Banana pudding gelato, peanut butter, vanilla wafers, whipped cream, bacon, and a shot of bourbon whiskey: Hungry yet? This concoction is called “The Elvis” and it’s just one of the boozy ice cream dishes served at Cremalosa in Decatur, Georgia. “This is a customer favorite because it’s basically a milkshake with a buzz—I like to call it a gelato cocktail,” says chef and owner Meridith Ford.
Boozy ice cream is a trend that’s popping up all over the United States. With summer on the way, here’s what you need to know about what it is, how to eat it (and whether or not it will give you a buzz), the impact on your health, and a fun recipe you can whip up in five minutes at home.
Types of boozy ice cream
In addition to the milkshakes or cocktails (ice cream blended with booze), there are alcoholic “slushies” (sorbet or juice mixed with booze), popsicles (frozen fruit and booze on a stick), and alcohol-flavored ice cream (ice cream made with alcohol in the recipe), says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, a former mixologist who serves on the advisory board for Fitter Living, a free resource on healthy living.
Boozy ice cream concoctions are generally sold in specialty shops or online, although some varieties can be found in grocery stores.
Courtesy Dovile Ramoskaite/Unsplash
All of these types of boozy ice cream have a measurable alcohol content and are considered adult beverages, with a possible exception for the last one [alcohol-flavored ice cream] Ford says. Here’s why.
“Booze-flavored ice cream recipes include some type of alcohol for flavor, but alcohol actually works as an anti-freeze so you need to cook off most of it before freezing,” she explains. “I have a dark chocolate flavor I call “Dementor’s Demise,” which has an orange liqueur in it. I cook the base of this recipe to 85 degrees Celsius [185 Farenheit] to allow the alcohol to evaporate. What’s left is a great combination of orange and dark chocolate flavors.”
There is very little if any alcohol remaining in it and so it’s often considered safe for everyone and sold in store freezer cases—think Ben & Jerry’s Urban Bourbon or Haagen Daz’s Amaretto ice cream.
However, the milkshakes, slushies, popsicles, and gelato cocktails can have significant alcohol content. You can expect to be ID’d before purchasing.
Can you get buzzed or drunk off boozy ice cream?
The short answer is “yes”—but it’s harder to do than with straight alcohol, Miller says. The alcohol content of these ice cream concoctions can vary widely, depending on the type and amount of alcohol used and what else is in the recipe, Miller says. “It’s not equivalent to drinking a regular cocktail,” she says. “The fat and other ingredients in the ice cream itself can slow a buzz.”
Boozy ice creams can range from 0.5% alcohol by volume [ABV] whereas others may be as much as 5% ABV or even higher, she says. “For reference, 5% ABV is equivalent to that of a regular 12 oz beer, so it may be wise to think about how a 12-ounce beer affects you,” Miller says.
“In my recipes, I use an entire shot of whatever liquor is called for,” Ford says. “So, for instance, ‘The Elvis’ cocktail definitely has the ability to get the average person buzzed,” Ford says.
If it doesn’t have a label, it’s always a good idea to ask how much alcohol is in each glass or bowl. Also, don’t forget to include any alcohol you may have had earlier in your calculations, Miller adds.
How healthy is boozy ice cream?
“It’s definitely a dessert,” Miller says. Calorie-for-calorie it’s about the same as plain ice cream, but you have to add in the calories from the alcohol. However, the real issue is that most boozy ice cream concoctions end up having far bigger serving sizes—no one is doing a ‘shot’ of ice cream, they’re having a mug full, she says.
“Some boozy ice creams are packaged in 14-ounce ‘single-serve’ containers that have over 350 calories while a 4-ounce single-serving of ice cream has half that,” she explains, adding that a boozy milkshake could contain well over 1,000 calories with all the extra toppings.
In addition to the calories, fat, and sugar content, you should also take into account the short- and long- term effects alcohol has on your body, which may include weight gain, bloating, mental impairment, and increased risks for some diseases, including cancer and liver disease.
For a healthier option, try these 14 recipes for creamy vegan ice cream.
Courtesy Meridith FordMaking your own boozy ice cream
You can certainly create your own boozy milkshakes, slushies, and popsicles at home as they don’t require any special ingredients or tools, says Michele Sidorenkov, RDN, a trained chef and founder of My Millennial Kitchen.
“It’s very simple: I make my shakes by mixing a flavor of gelato (or ice cream) with a shot of liquor or liqueur and milk, and sometimes other ingredients,” Ford says. “Get creative! You can have a lot of fun doing this at home and maybe even come up with your own signature recipe.”
But if you want to make your own alcohol-infused ice cream in an ice cream maker, Sidorenkov recommends using a custard-based ice cream recipe and a type of alcohol with low water content (hard alcohol like vodka and bourbon, for example).
“The more fat you have in your ice cream base, the less of a chance you’ll have ice crystal formation,” she explains. “Using an alcohol that has lower water content and notable flavor will also help to keep the ice crystals low while still adding actual flavor to the ice cream.”
If you want to reduce the alcohol content of your ice cream she recommends adding your alcohol to the milk while bringing it to a simmer, the first step of making custard-based ice cream. “You won’t cook off all of the alcohol, but the longer you simmer your milk, the more alcohol you will lose,” Sidorenkov says.
A boozy ice cream recipe: Stracciatella gelato
- 2 scoops of chocolate chip gelato
- 1 shot orange liqueur
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup milk
Mix on high in a bender, and add more milk if needed. Top with whipped cream and a drizzle of more orange liqueur, or orange zest, if desired. (Recipe courtesy of Cremalosa.)
How to eat boozy ice cream
Miller recommends limiting calories from sweets, junk food, and sugary beverages to 100-200 calories per day. “I would suggest that people really focus on portion control with boozy ice cream as that will help control calories and avoid overconsumption of alcohol,” she says. This means no eating it straight out of the tub and if you’re served a large portion at a restaurant, consider splitting it with a friend or taking half home. (Need more help? Check out these portion control tips for mindless eaters.)
One caveat: Just like with any type of alcohol product, people with alcohol dependency issues should avoid it entirely and it should be kept out of reach of children, Miller says.
Next, read about black ice cream and whether it’s safe.