At Vampire Penguin, choose from a variety of shaved ice flavors and then get creative with your toppings.

At Vampire Penguin, choose from a variety of shaved ice flavors and then get creative with your toppings.

While it’s hard to build a snowman in Sarasota, you can create a shaved snow treat at the new sweet shop Vampire Penguin. Recently opened by childhood friends Austin DeGroot and Lucas Morris, the co-owners are excited to be bringing a unique confection to the neighborhood.

“We were looking for something different when we stumbled upon Vampire Penguin. It’s unlike what anyone else has,” says Morris.

Akin to shaved ice or Japanese kakigōri, the light, fluffy dessert is a less-fattening, low-sugar, often dairy-free alternative to ice cream. DeGroot says it's an unusual, health-conscious option that delights taste buds of all ages. “[Lucas and I are] both family-oriented people. It’s so fun to watch children come in and try it for the first time,” he says.

Customize your frozen treat with options like whipped cream, graham cracker crumbs, sprinkles and marshmallows.

Customize your frozen treat with options like whipped cream, graham cracker crumbs, sprinkles and marshmallows.

So how do you build the snowy treat?

First, pick your snow! There’s a rotating selection of flavors that include everything from the classics—chocolate, strawberry and vanilla—to whimsical choices such as pineapple, Thai tea and cotton candy. The snow is made on-site out of fresh ingredients (the strawberry snow has little seeds in it) and molded into colorful wheels, which are stored in a specialty icebox. When ordered, a frozen wheel is put into a machine that grates off a bowl’s worth of melt-in-your-mouth flakes.

Next, pick your toppings. Decide if you want to add syrup, caramel or white chocolate, perhaps. There’s also a wide variety of garnishes to choose from, including fresh fruit, boba, marshmallows, graham cracker crumbs and whipped cream.

The dessert comes served on a frosty plate to keep things cool while you eat.

Vampire Penguin also offers set menu of creative confections.

Vampire Penguin also offers set menu of creative confections.

If you’re overwhelmed by choices, you can always start with a preconceived combination. DeGroot and Morris enjoy experimenting with new snow flavors and creating special monthly editions. The menu currently includes the Mexican Candy, made with mango shaved snow, watermelon, Chamoy sauce, Tajin and caramel, and the seasonal Winter Wonderland, with chocolate shaved snow, candy cane, Oreo crumbs, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. There’s also the signature Vampire Penguin, made with green tea snow, almond slices, strawberries, sweet red bean and condensed milk.

And why is a shaved snow parlor called Vampire Penguin, you wonder? “It’s so unique and amazing, it shouldn’t exist—just like a vampire penguin," DeGroot explains.

The shop will be celebrating its grand opening on December 18. Rumor has it that Santa is a friend of Vampire Penguin and will make an appearance from 4 to 6 p.m.

Vampire Penguin is located at 4976 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 923-8155. Shop hours are

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