Don’t ignore vanilla, says the renowned Savannah ice cream maker Stratton Leopold. “I like vanilla a lot because that’s how you tell quality,” he says, explaining how a plain-flavored scoop reveals much about the craftsmanship and ingredient integrity of the rest of a shop’s flavors. Leopold’s Ice Cream, celebrating its one hundredth birthday this year (Leopold’s father and uncles opened the shop in 1919), sells plenty of its creamy, classic vanilla. That beloved basic recipe has been the foundation for Leopold’s expansion over the decades, from the “probably ten or twelve flavors we had when I was a child,” Leopold says. Now, more than a hundred rotating flavors are all made in-house—many with ingredients from the Peach State.
The songwriter Johnny Mercer loved Tutti Frutti, a rum-based treat studded with candied fruit and roasted Georgia pecans, and other fan favorites include honey almond and cream (made with Savannah Bee Company honey) and chocolate Chewies and cream (incorporating cookies baked with the local Gottlieb’s Bakery recipe). To mark the milestone, a Birthday Block Party (August 17) will take over downtown’s Broughton Street with a marching band, perhaps a celebrity or two (Leopold, in his spare time, is a movie producer, with such credits as Mission: Impossible III and The Sum of All Fears), and plenty of one-dollar ice cream scoops. What will you find Leopold himself enjoying that day? “It depends,” he says. “I like caramel swirl. I like butter pecan. I just like ice cream—and I eat it all.”