Ice cream meets happy hour with Lee's Cream Liqueur
Lee’s Tiramisu ice cream with brandy is one of more than 200 flavors sold in her store.
As the only alcohol-infused ice cream parlor in Arizona, Lee’s Cream Liqueur is making a name for itself. The owner and creator of the 823-square-foot parlor is Lee Turner, a systems engineer by day and a dairy processor by night. The self-proclaimed ice cream enthusiast describes her treats as a cross between ice cream and gelato. The shop is located in Old Town Scottsdale in what Turner calls the “restaurant district.”
The ice cream is made fresh in the parlor every day by Turner herself, using a precise mixture of fresh cream, all-natural flavorings and premium liquor combinations. She uses a professional-grade batch freezer and usually makes between 4 to 5 gallons of ice cream each day.
Turner learned to make ice cream at a young age on her own, motivated by her love of the frozen food and desire to make egg-free ice cream, due to an egg allergy. This is why she doesn’t use any eggs in her recipe today.
Turner prefers to use local ingredients whenever possible. She buys cream wholesale through Shamrock Farms in Phoenix, receiving shipments of about 12.5-gallons twice a week. The alcohol content in each serving is about 3% to 5%. Turner doesn’t buy her liquor wholesale, because with the variety needed to make all the different flavors, it’s just not practical. She uses whiskey, scotch, vodka, gin, tequila, brandy, rum and other spirits to make her creations.
The parlor offers 211 flavors, but keeps 18 different flavors on hand in the shop. The store rotates them out daily, with the exception of the most popular — Chocolate Swirl with Jack Daniels and Black Russian with Kailua — which are available every day. She said coffee and chocolate flavors are popular among her adult crowd and they’re prevalent throughout the store’s flavor palette.
Other flavors available at the parlor include: Brownie Bourbon, Jungle Coffee Scotch, Pomegranate Martini Vodka, Peach Cobbler Rum, Cinnamon Bun Brandy, Sunset Margarita Tequila and S’mores Cognac. The parlor sells one scoop for $3.75, two scoops for $5 and three scoops for $7. Any customer purchasing the alcohol-infused ice cream must show a proof of age.
The shop makes non-alcoholic ice cream in over 50 flavors as well (though limited flavors are available each day). Some of the flavors include: Cake Batter, Chocolate Temptations and Root Beer Float. The parlor sells one scoop for $2.25, two scoops for $4 and three scoops for $5.50. The alcohol-infused ice cream is available in a half-gallon for $32 and full-gallon for $48; the non-alcohol is also available in those sizes for half that price.
The customer base for the parlor is very diverse, aging from 2 to 90; but the shop is particularly popular among senior citizens who really enjoy the “alcohol-infused options,” said Turner. The shop features in-door seating for 12 and outdoor seating for eight; it’s open from Tuesday through Sunday.
Turner first started experimenting with the ice cream and liqueur combination when she was hosting parties for friends. She would serve ice cream with alcohol poured on top — and the idea just developed from there. It took her several years to perfect the process of freezing alcohol with ice cream, while still making it scoopable.
This time spent on perfecting her recipe leaves Turner with a lot of pride in how she makes her ice cream. Because the ice cream has very little overrun, it helps make it rich and gives it that gelato quality, according to Turner.
Beyond the unique alcohol-infused aspect, she feels her ice cream stands out because it’s homemade onsite and she uses the freshest ingredients, “we don’t skimp on any of our products,” she said. Like with the Butter Pecan flavor, “there are lots of nuts and you get that taste of pecan with every bite.” She tries to achieve that indulgent aspect with all her flavors she said.
Even the non-alcohol flavors have something unique about it, Turner said, “We have the best vanilla ice cream because we use vanilla beans and a lot vanilla extract to give it that rich flavor.”
Lee’s Cream Liqueur opened two years ago and has since been voted as Best Adult Ice Cream by AZCentral.com, has received mentions in Forbes Magazine, Sunset Magazine and local Arizona magazines, including Phoenix Magazine.
The parlor does marketing at local Farmer’s Markets, private and charity events, and occasionally puts a cart in the front of the store to attract the local restaurant traffic. The company also caters weddings and has a marketing person who seeks out event planners. Turner said her shop’s been lucky with the press and word-of-mouth recommendations it’s been getting; it’s definitely contributed to the growth. The sales have doubled since last year according to Turner.
With no plans to open new Lee’s Cream Liqueur stores, Turner is focusing on new products, like ice cream flights and alcohol-infused ice cream cakes (available through special order only). The flights offer tastings in six different flavors served in a banana-split style bowl and sold for $10. The shop started rolling out flights in July. It also recently launched online shipping across the United States for both the ice cream and ice cream cakes.