A Mixologist's Advice For Perfectly Pairing Ice Cream And Alcohol

Dessert is all about celebrating the joy of indulgence, so why not throw a splash of liquor on your ice cream? Beyond the obvious joys of alcohol and sugar, there is a world of new and astounding flavors to uncover. You can make sauces and syrups with your favorite boozy beverages, or whip them straight into the ice cream itself to yield a softer, smoother texture. The right choice of spirit can enhance the ice cream's flavor and add new layers of taste and aroma.


The union of sweets and spirits has become a point of obsession for mixologist Cody Goldstein, who has highlighted the combination in collaboration with Talenti gelato for National Gelato Day on March 24. Goldstein — who founded the cocktail syrup company Muddling Memories — created a dirty martini-inspired sundae dubbed "the Talentini" which brings sweet, savory, and boozy together. Goldstein spoke to Chowhound about his favorite ice cream and liquor pairings, and how you can recreate them at home.

"I have always enjoyed pairing frozen desserts with alcohol," says Goldstein. "There is something special about indulging in both sweet and spirituous at the same time and experiencing your alcohol in a whole new vehicle." He offers up some suggestions for pairing alcohol with the most popular flavors of ice cream.



Subtler flavors of ice cream, like vanilla, can stand up to bolder spirits without causing a clash in flavors. So, for good old vanilla ice cream, Cody Goldstein recommends an "herbaceous and citrus-forward gin," like the one he uses in his Talentini recipe. 


Look for a super rich and creamy ice cream (or gelato) with a strong vanilla bean flavor. Although delicious on its own, it's an incredible base for a bright gin, highlighting the liquor's distinct taste. Goldstein is also fan of incorporating booze into ice cream in any way possible — whether that be in sauces, toppings, or as milkshakes and sundaes. To create this pairing in his Talentini recipe, Goldstein opted for topping his vanilla gelato with a gin-infused honey brine.


Strawberry ice cream, the oft-forgotten third child alongside vanilla and chocolate, gets dutiful love from Cody Goldstein — who suggests pairing the bright fruit ice cream with a dark spirit like bourbon. Goldstein says the combo is a bit unexpected, but the contrasting flavors complement one another. He says, "The freshness and bright acidity in the fruit balances nicely with notes of caramel, wood, oak, and pecan or almond." 


Every bourbon has a slightly different flavor profile. Some will lean more toward vanilla. Others will be more nutty or even chocolatey. But any of these rich, spiced flavors should play well with strawberry ice cream, so feel free to experiment in your whiskey cabinet. 

Cookies and cream

For cookies and cream, Cody Goldstein recommends an aged rum. He says that the sweet sugarcane in the liquor should complement the chocolate in the ice cream. 

To take things to the next level, Goldstein offers a playful recommendation. Rather than incorporating rum into your bowl of cookies and cream via syrup, Goldstein says to grab some root beer — which will add in some notes of caramel and vanilla — and combine all three into the "greatest float of all time."



Bolder flavors of ice cream offer even more possibilities. Though these flavors might seem hard to work with in comparison to subtler ice cream flavors, Cody Goldstein has a simple solution. Vodka is his liquor of choice for the green and unmistakably nutty pistachio ice cream. 


Generally speaking, bolder flavors of ice cream call for subtler flavors in the alcohol, which is why Goldstein often opts for vodka in ice creams with particularly distinct ingredients. "Pistachio and vodka has always been a favorite of mine because the nuttiness and subtle sweetness in pistachio should not get overpowered by a spirit," says Goldstein. "The vodka allows the high-quality ingredient to shine." 

Mint chocolate chip

For an "unexpected but delicious pairing," Cody Goldstein recommends pairing mezcal with mint chocolate chip ice cream. Unexpected is right. It's certainly a bold pairing, but hear him out. 

While the distinct flavors of the ice cream and the liquor might seem at odds, it all works out thanks to chocolate, which reins in the other flavors at play. "You have this fun, sweet, and smoky combination where the chocolate balances both the mint and smoked agave," Goldstein says.



If you're interested in experimenting with boozy ice cream creations, but you don't know where to start, grab a carton of coffee ice cream. Despite its distinct flavor, coffee ice cream is possibly the easiest ice cream flavor to pair. In the case of coffee, more is more. Goldstein says, "I find whenever you can lean into coffee with more coffee flavor, it tends to enhance the experience."


As such, Cody Goldstein recommends using coffee-based spirits. He says, "Kahlúa, Baileys, and cold brew liqueur all put coffee front and center without hiding or masking it with other spirits." With this in mind, consider creating an affogato with coffee ice cream and a spiked espresso, or adding a scoop of coffee ice cream to your next Irish coffee.