Lee Turner of Lee's Cream Liqueurs
Hannah E Williams
"People's first reaction was: this is not going to be good, this is going to make me sick," Turner says of her skeptical friends who (like us) gag at the thought of mixing dairy and alcohol (come on, admit it, you're a little freaked out...), "But when they try it, they're shocked. And then they ask me to make a gallon for them and leave it in their refrigerator."
After sampling just about every flavor in the shop, we want Turner to leave gallons of ice cream liqueurs in our freezer too. Bummer she's already holding two jobs - systems programmer by day, ice cream goddess by night - and has little interest in being our personal ice cream fairy.
Turner's (justifiably) tight-lipped about her alcohol-and-ice-cream fusion, but she's giving us the scoop on using both an old-fashioned turn-crank ice cream maker and the commercial machine at the shop, her biggest recipe flop, and the knitting parties that involved more alcohol than yarn or needles.
(Find out if you can get an ice cream buzz after the jump.)
First ice cream making memory? I had the ice cream turner that I would turn by hand, and I thought the faster I could turn it the quicker it would be ready. No: The slower you turn it, the quicker it's ready. I was a very young girl at that time; I wasn't even a teenager.
What was your favorite flavor growing up? Vanilla, because it was the only one I knew how to make. [Laughing.] Here I have about 45 different flavors, and I rotate weekly.
How long did it take to invent 45 flavors? About 12 years.
Worst recipe experiment? I tried the apple martini, and I wanted to put fresh apples in it. I did, and it tasted like baby food. I thought, "Eww. No, that's not going to work." But there it is, and it doesn't taste like baby food now!
What inspires you? Pies. I love pies, I think about pies, and that is how I come up with my ideas for ice cream. You notice that I have a lot of different ice cream that tastes like pies. I think about the different sweets, not just the normal sweets. With the martini, I have a little salt, because you think about the sweet and something salty, like caramel corn and butter. And I like unusual combinations.
Most unusual flavor combination? I love that sweet and a little bit of cayenne pepper, so I mixed Peaches, a little bit of chocolate and a little cayenne. Oh it is mmmm - you have to try it.
What's the trick to getting the alcohol and ice cream to the right consistency? It's just the sequence, the process. Of course it took me years and years to get the process to where it's actually scoopable.
Tell us about these knitting and martini parties! We were actually drinking more martinis than doing knitting. I would collect different types of vodkas, maybe 20, and mix up the different martinis for the ladies. It was just so much fun. After work, we'd get together and just relax. We'd knit a few. Have a few martinis. Knit one more time. Have more martinis. It was a blast.
About how many tries to perfect a new flavor? It depends on the ice cream: Sometimes I get it on the first try, sometimes it takes five, and sometimes more.
What does the Valley food scene need? I would like to see an ice cream festival. We have taco festivals, tequila festivals, so why not an ice cream festival? It's so hot, why not?!
Hannah E Williams
Who would you like to make ice cream for? I would like to go around to the different elderly homes and supply them with ice cream. At least once a month, do an ice cream social. I would love to get them ice cream - not the ones without alcohol, the alcohol ones! - because ice cream makes you happy. Those are the senior years where they should be happy. Give them something that's going to put a smile on their face.
Hardest kitchen lesson? The [commercial] ice cream machine. I turned it on, and I was wondering, "Why is this not going?" Of course, I'm so used to using a smaller version. It was because water was not going into the machine. Water has to go into it, and the water wasn't even turned on, so nothing was moving. I thought I was going to have to call the manufacturer to let them know my machine wasn't working. Just turn the water on, it's that simple.
What's the next flavor? I have one that's going to be called heavenly chocolate - with chocolate covered peanuts, chocolate and a little bit of caramel - for the serious chocolate lovers. And brandy, because it's sweet.
What criteria does an ice cream have to make before it makes the rotation? At least five out of the ten people [who try it] have to say yes. If you find only two out of the ten say yes, it doesn't make it. Even if you love it? Even if I love it.
And liquors you won't use? I'm going to stay away from the wines, because it'll water it down. I don't like that icy taste in ice cream.
Can you get drunk off the ice cream liqueurs? No. [Laughing.] You will not get drunk.
Hannah E Williams
By the way, there's free underground parking across the street, so you can stop circling and feast on some booze-infused ice cream already!
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Phoenix dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.