Cool Rulers: Where To Find The Best Jamaican-Style Ice Cream

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July 28, 2015

Words by Jesse Serwer
Photos by Martei Korley, Ola Mazzuca and Justin Pallack

Visit any ice-cream shop in the Caribbean, and you’re sure to encounter a few flavors you won’t find at Cold Stone Creamery or your local freezer aisle. Along with the more ubiquitous coconut and mango, lesser-traveled regional fruits like soursop, passion fruit and naseberry all make for popular flavors in the islands.

In Jamaica, tropical fruits are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local ice cream culture. While most people around the world equate ice cream with childhood, confectioners on the island have perfected what one might call “adult ice cream,” crafting savory-sweet flavors from beer, rum and even apple vodka. In reality, there’s hardly enough alcohol content in these concoctions to get anyone buzzed—usually about 1.5 percent ABV—but there’s something about satisfying your sweet tooth with the same flavors that get you drunk that just appeals to Jamaican sensibilities. “Jamaicans just like the flavor of alcohol in ice cream,” says Marlon Davis, founder of the New York-based Nesberry’s ice-cream chain, which specializes in so-called tropical ice-cream flavors. “They like stout and rum and raisin. It plays on how they grew up and what they were exposed to. People want to spend that five minutes taking a trip down memory lane.

Easily, the most popular of these alcohol-infused concoctions is Irish stout ice cream, typically made with Guinness or its somewhat sweeter Jamaican counterpart, Dragon Stout. The specialty was made famous by the world-famous Devon House I-Scream in Kingston, where it’s known as “Devon Stout.  Then, there’s rum raisin, the rare Caribbean confection that’s actually gone mainstream: Baskin Robbins has a version, and so does Blue Bell.

Falling completely to the left is the decidedly non-alcoholic, yet surprisingly intoxicating “grape nut.” (Also known as “Great Nut,” in certain establishments). In Jamaica, it’s an anomaly to consume the similarly named cereal as the Post Foods company intended it–it’s far better known as the active ingredient in a mystifyingly delicious ice cream. For a more extensive guide to Jamaican and tropical ice cream flavors, see our list here.

We can’t think of a better way to cool off in the summer than with some frosty tropical ice cream, and if you actually need another reason to try some, here’s one: It’s currently “National Ice Cream Month”, as designated by Ronald Reagan, in 1984. What’s more, Jamaican ice cream is easier than ever to find off-island, as homesick Jamaicans missing the flavors of their youth have opened up specialty shops abroad, spreading the holy trinity of grape nut, rum raisin and stout into the USA, Canada and England.

Here’s a look at some of our favorite Jamaican-style ice-cream shops, so you can satisfy that Guinness and Grape Nut craving wherever you are, from Mandeville to Maryland.