The artisanal ice cream movement has arrived in Tampa Bay, and it makes it feel like Christmas
Strolling through Water Street Tampa, home to Jeni’s, Chill Bros. Scoop Shop, and Bright Ice, I couldn’t help but notice that Tampa Bay has gotten serious about its ice cream. Simple chocolate and vanilla are practically a thing of the past as local ice cream makers compete to create more unique flavors. Guava Pastelito, Carmelized Bananas with Peanut Butter and Honey, Brown Sugar Whiskey Cookie Dough, Banana Pudding, Cinnamon Snickerdoodle Marshmallow. Artisanal ice cream has arrived in Tampa Bay.
What is artisanal ice cream? Simply put, it’s really good ice cream. It goes by many names — craft, small batch, handcrafted, boutique, gourmet — but it’s all the same. It’s ice cream made in small batches from natural, seasonal ingredients. That’s right, I said “seasonal.” Ice cream is no longer confined to the summer season. Ice cream now has seasons with an s at the end. And though ice cream might be a hard sell in winter for most parts of the country, that’s not true for Florida. (LEFT: Beans & Barlour — St. Pete)
In the Tampa Bay area, where daytime winter temperatures hover around the 70s, ice cream is as popular as ever. You could save it for summer, but then you’d miss out on fun seasonal flavors like White Chocolate Peppermint, Boozy Eggnog, Holiday Sugar Cookie, and Boozy Candy Cane.
From Tampa to St. Pete to North Pinellas, here’s who’s scooping up a taste of Christmas throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams — Water Street Tampa
No artisanal ice cream adventure is complete without a stop at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, the artisanal ice cream brand that started it all. Originally from Columbus, OH, Jeni’s finally came to Florida in 2020, setting up shop in a refurbished shipping container in Water Street Tampa’s Sparkman Wharf.
On a November 2022 visit, they were scooping up more than a dozen different flavors of ice cream from their popular Sparkman Wharf location, including five seasonal flavors — Pumpkin Cake roll, Cranberry Crumble, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Boozy Eggnog, and White Chocolate Peppermint. jenis.com/
The Revolution Ice Cream — Brandon, Seminole Heights, South Tampa
Opening in Brandon in 2013, The Revolution Ice Cream was one of the first Tampa-based ice cream companies to really push the flavor envelope. This small-batch artisan ice cream shop got its start with Goat Cheese and Habanero Ice Cream with a Raspberry Ribbon. They’ve since whipped up over 100 flavors of ice cream, 16 of which are always in stock.
Revolution rotates the remaining flavors in and out every three weeks. January is cereal month, March is fair food month, and September is all about the fall flavors. Revolution released 2022’s first fall flavor, Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater — pumpkin spice ice cream with caramel bits, graham cracker, and caramel ribbon — in September.
Last year Revolution dropped three Christmas flavors: Christmas Oreos – peppermint ice cream with crushed candy canes and oreos; Christmas S’mores – peppermint ice cream with graham crackers, crushed candy canes, and a fudge, marshmallow and graham cracker ribbon; and Coquito, inspired by the Puerto Rican holiday cocktail. Follow them on Instagram @revicecream or Facebook @TheRevolutionIceCreamCo to find out what flavors they’re dropping this Christmas. revicecream.com/
Astro Craft Ice Cream — Armature Works
Astro Craft opened in 2018 along with the rest of Armature works, and they’re about to open a second location in Wesley Chapel. The Tampa-based craft ice cream company is known for Tampa-inspired flavors like Tampa Guava Cream Cheese, Crème Brulee Café con Leche, Ybor Spiced Rum Toasted Coconut Meringue Pie, and Strawberry Shortcake made with Plant City strawberries. You can even get a Cuban ice cream sandwich here; that’s two scoops of ice cream wedged between two slices of crispy Cuban bread. In addition to their 11 year-round flavors, Astro runs a seasonal flavor which they update multiple times a year. Past Nov/Dec flavors include Maple Pecan Brittle, Roasted Walnut Maple Swirl, and Pumpkin Spice Pie. Follow them on Instagram @astrocrafticecream or Facebook @AstroIceCreamCo for the next seasonal flavor drop. astrocrafticecream.com/
Beans & Barlour — St. Pete
This combination coffee (beans) and dessert bar/ice cream parlor (barlour), which opened in St. Pete in 2018, specializes in coffee and liquor-infused ice creams like this season’s Boozy Candy Cane.
Beans & Barlour’s Boozy Candy Cane ice cream is one of the season’s more unique offerings. You can find some sort of peppermint-flavored ice cream at most Tampa Bay ice cream shops, but only two shops, that we know of, are infusing their peppermint ice cream with alcohol. Beans & Barlous infuses theirs with vodka. Not a vodka fan? Don’t worry. It doesn’t actually taste like vodka, but more like peppermint schnapps. And the addition of liquor, which changes the freezing point of the ice cream slightly, makes for a softer, creamier dessert.
Orange Cycle Creamery — Downtown Tarpon Springs
This downtown Tarpon Springs creamery loves its holiday flavors. They’ve been actively experimenting with pumpkin this fall, churning up Pumpkin Marshmallow, Pumpkin Gingersnap, Pumpkin Bourbon, Pumpkin Biscoff and Pumpkin Oreo flavors.
What will these pumpkin kings make for Christmas?
Since opening in 2018, they’ve made Peppermint Brownie, Peppermint Bark, Peppermint Mocha, Peppermint Stick, Eggnog, Sugar Cookie, Gingerbread Chocolate Chip, Gingerbread Dark Chocolate, Peppermint Oreo Cheesecake, Peppermint White Chocolate, and Sweet Cream with Peppermint M&Ms flavors. So the possibilities are truly endless. orangecyclecreamery.com/
Bright Ice — St. Pete, Pinellas Park, Water Street Tampa
Bright Ice co-founders Steve Garrahan and Kurt Drake opened their first ice cream shop in St. Petersburg, FL in 2019. If their expansion is any indicator of their success, then these Tampa Bay ice cream makers are doing quite well. They opened Pinellas Park and Water Street Tampa locations in Feb. and May 2021. When we visited the Tampa and St. Pete locations in Nov. 2022, they were scooping up Holiday Sugar Cookie and White Chocolate and Peppermint Bark flavors. The White Chocolate and Peppermint flavor was our favorite, but don’t let that stop you from trying the festive red-and-green Holiday Sugar Cookie flavor if that’s what you’re in the mood for. brighticeisnice.com/
Chill Bros. Scoop Shops — Water Street Tampa, South Howard at the Epicurean, Ybor City, South Tampa
Tampa’s own Chill Bros. — the Chillura siblings — opened their first ice cream parlor in Tampa’s historic Ybor City neighborhood in Sept. 2019, expanding into South Tampa in Oct. 2020, the Epicurean Hotel in Dec. 2021, and Water Street Tampa in July 2022.
Similar to Astro, this artisanal ice cream shop specializes in Tampa-inspired flavors like Guava Pastelito and Café con Leche. Chill Bros. also makes seasonal flavors, like Fluffer Pumpkin and Candy Cane Forest, which return this Nov./Dec. Follow them on Facebook/Instagram @chillbrosicecream to find out what flavors they’re dropping next. chillbros.com/
Sea Maids Creamery — Seminole Heights
You can’t get much more Florida than a mermaid-themed ice cream parlor. Mother-daughter duo Zoey Vera and Emily Macias opened Sea Maids Creamery in Seminole Heights in 2020 during the pandemic. The bright pink ice cream parlor makes small batch ice cream in unique, colorful flavors like the blue and pink Mermaid (Cotton Candy) ice cream, the golden yellow Sponge Bob ice cream, and the royal blue Cookie Monster ice cream. The toppers are just as exciting as the colors, and include such fun additions as chocolate gators, white chocolate mermaid tails, and pink whipped cream.
Sea Maids’ holiday specials are just as festive as their mermaid delights. Last year they made Peppermint Oreo and Eggnog ice creams for Christmas along with holiday shakes topped with gingerbread and Christmas tree cookies. They released four fall flavors early this November — Dutch Caramel Apple, Pumpkin Pie Cutie Pie, Pumpkin Oreo, and Southern Pecan Delight. Follow them on Instagram/Facebook @seamaidscreamery to find out what’s for Christmas this year. facebook.com/seamaidscreamery
Odd Fellows — Hyde Park Village
Odd Fellows has produced more than 500 “odd” flavors since they opened in Brooklyn, NY in 2013, and they’ve been scooping up their unique brand of weirdness in Tampa’s Hyde Park Village since late 2021.
This holiday season they’ve made a series of holiday movie-inspired ice cream flavors. Odd Fellows’ Holiday Movie Night ice cream collection consists of five unique flavors – Banoffee Pie (banana ice cream with graham crumbs and dulce de leche), Buddi’s Spaghetti Sundae (maple ice cream with chocolate cookie crumbs, mini marshmallows, M&Ms, Sno Caps, and Corn Nuts), Oh Fudge (malted milk chocolate ice cream with fudge and brownies), Moose Nog (eggnog ice cream with fudge and peanut butter cups), and Razzleberry Dressing (blackberry ice cream with raspberry jam). Order a flight and you can try them all. oddfellowsnyc.com/
Mayday — Centro Ybor
Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops owner Stephen DiMare opened Mayday, his first ice cream shop, in St. Augustine, FL in 2018. There are now nine Mayday locations throughout Florida, including one in Centro Ybor that opened in March 2022. The artisanal ice cream company specializes in creating innovative flavors like Sunday Best Banana Pudding and Blueberry Toast Crunch. Their Great Pumpkin ice cream, available this fall, starts with a pumpkin cheesecake base and adds chocolate chips, spices, and a cinnamon swirl. Last December, Mayday locations featured egg nog and peppermint ice creams along with gingerbread waffle cones and homemade holiday sprinkles. Follow them on social @maydayicecream and be the first to know when they release new seasonal flavors. www.maydayicecream.com/
Strachan’s Homemade Ice Cream and Desserts — Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor
The expression, “Everything old can be made new again,” comes to mind when I think of Strachan’s Ice Cream. The North Pinellas staple, specializing in “Old Fashioned” ice cream, has been serving North Pinellas since 1999. If North Pinellas had an official ice cream brand, it would be Strachan’s. And though they don’t advertise themselves as artisanal, small batch, or craft, Strachan’s is, and has always been, really good homemade ice cream.
In addition to the classics, Strahan’s lists 29 gourmet flavors on their website. Many of these incorporate homemade baked goods into the mix, like the Carrot Cake ice cream, made with batter from Strachan’s famous carrot cake. Also on the list are three fall/winter holiday-inspired ice creams — Eggnog, Pumpkin Cheesecake, and Peppermint. But these holiday flavors are limited, so don’t wait until Christmas to try them. strachansdesserts.com
Totally Ice Cream — Palm Harbor
Strahan’s finally has some competition in Palm Harbor after all these years. Totally Ice Cream opened in Summer 2022 with rad 90s décor and more than a dozen premium ice cream flavors, including a boozy Cherry Amaretto.
As is typical for small-batch ice cream, the flavors are constantly rotating. On a mid-November visit, the ice cream parlor had two fall flavors in stock — Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie Custard — and they recently added a Sweet Corn flavor in honor of Thanksgiving.
Totally Ice Cream celebrates its first Christmas in Palm Harbor with four Christmas-inspired flavors. There are two Eggnog flavors on the way, one with and one without alcohol, and an alcohol-infused Candy Cane flavor. But I’m most excited about trying Candy Cane Kisses, a white chocolate ice cream with candy cane pieces inspired by Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses. www.totallyicecream.com/
Copy and photos taken by Jennifer Ring unless otherwise noted for editorial purposes only and written exclusively for Destination Tampa Bay™. All right reserved.