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They Put What in That Ice Cream? Six Shops That Churn Out Inventive, Local Scoops

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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Remember when grandpa would take rock salt, ice, sugar, fruit and cream and crank out the best darn ice cream ever? That old-fashioned aesthetic is making a comeback thanks to ice cream artisans dedicated to crafting small batches of decadent, and often surprising, flavors. The International Dairy Foods Association says the average American indulges in 22 pounds of ice cream each year.

Considering our long, hot summers, it's to be expected that South Carolinians get their fair share. You can fulfill your quota right here, too, while savoring a "sky's the limit" variety of flavors. Here is a sampling of inspired craft ice cream makers with frosty wares that will either take you back in time or make you feel you're taking a walk on the ice cream wild side.

Cirsea, Charleston

Cirsea is an apt moniker for a business proffering the yummy gift of ice cream. "Eclectic" would also fit, considering the range of unexpected flavor profiles. What started as a small-scale experiment in flavors bloomed into a Lowcountry ice cream brand with a rapidly growing foodie following.

Flavors to savor: Black Sesame, Green Tea, Lavender, Lychee, Maple Pecan, Strawberry Goat Cheese, Vanilla Black Pepper

Where to snag a pint, cone or cup: Cirsea flavors are available at restaurants and markets throughout the Charleston area. Check the website for a complete list of locations.

Freckles & Giggles Handcrafted Ice Cream, Mullins

Belly up to this ice cream truck for a burst of authentic Southern flavors. Made two gallons at a time with fresh fruit and other local products, this ice cream boasts a genuine homespun touch. Cookies, caramel and other add-ins are all homemade - nothing artificial here.

Flavors to savor: Banana pudding, red velvet cake, orange pineapple, peach, blueberry cheesecake, salty caramel

Where to snag a pint, cup or cone: Head to Mullins and look for the Freckles and Giggles truck each Wednesday and Thursday in the parking lot of Shoe Fair, 2803 E. Highway 76. Rotations in Santee, Florence and Myrtle Beach will be announced on their Facebook page.

JB's Proof, Columbia

Send the kids to bed, call your friends and break out the bowls and spoons - this is dessert for adults only. JB's Proof is making ripples across the state after presiding over the unlikely marriage of premium liquor and decadent craft ice cream. Oh, the scandal! But this isn't a frozen wine cooler - we're talking serious alcohol percentages of 7 percent delivered in each creamy 4-ounce scoop. Using a patent-pending method for freezing rum, bourbon, moonshine and, soon, vodka, JB's produces cocktail flavors that live up to the tagline, "It's all the buzz." This ain't your grandpa's ice cream. Or your mama's.

Flavors to savor: Peach Bourbon, Peach Rum, Strawberry Moonshine, Mint Julep, Chocolate Bourbon, Vanilla Rum, Coconut Rum, Butterscotch Moonshine

Where to snag a pint or serving: JB's Pr%f can be found in restaurants, specialty markets, liquor stores and other businesses across South Carolina. Check the website for the most recently updated list. And don't forget your ID.

Sweet Lili's, Camden

"Why do you want to go through all that trouble? Just sell ready-made." That's how the food distributor for Liliana Caraminas' cupcake shop responded when she told him she was adding homemade ice cream to the menu. One taste of her ice cream offerings and you'll be glad she ignored his advice. Each week, the churn is cranked up and 15 flavors, designed by Liliana with all-natural ingredients like fresh blueberries and her own vanilla extract, are made one batch at a time. The result is fresh and exquisite - "Freezer Burn" is not a flavor here.

Flavors to savor: Cinnamon Bun, Fig, Lemongrass, Mexican Caramel, Lime-Cucumber, Mango, Almond Nougat Caramel

Where to snag a pint, cup or cone: Sweet Lili's is nestled smack dab in the heart of downtown Camden at 1026 Broad St. Tables are outfitted with a variety of board games, so bring the kids and enjoy some family time with your ice cream. Liliana's designer cupcakes make the perfect accompaniment, too.

Wholly Cow, Charleston

With more than 30 years in the business, you could say Wholly Cow started the craft ice cream trend in South Carolina. Their French custard-style ice cream, which gleans its richness from butterfat and egg yolks, is the mink coat of locally produced desserts. But the key to success is found in consistency. After three decades, the ice cream is still free of growth hormones, preservatives and artificial additives, the ingredients remain top-of-the-line, and each tub is hand-packed. They do sorbet, too. Mooo-valous!

Flavors to savor: Killa Vanilla, Wild Strawberry, Southern Praline, Carolina Peach, Lemon Créme, Charleston Sea Turtle, Sweet Tea Pecan

Where to snag a pint, cup or cone: Wholly Cow is widely available across the state, though you'll find the highest availability in the Charleston area. Check their website for a listing of scoop shops and eateries that offer Wholly Cow.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.