flavor lists are lengthy. Some examples are caramel flan, sweet plantain and apple pie. Pinot noir, sangria and passion fruit are sorbet flavors.

The hard work has paid off in recognition by the community. The Miami Herald described the ice cream as a "mélange of evocative flavors that prick your imagination and tantalize your palette." The Miami New Times rated Azucar as the best place to take out-of-towners in 2013 and included Batlle in 2013's rankings of the top 30 tastemakers in the city. The shop has also been featured in Ocean Drive Magazine and Cooking Light, and on ABC's The Chew and BBC World News.

"Sharing ice cream is like sharing memories. It makes you tongue dance!" says Batlle. "There is nothing that says happiness like sharing an ice cream together. When I was growing up we had ice cream every night and that memory comes back every time I have one."

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About The Author

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a...

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