In the shaker: Why you shouldn't overlook ice-cream cocktails

Don’t be fooled – ice cream isn’t just for kids and cornets. As Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller demonstrate, it’s the perfect dessert drink ingredient too.

The pendulum of drink tastes swings slowly in this world. Today, we seem as deep into strong and bitter drinks as we can possibly go. Drinks from the 1920s and 1930s that no longer get a glimpse are the creamy, rich and rounded ones. It’s funny, considering how much ice cream our society consumes these days, that drinks like the Alexander, the White Cargo and its South American sibling the Mi Amante, as well as the Soyer au Champagne, have fallen by the wayside.

Ice cream is cream, egg, sugar and vanilla – a combination common to loads of cocktails

This summer, however, we are committed to bringing them back – in our garden, at least – and so far the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Though it might sound like the makings of a sticky-sweet hangover, consider this: the ice cream simply acts as a pre-mix. Ice cream is cream, egg, sugar and vanilla or other flavours, a combination common to loads of cocktails. Using a scoop of ice cream simply expedites the mixing process.

There is an additional reason restaurant bars especially should stop shying away from sweet drinks. Food costs run higher than beverage costs. Selling someone a dessert in a restaurant is not as profitable as selling them a dessert drink. Why let that business go to the kitchen when the bar can earn more on dessert drinks?

The first ice-cream drink to make its mark was crafted for Queen Victoria by the world’s first celebrity chef Alexis Benoît Soyer from the Reform Club. Although Jerry Thomas published the recipe in his 1862 guide, in the tiniest typeface he noted that the drink was Soyer’s creation.
We all scream… 

How did he learn about it? Before he shot to fame with his book, Thomas worked in London three years earlier at an American bowling saloon in the Cremorne Pleasure Gardens and even tried to get a job with Soyer at his Universal Symposium of All Nations.

Our version, called A Fall of Moondust – named after sci-fi writer Arthur C Clarke’s 1960s novel – reduces the sweetness from the original measures for brandy, maraschino, and triple sec to allow
the cream and champagne to offer a silkiness on their own.

While Harry Craddock introduced a gin and vanilla ice cream blend called White Cargo in 1922, Charles H Baker Jr introduced us to its South American sibling, Mi Amante. This wonderful predecessor to the Espresso Martini was discovered somewhere in the wilds of Argentina and offers a drink with far more depth and dimension.

No one is certain when the Alexander was born or even which spirit came first. But so far all fingers point in the general direction of New York some time during the early 20th century. Gin gets the honour of being the spirit in one of the first recipes, whiskey in another, and then came the brandy version, which is even better when made with cognac. However, the Scotch Alexander takes on the guise of a far older drink, the Atholl Brose (a combination of oat-infused whisky, honey and cream), but without all the muss and fuss.

You see, you want your ice cream drink to be as much fun to make as it is to sip on a warm summer day.

Adapted from Charles H Baker Jr’s The Gentleman’s Companion, 1939Glass: Coupette
Garnish: None
Method: No ice is necessary.
Shake until thoroughly mixed.45ml London dry gin
250ml coffee ice cream

by Anistatia Miller, 2007Glass: Coupette
Garnish: Grated nutmeg
Method: No ice is necessary.
Shake until thoroughly mixed.30ml blended scotch
30ml crème de cacao
90ml vanilla ice cream

by Anistatia Miller and Jared
Brown for Henrietta Hotel, 2017
Glass: Coupette
Garnish: Pineapple slice and 2 cherries
Method: Shake all ingredients except the champagne without ice. Pour into the glass. Add champagne.2 tbsp vanilla ice cream
2 dashes cognac
2 dashes Cointreau
2 dashes maraschino liqueur

Early on a cloudy Monday afternoon in Havana, the door to Polinesio is open, but there are only a few customers inside. Oswaldo is the third generation in his family to tend the bar here.

His grandfather was on the opening team, when the Habana Libre was the Havana Hilton and Polinesio was a Trader Vic’s. The back of the menu gives the story and recipe of Trader Vic’s Mai Tai, but when we order them, they arrive as red as any Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai.

The flavour? More Vic than Don, but clearly neither. This Mai Tai is pure Oswaldo. As he trains his son to become the fourth generation behind that bar, you could call this the natural evolution of a drink. And it is delicious. Midway through our first round, he reveals his secret ingredient. He adds strawberries to his orgeat syrup. This addition brings a new dimension to the Mai Tai – and we will definitely return to have another.

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