Saucy Scoops: 14 Places to Try Boozy Ice Cream
Photo By: Alan Gastelum ©2014 Alan Gastelum ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
We’ve got frozen desserts and frozen drinks. All across the country, enterprising ice cream parlors are combining the two, creating adults-only ice cream flavors that are sure to keep spirits in summer mode. From whiskey-heavy soft serve to hip-hop-inspired gin and juice, here’s where to satisfy those ice cream and booze cravings in one fell swoop.
Ice Cream Jubilee
Using locally sourced dairy, this acclaimed parlor, founded by attorney-turned-“icecreampreneur” Victoria Lai, makes a wide selection of haute alcohol-infused treats in addition to more classic flavors. Some are on the straightforward side, such as Banana Bourbon Caramel (infused with a free-handed splash of Jim Beam) and seasonal fall Maple Rye Pecan. Cherries Jubilee celebrates D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival by incorporating pureed black cherries with a hearty dash of brandy — like the cherry on top of a Manhattan cocktail. Other beverage-inspired options include Dark & Stormy, Gin & Tonic sorbet, Grapefruit Campari and summery Strawberry Lemonade Champagne.
Photo courtesy of Victoria Lai
Sweet Action Ice Cream, Denver
Sweet Action is regularly hailed as one of Denver’s top spots to grab a cone. Opened by Samantha Kopicko and Chia Basinger in 2009, the company started with the simple goal of making the best homemade ice cream possible, using local dairies and purveyors, including Colorado-based distilleries and breweries. When the owners devised Stranahan’s Whiskey Brickle, their goal was to create a flavor that tastes exactly like a glass of whiskey on the rocks. It does. And then there are the beer-based selections and even one made with grog. ESB has Breckenridge Extra Special bitters and a sandwich-cookie swirl mixed in. Smoked Porter S’mores, with chocolate chunks and marshmallows, tastes like a grown-up version of the campfire classic.
Moomers Ice Cream, Traverse City, Michigan
Many ice cream parlors use local dairy. Few take the concept as literally as Moomers does. The shop is on a working dairy farm, so much of the cream is sourced right on the property (to keep up with high demand, the creamery also sources from outside farms). The setting alone impresses, but the flavors — a 20-strong rotation from 160 total flavors — are outstanding. The extensive list includes some adult beverage-inspired treats like Peach Riesling, combining peach ice cream with local wine. Cherry Brandy mixes brandy-based ice cream with a swirl of Traverse City cherry topping. Uber Goober is a beer-and-peanut butter-lover's dream, with Short’s Brewing Company’s Peanut Butter Stout ice cream and a peanut butter swirl; this flavor is also offered in town at 7 Monks Taproom, in sandwich form.
Photo courtesy of Javery Photography
The Hop Ice Cream Cafe, Asheville, N.C.
Asheville residents love their beer. The small city houses at least 27 breweries in the immediate area, though the number is growing by the minute. Most restaurants serve an expansive list of brews, and many incorporate beer into the food. The Hop Ice Cream Cafe makes an assortment of ice creams infused with ales, porters and stouts. Each Friday, the creamery’s tasting room offers flights of dessert. More than 50 variations have graced the menu, including Asheville Brewing Company Love Ninja Porter, a Valentine’s Day special brewed with strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. Another special, Wicked Weed Brewing S’Mores Stout, used a stout infused with graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow to create a scoop with the flavors of s’mores.
Photo courtesy of The Hop Ice Cream Cafe
Ample Hills Creamery, Brooklyn
This Brooklyn-based creamery (with permanent locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, along with seasonal stands throughout the city) is like the Willy Wonka of ice cream. It serves experimental blends suited for kids of all ages, like Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, smooth vanilla with pieces of St. Louis-style cake. For the college crowd, there’s The Munchies, pretzel-infused ice cream with clusters of Ritz crackers, potato chips, pretzels and mini M&M’s. There’s also The Dude, a White Russian flavor inspired by The Big Lebowski, and the digestivo-influenced Salute, a blueberry limoncello sorbet that’s the perfect hybrid of an after-dinner drink and a dessert.
Boiler Room, Chicago
Summers are fleeting and completely unpredictable in the Windy City. Residents may be sweating in shorts in July, then pulling out fall coats in August. This Logan Square neighborhood restaurant has created an incentive to eat ice cream regardless of the weather. It ups the appeal of soft serve year-round by spiking it with warming Jameson whiskey, a flavor that’s always available and is even offered in a root beer float. Every week there’s a different alcohol-filled special in the second hopper. Spirits are rotated and could include tequila, stout or maple bourbon; Orange Whip Vodka has been churned in the past, as has Chocolate Kerrygold Cream. And the holiday season often brings spiked eggnog. The specials are whatever these creative liquor- and dessert-loving folks think up.
The Pied Piper Creamery, Nashville
Set in the midst of East Nashville’s hip Five Points District, this little shop offers fun flavors with satirical names. The spiked scoops are some of the most entertaining. Inspired by the rapper’s anthem, Snoop Dizzle Sorbizzle is a gin-and-juice sorbet. Pearis Hilton is a pear sorbet with a Riesling reduction. Kahlua Misu combines the liqueur with tiramisu-style custard. The moniker isn’t as quirky as the others, but the Bourbon Caramel is just as tasty: The shop’s custard mix is blended with a Bulleit Bourbon reduction and a swirled ribbon of caramel. Of the 24 flavors offered, 12 rotate based on popularity, seasonal ingredients, new experiments and milestones — Snoop Dizzle always makes an appearance on Snoop Dogg’s birthday, October 20.
Tipsy Scoop, New York City
Melissa Tavss comes from a long line of ice cream makers. Her great-great-great-grandfather sold homemade gelato from a pushcart. He eventually opened a shop and brought his sons into the business. Tavss follows the family tradition with a boozy twist. Her company, Tipsy Scoop, specializes solely in liquor-infused sweet cream. Flavors include dark chocolate-whiskey-salted caramel, raspberry limoncello sorbet, and spiked mint chocolate chip with Branca Menta and chocolate liqueur, available at Professor Thom’s pub and at specialty markets. Tavss also makes alcohol-laden ice cream sandwiches such as cake batter vodka martini ice cream layered between Gotham Cookies’ Birthday Cookies, and spiked hazelnut coffee ice cream encapsulated by Gotham Cookies’ chocolate chip cookies.
Photo courtesy of Virginia Arcari
Salt & Straw, Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles
With small-batch ice cream and a hip mercantile vibe, Salt & Straw is the quintessential Portlandia ice cream parlor. The company, which has shops in Portland and Los Angeles, works with local farmers and artisan producers in both markets to create 300 rotating flavors, including excellent seasonally themed options. The changing array of booze-infused scoops is also a great place to start. At the Portland storefronts, Stumptown Coffee & Burnside Bourbon is an always-available classic, made from single-origin Indonesian Sumatra coffee, Eastside Distillery Burnside Bourbon and a bit of Portland's Holy Kakow chocolate. Come the holidays, tequila-spiked eggnog or bourbon-spiked pecan pie punch up the festivities.
The House, Boozy Ice Cream and Brews, San Antonio
As the name implies, this San Antonio place focuses on two things: alcohol-infused ice cream and beer. All right, wine and ciders are also on the roster. Ten homemade flavors are available every day. Half the selections are fine for kids, but the place offers an impressive number of boozy options made in small batches. Once a flavor is gone, it doesn’t come back until customers start begging for more. (Seriously!) There’s bourbon vanilla with Jim Beam Honey. French Toast combines cereal-milk ice cream with a hint of Fireball whiskey. There’s a frozen, creamy take on the White Russian. There’s even Iced Coffee that blends uppers and downers, with Cafe de Olla ice cream and a shot of Patron XO Cafe tequila.
Morgenstern’s, New York City
Before he became a successful New York restaurateur, Nicholas Morgenstern was a classically trained pastry chef. He’s logged time in the kitchens of top-tier restaurants like Daniel and Gramercy Tavern, so it should come as no surprise that he invests incredible time and technique in his ice cream parlor. There, he mixes newfangled flavors (think Fernet Black Walnut) and well-done classics that highlight individual notes. For example, there are four vanillas: Madagascar, Burnt Honey, Peppermint and Bourbon. The last-mentioned flavor is made by infusing bourbon with vanilla beans for a year. Once strained, the vanilla beans are scraped and added to the ice cream base, before getting hit with the bourbon again. The end result hits a new high for this frequently mocked flavor: It’s rich, warming and sweetly complex.
Photo courtesy of Alan Gastelum
Humphry Slocombe, San Francisco
This San Francisco ice cream parlor verges on mad-scientist levels of cleverness when it comes to flavors for its frozen desserts. Options seem to span the ingredient spectrum: bacon, ancho chiles, beets, carrots, bananas, cheese, cucumber, foie gras and beyond. Spirits are just additional potions in their lab. The best-seller, Secret Breakfast, has been the trendsetter in the boozy ice cream movement for the past seven years, as a fan favorite and social media darling that even popped up as one of the Top 5 Ice Creams in America. Like a sweet version of “hair of the dog,” Secret Breakfast combines bourbon and cornflakes for the ultimate all-in-one flavor. There are other fantastic spiked selections as well, such as Flamin’ Rum Raisin, Pear Wine Syllabub, and Pine Street, with Atom Splitter Pale Ale and Magnolia Stout.
Ice & Vice, New York City
This experimental ice cream shop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been luring crowds for its edgy flavors since it opened in the summer of 2015. Even the most-straightforward selection is far from the norm: Vanilla — satirically dubbed Basic B — punches up Mexican vanilla bean with black lava sea salt. Owners Paul Kim and Ken Lo have also incorporated different alcohol-infused flavors into the rotating lineup. One of the opening flavors, Mahjong, combined East and West with a refreshing blend of jasmine tea and white peach to create a peach lambic sorbet that is cooling on a hot summer’s day. Splinters, an autumn-appropriate woodsy, warming flavor, is a whiskey-barrel-wood ice cream dotted with homemade Cracker Jack.