The Azucar Ice Cream Company may seem like a traditional ice cream and sorbet shop at first glance. Settled on a bright corner of Miami’s Little Havana, a closer read of their menu, spelled-out on their chalk board walls in colorful slogans and whatever else occurs to them that day, will tell you Azucar is anything but typical.
Alongside classic Cuban ice cream flavors like mango, mamey, coconut, and coffee, there might be flan drizzled with caramel syrup, platano maduro made with sweet plantains, guarapiña with sugar cane and pineapple juice from the nearby fruit stand, and most famously the Abuela Maria, vanilla ice cream blended with cream cheese, guava, and Maria crackers.
Owner Suzy Battle staked out this spot in front of the historic Tower Theater and kitty corner to the landmark Domino Park in 2011. A banker for almost 20 years before the industry plummeted, she asked herself what was next and found inspiration in her grandmother. Born in Cuba and married to a sugar mill engineer, Battle’s grandmother traveled throughout Central and South America, making ice cream with the new fruits she was discovering. Growing up with her fantastic creations, Battle started working towards her own ice cream shop, taking full advantage of Miami’s tropical produce with an ever changing menu of old standbys and seasonal flavors culled from local ingredients.
“We invent stuff here every day,” explains Battle. "I can’t imagine having the same flavors all the time, that would drive me crazy. I want to taste new things."
Trying to develop a recipe for mantecado, a traditional Cuban vanilla ice cream she’d only heard about, she invited the domino players across the street to help her.
“I didn't know how to make it, so I started little by little trying to figure it out," Battle said. "These guys here at Domino Park tasted it and would tell me it’s getting closer, it’s not enough cinnamon, not enough nutmeg."
Finally hitting on the right formula, their mantecado has become a favorite, selling as fast as they can churn it out.
On any given day, under an enormous painting of Cuban icon Celia Cruz, a steady stream of parents herding school children and slightly dazed tourists just off the bus line up at the counter or get comfortable on the banquettes lined in guayaberas and covered in plastic, another subtle tribute to her grandmother.
Though born and raised Miami, Battle is a relative new comer to the neighborhood that has embraced Azucar.
“Anything can happen on this street," Battle said. "I had zero relationship to Little Havana and now its become my home. This is now our new family."