Tried-and-true ice-cream flavor favorites like vanilla and chocolate have their time and place, neither of which are during the last days of summer. Now’s the time to try the boldest, most unique flavors around, courtesy of the many experimental ice-cream shops popping up throughout the United States. If you’ve ever fantasized about sprinkling cayenne pepper on vanilla or transforming your favorite savory dish into frozen dessert, here are the shops that offer just such experiences.


Humphry Slocombe, San Francisco, California


You’ll find everything from Peanut Butter Curry to Thai Chili Lime sorbet at this Mission District shop. But the most popular flavors are Secret Breakfast (bourbon ice cream with cornflakes) and Jesus Juice (Coke Classic spiked with Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône).


Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, Massachusetts


Most standard flavors are offered at their four locations, but lobster ice cream—a butter ice cream with bits of butter-cooked lobster swirled throughout—is actually one of the most-requested flavors for shipping.


Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, New York City, New York


Douglas Quint and his partner, Bryan Petroff, came up with the idea to take classic soft-serve and add eyebrow-raising toppings like wasabi pea dust, ginger syrup, and cayenne pepper. Patrons can create their own cone or choose from the truck’s menu, which includes Salty Pimp: vanilla soft-serve, sea salt, dulce de leche, and chocolate sauce.


Scoops, Los Angeles, California


The perpetual line out the door at this scoop shop is one indication of its ice cream’s deliciousness. The other is the mix of flavors in its freezers, like Blackberry Jasmine, Jim Beam Cheesecake, and Pistachio Fig, all of which sound eclectic enough to be enticing rather than off-putting.


Sweet Action Ice Cream, Denver, Colorado


Many of the flavors here include alcohol, but we’re not talking Rum Raisin or Irish Coffee. Instead, choose from Black Licorice Sambuca, Margarita Sherbet, a whiskey brickle, and White Chocolate Raspberry Ale, to name a few. But regardless of what you order, you’re supporting a good business. Sweet Action uses compostable materials and local seasonal ingredients.


Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, Seattle, Washington


The two locations in Seattle offer interesting options like Cardamom and Balsamic Strawberry, but the flavor to get isn’t actually on the menu. If you order ice cream for breakfast, you’ll get a cup of oatmeal with a scoop of Maple-Bacon ice cream and any toppings you want.


Max & Mina’s Ice Cream, Flushing, New York


This Queens institution has a slew of celebrity testimonials from the likes of Rosie O’Donnell and Al Roker; how could you pass it up? If you do, you’ll miss out on flavors like Nova Lox, Sour Cream, Horseradish, and even Pizza. For the record, Rosie tried the Coconut ice cream and Al opted for Apple ice cream with graham crackers and jalapeño peppers.


The Bent Spoon, Princeton, New Jersey


A popular spot for college kids and locals alike, this shop freely experiments with the combination of sweet and savory. Flavors include Heirloom Tomato Sorbet, Chocolate Habanero, and Garam Masala.


The Gilroy Garlic Festival, Gilroy, California


This is an annual event, not an ice-cream shop, but nowhere else will you find such a varied mix of garlic-infused flavors, like Roasted Almond, Chocolate, Pecan Praline, and so forth. The ice cream comes from Marianne’s, a popular ice-cream shop in Santa Cruz.

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