Christina Tosi’s Tips for Making Desserts with Booze

By Farrah Shaikh |

© Dave Kotinksy

Chefs and bakers have combined food and booze brilliantly forever. The classic bananas foster ignites because of rum and banana liqueur; boozy milkshakes take those with a sweet tooth to a buzzed sugar high; and Pernod is what makes Oysters Rockefeller an amazing appetizer. But it takes a special touch to find that happy balance of liquor and main ingredient.

James Beard Award–winning pastry queen Christina Tosi (Milkbar) has mastered the balancing act of booze in desserts. "The dish shouldn’t just be about the alcohol. It should celebrate the intricacies and craftsmanship of the spirit. And then that should be paired with the craftsmanship in the kitchen. “  

Her current pairing project? Scotch—particularly The Glenlivet 18 Year Old. “I love The Glenlivet 18 Year Old for all of the expressive aromas that tease your nose. It has great fruits and nuances that let you play. When making a dessert with this Scotch, however, you have to realize the totality of the dessert you are creating. It is like a great glass of wine; you wouldn’t just pour it over something. You want to pay tribute to it and incorporate it. Finding the balance and harmony of Scotch and the dessert is a fun challenge.”

So what doesn’t work with Scotch? “Chocolate works well but only when it is not the headliner, because it can be too intense. Any flavors that play well as a secondary flavor are the best to work with when working with Scotch. I was thinking of making something like an apple miso butter, since miso is always a great ingredient to bring out depth, but it tends to steal the show. Flavors that are open, bright and versatile are the best to work with. Toasted nuts, berries, and even coffee are great because you can tone them down. All citrus, especially during the winter, works very well with Scotch.”

Last night Tosi collaborated with The Glenlivet to create a menu paired with Scotch in honor of Robbie Burns day, celebrating the legendary Scottish poet. For dessert, she created a coconut cake truffle with a tangerine and Scotch marmalade. In addition, Tosi presented a play on classic Scottish shortbread with a Milkbar-touch,

Give Tosi’s creations a shot with her Compost Cookie Shortbread and Scotch Marmalade:

Compost Cookie ® Shortbread

makes about 24 shortbread squares

  • 1/2 pound unsalted European style butter (226g)                        
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (120g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (1g)                              
  • 1 large egg (50g)
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (360g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (2g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (1.15g)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (4g)
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips (150g)
  • 1/2 cup mini butterscotch chips (100g)
  • 1 cup graham crackers, crumbled (85g)
  • 1/3 cup oats (40g)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground coffee (85g)
  • 2 cups potato chips (50g)
  • 1 cup pretzels (50g)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  2. Combine butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add eggs, and beat for another 7-8 minute, until pale and fluffy.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than one minute. (Do not walk away from the machine during this step, or you will risk overmixing the dough.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  4. Using a rolling pin, roll out shortbread dough on a lightly floured surface, and roll out to about ¾ inch thickness.
  5. Take the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, graham cracker crumbs, oats, coffee grounds, potato chips and pretzels and spread them evenly over the rolled out cookie dough. Using the rolling pin, gently press in the toppings to the dough.
  6. Using your favorite cookie cutter, cut out the dough and place on a parchment lined cookie sheets.
  7. Bake Compost Cookie® Shortbread for 8-10 minutes (depending on your oven!) until the edges are golden brown, cool on a rack.
  8. At room temp, the cookies will keep for 5 days; in the freezer, they will keep for 1 month.

Glenlivet Tangerine Marmalade

Makes about 4 1/2 cups of marmalade

  • 6 Tangerines (about 700g)
  • 3 1/2 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 400g The Glenlivet 18 Year Old
  1. Wash tangerines, cut them into quarters and put them in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade, pour granulated sugar on top of the tangerine pieces
  2. Pulse the tangerine and sugar mixture until rind is finely chopped, and there are no pieces larger than a garbanzo bean, remove any seeds that you find with a small spoon
  3. Pour the mixture into a medium pot and cook it gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally using a metal spoon and skim the foam off the top into a separate bowl
  4. Cook tangerine mixture for about 10 minutes until very bubbly and slightly thickened, or until it reads 220° Fahrenheit
  5. Turn off the burner and as the marmalade cools, fold in The Glenlivet 18 Year Old
  6. Scrape marmalade into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap, chill until ready to use 

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