Azucar sits on the hip of Calle Ocho. Inside sugar is family. On this Saturday afternoon, old, Spanish-swirling couples swapped besitos (kisses) as melting ice cream drizzled down cones.
Owner Suzanne Batlle, 43, who opened the ice cream boutique six weeks ago, distributed tiny spoon samples.
“You have to try the grapefruit-champagne sorbet,” shouted Batlle whose children Tommy Barrera, 12, and Bianca Barrera, 14, and their friend Kent Trespalacios, 12, were behind the counter greeting guests.
However, the venue’s appeal isn’t azucar – the Spanish word for sugar. Most flavors expressed the natural characteristics of the dominant ingredients. The avocado was butter-cream ecstasy, expressing the inherent decadence of the fruit at summer’s peak. The compota de banana captured the rich, baby banana flavor that distinguishes it from Chiquita. The Mexican vanilla tasted like Christmas eggnog. The platano maduro (sweet plantain) is an exciting endeavor but was texturally unpleasant. However, other standouts included the heavy-on-the-rum and raisin, coconut, mamey and guava (4 ounces, $3.50), (6 ounces, $4.50), (pint, $7) and homemade, chocolate waffle cone ($5). The flavors are inspired by Batlle’s Cuban grandmother who also made ice cream.
“We live life on the hyphen,” said José Vilanova, a frequent customer, referring to his Cuban-American roots.
Other less-Caribbean standouts include an addictive Belgian chocolate, Maraschino and sour cherry blend and the Elvis, a cruelly delicious peanut butter and banana mix.
The passion fruit sorbet was bright and refreshing, but the pinot noir tasted expired. Other options include bellini and sangria.
“The strawberry is beautiful,” said Mary Davis, a tourist visiting from Adelaide, Australia.
Azucar’s décor captures the new, old world experience that defines this Cuban/Cuban-American enclave. The ice cream is presented gelato-style in neat containers. A cotton candy pink back wall contrasts the plastic covered, guayabera-upholstered benches reminiscent of plastic coverings many Caribbean mothers used to protect their prized, living room settees. The floor is made up of Cuban mosaic replicas, and a colorful chalkboard lists ice cream flavors. It also advertises company hats and T-shirts with Cuban dichos (old Cuban sayings) like “Lo que está pá ti nadie te lo quita – Whatever is for you, no one can take away”. Batlle also sells panties with the word Azucar inscribed on the fronts.
A Celia Cruz painting hangs over the side bench that offers a perfect view of Little Havana (Cruz is a Cuban singer known for saying, “”¡Azúcar!”). There white stiletto-heeled, Latin women in matching fedoras and hot shorts sway through the cacophony of boleros (Cuban romance music), Lil Wayne-lowriders, snapping iPhones, gregarious locals and Brickell brats.
“This place is iconic for the generation ñ experience,” said Vilanova. “But I’m such a sell-out. I’m having Heath bar.”