There are many perks of being the mayor of Ithaca. The position potentially comes with top-notch parking spots, red carpet treatment and, if the mayor is lucky, an unexpectedly sweet benefit — a personalized ice cream flavor.
Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream shop debuted Svante’s Inferno, a new flavor created for Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, on Aug. 22. Owner Melissa Kenny said the idea came to her after Myrick began following Sweet Melissa’s on Twitter on Aug. 15.
“I was so excited that I offered to make him a flavor of ice cream,” she said. “I loved how much he loved the idea.”
Once Sweet Melissa’s made him the offer, Myrick tweeted, “Literally the best moment of my life. @IthacaIceCream: @SvanteMyrick I’ll name an ice cream flavor for you if you want to invent a flavor!”
Myrick reached out to the City of Ithaca to spread the news and used Facebook and Twitter to crowdsource suggestions for the name and flavor of the ice cream. He said members of the community had fun with the project and proposed several names, playing on words to create titles such as My-lick, Svante Myrickal and Svelt Svante.
According to Myrick’s personal Facebook page, Steevyn Joseph, Tompkins Cortland Community College student, chose the name Svante’s Inferno to match Myrick’s preferred flavor of ice cream. Kenny said Myrick wanted a chocolate base with a hint of spiciness. She suggested adding cayenne pepper for extra heat and another signature ingredient, such as pecans or heath bar bits. Myrick proposed salted caramel swirls.
After Kenny taste tested the first batch, she reached out to Myrick to let him know Svante’s Inferno was ready for him to sample.
“I wanted him to be the first one to try it,” she said. “I wanted it to be his own thing.”
Myrick visited the tangerine-colored ice cream shop, situated on the corner of West Seneca and West Geneva streets next to Shortstop Deli, on Aug. 22. Kenny was ready with a generous scoop of Svante’s Inferno in a sugar cone for Myrick, who was the first to try his personal flavor. A slew of customers followed, eager to taste the treat.
Those who tried the ice cream, including Myrick, said they enjoyed the milk chocolate flavor with a hint of heat. David Craig, a shop patron, received the second serving of Svante’s Inferno and described the taste as “cold hot chocolate.”
“It’s noticeably hot,” Craig said. “And I’ve got a pretty high tolerance level.”
Some customers were new to Sweet Melissa’s. Senior Hannah Zorn said Svante’s Inferno was the first flavor she tried.
“I’ve never had pepper in ice cream before,” Zorn said. “It’s really good.”
Sarafina Payne, Sweet Melissa’s assistant manager, said making Svante’s Inferno doesn’t take as much time as people might expect. Kenny and Payne use a big metal pot to mix chocolate powder and cayenne into an ice cream mix. They run this through a batch freezer until it solidifies, and then they gradually pour in a layer of salted caramel at a time to spread it throughout the batch. The whole process takes roughly an hour, Payne said.
When Sweet Melissa’s opened in 2009, Kenny and her husband, Matt, served soft serve and hard ice cream. After a few years, they began to branch out and sell their own homemade flavors. Kenny primarily experiments with the hard ice cream and has created more than 20 different flavors.
“It’s all experimenting,” she said. “I like to play around with things. I think it came naturally to me.”
The store is open April through September, and in the spring and summer months, Kenny makes her own ice cream versions of desserts. It’s not unusual to find Kenny at Wegmans, perusing different ingredients and imagining ways to turn them into ice cream flavors.
“I dissect what’s in a dessert and put those ingredients into the ice cream,” she said. “Usually, it comes out really well.”
Kenny’s creations include Tea and Cookies, an Earl Grey–based ice cream with Oreo bits, and Oatmeal Scotchy Batter, which has butterscotch chips and granola. Sweet Melissa’s also serves vegan ice cream flavors, which have coconut milk instead of cream.
Kenny said experimenting with different combinations of ingredients is one of the best parts about her job.
“I feel like I can play around a lot with hard ice cream,” she said. “It’s so much fun.”
Kenny said another benefit to making her own ice cream is catering to her customers: Sweet Melissa’s sold all three gallons of Svante’s Inferno in one day.
Kenny said she was happy to work with the mayor and interact with the community to create Svante’s Inferno. Myrick also expressed his excitement and said he never thought he would have an ice cream flavor named after him.
“It’s certainly not the reason you run [for mayor], but it’s a great perk,” he said.