Tasting tour of Alicante ice-creams

What’s finer on a hot sunny day than a scoop of cold ice-cream? Alicante churns out some of the tastiest ice-creams in Europe, some would argue it’s even finer than those found in Italy.

Ice-cream has been a tasty treat for more than a thousand years.  Roman emperor Nero apparently loved snow from the Alps covered in fruit and honey. 

Thirteenth century explorer Marco Polo is credited with bringing a forefather of ice-cream to Italy when he brought back a recipe from China.

Upper-class desserts

However, iced desserts were strictly for Royalty and the upper classes who could afford ice houses until the fridge and freezer were invented.

Alicante ice-creams

These appliances became commonplace in most kitchens after World War Two, when ice-cream became a treat for everyone to enjoy.

Now it comes in thousands of flavours from fruit to savoury such as snail or garlic ice-creams.

In Spain, you can enjoy many delicious flavours at ice-cream parlours or through artisanal producers.

The supermarket brands are pretty tasty too with Mercadona selling its own-brand chocolate ice-cream with chocolate chips which would holds its own against many more ‘`posher’ varieties.

Like so many of Spain’s great foods, the forerunner to ice-cream – the sorbet – was introduced by the Arabs, particularly around Granada where snow was collected from the Sierra Nevada mountain and kept in cool caves.

Sorbet is an Arabic word meaning sweet drink. The ice was mixed with fruits, honey and spices such as cinnamon or fennel.

In the Alicante region, snow was collected from the mountains between June and October to sell in villages and was stored to preserve food, provide relief in the summer heat or to make ices.

In winter the snow was kept in special wells so that it stayed cold for the summer months to be used to prepare ice-cream.

 Over time, families in two Alicante towns – Ibi and Jijona – which are just 30 miles apart, became connoisseurs in creating delicious ice-creams.

Hailing from Jijona

Ibi was already well established for making toys while Jijona was famous for producing turron.

However, turron is traditionally eaten at Christmas and so production only lasts for a few months. The townsfolk, therefore, needed to find other employment for the rest of the year. So in the summer months they made and sold ice-cream.

Borgonesse ice-cream parlour, Alicante

Throughout Spain, you will find many ice-cream shops where the original owners migrated from Jijona to sell their artisanal products. 

These include the famous Heladeria Federico Verdu which started trading in turron and sweets in 1882 in Gijon, whose ancestors hailed from Jijona.

These artisanal ice-creams are still in demand today. These are much more nutritious and flavoursome than the mass-produced varieties.  Turron ice-cream is also a popular choice combining cream, nuts and honey.

The artisanal types have lots of protein, vitamins such as A, B1, B2, B3, C, D, E, and minerals including calcium. It can, therefore, be argued that ice-cream is good for you and, although it is relatively low in calories, it should be taken in moderation.

Alicante city, particularly around the historic old town and the Explanada de Espana promenade near the waterfront, is a great place to stop off for a cool ice-cream.

Spain-Holiday has found its own scoop six for you.

Along the Rambla in Alicante are two great ice-cream shops with dozens of great choices from the usual vanilla, chocolate or strawberry to more unusual flavours such as turron, crème catalan and chocolate brownies.

The first stop is at Borgonesse, which has been serving ice-cream, horchata (traditional Valencian drink made with tiger nuts) and turron since 1984.

Great variety of flavours from this shop, which has a charming, old-fashioned look about it. There are old wooden barrels  and milk churns along with a traditional cart which would have been used to push around the streets of Alicante to sell ices on bygone days.

There’s nowhere to sit but next to the shop is a quaint little square with ancient trees and seats where you can enjoy your ice-cream in the shade.

Borgonesse ice-cream parlour, Alicante

Further up the road, on the opposite side, is Antiu Xixona, which was founded in 1972 and joined the Grupo Alacant group of ice-cream makers in 1994.

From banana to black chocolate flavours

The trays are stacked high with flavours including New York cheesecake, banana with chocolate, black chocolate with orange marmalade and Irish coffee.

There is a larger Antiu Xixona on the Explanada with plenty of tables outside. This would be a more peaceful spot to enjoy your dessert than the busy Rambla street.

All varieties of ices in Alicante

Behind the castle in Calle Pinoso is the historic El Xixonenc parlour selling ice-cream, drinks, cakes and turrons.

El Xixonenc is a family-run business which dates back to the 1930s and hails from nearby Jijona. Like many other people from Jijona, the family needed to find work through the summer and began work in the ice-cream sector.

Civil War stops production

Things came to a halt during the Civil War but were revived in the 1950s when Antonio Sirvent and Concha Miquel opened for business in Alicante.

Orange and lemon ice-creams in Alicante

Their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren now run the business. Their products are handcrafted using natural products. There are now four parlours in Alicante selling scoops of ice-cream or long glasses with a choice of flavours topped with cream. Flavours include After Eight, banana, turron, tutti frutti and tiramisu.

One of the finest parlours in Alicante is actually Italian. Livanti Gelato di Sicilia, near the San Nicolas cathedral, argues that Sicily is the birthplace of ice-cream.  It serves home-made ices in 36 flavours from €2.

If money is of no object, Quique Dacosta, who runs a restaurant in Denia with 3 Michelin stars, has created various surprising ice-creams including a heated variety , which was unveiled at Madrid Fusion last year.

Quique Dacosta is a gastronomical genius with surprising flavours and textures in his dishes.

A group of artisanal Alicante ice-cream makers joined forces to promote their special products and flavours around the world.

Helados Alacant association of ice-cream artisans includes parlours across Alicante including Heladeria Jijona in Alicante, Heladeria Sirvent in Benidorm and El Galaet de Pepe in Javea.

The group uses traditional family recipes to create quality ices packed with flavour.

Helados Alacant can be found around the world including Saudi Arabia, Canada and the USA.

Its office in San Vicente del Raspeig has a museum dedicated to the history of Alicante ice-cream making including historic pieces donated by great local artisans. It plots the history of the dessert from the Far East to the snow pits in Spain and the first producers to the evolution of technology in the production of ice-cream today.