A Boozy Ice Cream Cold War Is Brewing
Thanks to a recent surge of patent-pending alcohol-infused ice creams, you can now eat a cone with up to 18 percent ABV.
Beware of the faux-boozy dessert.
A recent ice cream date with Tamara Keefe, owner of Clementine’s Naughty & Nice in St. Louis, opened my eyes to the vast, contentious world of alcohol-infused ice cream. Keefe has a secret, patent-pending mechanism by which she infuses alcohol into ice cream so the stuff can actually get you tipsy, unlike other ice creams on the market. “Others claim they have boozy ice cream, but mostly it's sprinkled in low amounts or cooked off, or they use flavorings,” she says. Her Old Fashioned ice cream, made with Still 630's local RallyPoint Rye Whiskey, was unlike anything I’d ever tasted.
While Keefe’s patent and recipes are one-of-a-kind, alcohol-infused ice cream is having a moment. “The trend of boozy ice cream is coming to a head, and the processes are in many cases getting more sophisticated,” says Momenti’s CEO, Leif Pearson. Gone are the days of adding a shot of vodka to a milkshake and calling it a day. “Alcohol and liqueur really can add so much to foods, especially desserts,” says Melissa Tavss, the founder and CEO of Tipsy Scoop who recently opened New York City’s first-ever “barlour:” a bar-meets-ice cream parlor. “I think everyone is catching on.”
Keefe, set to open a third brick-and-mortar location in 2017, invented a process that allows the alcohol content to go as high as 18 percent ABV, depending on the flavor. Soju melon, created in collaboration with Seoul Taco, combines a refreshing mix of Soju liqueur and honeydew melon, while the summer shandy flavor tastes exactly as it reads—a true Leinenkugel's-infused ice cream. Add in strict micro-creamery guidelines, and Keefe produces ice cream profiles that cannot be replicated. “With ice cream, the flavors envelop and develop over time,” she says, differentiating between boozy milkshakes and alcohol-infused ice cream. “If made properly, the base will rest, and the ingredients will meld together, and that's where the magic happens.”
If you can’t hit up Clementine’s Naughty & Nice in St. Louis, here’s where else to get ice cream that will cool you down and mess you up.
Tipsy Scoop brings spectacular ice cream and sorbet flavors to New Yorkers (and mail-orders nationwide) that are up to 5 percent ABV. Why drink a beer when you could eat two ice cream scoops to the same effect? Alcohol and liquor are infused during the ice cream-making process, resulting in a creamy, boozy fusion. “[In our] vanilla bean bourbon, you get hints of the bourbon’s vanilla and caramel in the flavor of the ice cream, and then that kind of bolder bite at the end of the spoonful,” says Tavss, noting that mixing bourbon directly into the ice cream wouldn’t have the same effect.
The Columbia, South Carolina company J.B.’s PR%F specializes in eclectic flavors like chocolate bourbon and caramel moonshine, and in the summer, they offer peach whiskey and coconut rum. “Although we can produce much higher ABV percentages, we have found 7 percent ABV to be the most palatable,” says Jennifer Randall-Collins, the company’s CEO. With a patent pending domestically and internationally, she says you shouldn’t expect a recipe to surface anytime soon. “Unlike others that make similar claims, we do not soak add-ins like nuts or candies in alcohol and add them to a recipe, or use low-proof liqueurs,” she says. Straight bourbon, rum, moonshine, tequila and whiskey are actual ingredients in the ice cream.
Momenti Spirited Ice Creams
Momenti Spirited Ice Creams in Las Vegas have a patent pending on the ability to put anywhere from 3 percent to 13 percent ABV in ice creams and sorbets, a wine-based sorbet being around 3.5% and a more spirits-heavy ice cream hitting up to 10 percent. “Most of our products are like a strong beer at 5 percent,” says Pearson. Summer brings refreshing, cult-favorite flavors of sparkling strawberry sorbet (crafted with Prosecco and fresh strawberry purée) and margarita sorbet (made with 100 percent Alma de Agave Tequila.) “The difference is consistency; each of our flavors are meticulously formulated so that you can enjoy a great taste and more than a subtle hint of alcohol,” he says.
Häagen-Dazs Spirits (If you’re trying to keep it classy.)
Go to Canada for a pint of Häagen-Dazs Spirits range, which claims to be the first large consumer brand in the country to release an alcohol-infused ice cream. “To have the best balance between flavor level and texture we find that about 1 percent alcohol in Häagen-Dazs Spirits works best,” says Paul De Larzac, marketing leader at Nestlé Canada. “We work with industry mixologists to further refine the concepts and ensure the right flavors are working well together.” Flavors like vodka key lime pie, whiskey chocolate truffle and rum ginger cookie may be worth the Canadian road trip.