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Drinking Habits

Does Liquor-Infused Ice Cream Make You Drunk?

May 6, 2024
21 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
May 6, 2024
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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The Risks Behind "Scoops of Booze" and Other Liquor-Infused Ice Cream

  • Liquor-infused ice cream is a growing trend of adding liquor to ice cream for added flavor and “buzz.”
  • While most liquor-infused ice cream won’t make you drunk, it has some risks associated with it. Combining sugar and alcohol could lead to cravings and negatively affect metabolism. Also, “hiding” liquor in a food that could be consumed by accident could be dangerous.
  • Manage alcohol and sugar cravings alike with Reframe’s neuroscience-backed programs and support forums. 

First Jello shots, then Rummy Bears, now liquor-infused ice cream? It looks like the world will never run out of ideas for creative ways to fill us up on booze. But what is this new trend all about? Are people really mixing ice cream with alcohol? Let’s find out!

Trending: Alcohol Infusion

Elegant dessert setup with scoops of ice cream

Like other culinary “hybrids,” liquor-infused ice cream is an attempt to make a good thing “even better” by combining two items many people crave, for better or worse — booze and ice cream. 

The annals of culinary history hold many examples of attempts to mix two popular ingredients or flavors. Pizza Pockets, fruit + ice cream smoothies, and Snapple’s Snapple Half 'n Half Lemonade Iced Tea come to mind. Others have been a complete flop. Ever heard of Coca-Cola’s “Sprite Remix”? Well, if you haven’t, there’s a reason. The attempt to blend two of the most popular soft drinks failed, proving that if something isn’t broken, we really shouldn’t try to fix it.

As for “liquor-enhanced” foods, there are lots of those, too. Ice cream with alcohol is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Rise of Boozy Desserts

First, let’s clear up some confusion. Infusing foods with alcohol to feel its effects (or at least making people think they do) is not the same as cooking with alcohol. Everyone has heard of using wine to make coq au vin, sticking a beer can inside a chicken as a cooking method, making vodka-based pasta sauces, and putting rum in tiramisu. The recipes for these dishes call for booze as a cooking ingredient that mostly loses its intoxicating powers through the cooking process.

This is not what we’re talking about here. Instead, the idea of alcohol-infused foods (mostly desserts, such as liquor-infused ice cream) is to kill two cravings — booze and sugar — with one dish.

These alcohol-infused foods are good examples: 

  • Jello shots. First, there’s the notorious college classic — Jello shots. Out of this whole list, Jello shots are probably the only alcohol-infused “dessert” that will get us flat-out drunk (and probably with an awful hangover the next morning). And let’s face it, they’re not really “dessert” anyway. Nobody nibbles on them slowly while chatting over coffee after a dinner.
  • Rummy bears. We have to show an ID to buy these gummy bears, but we’d have to eat a barrel of them to feel anything.
  • Boozy fruits. Continuing with the fruit trend, we also have boozy fruits on the alcohol-infused dessert scene. The idea is to soak fruit slices or berries in hard liquor. The result? Drunken strawberries, tipsy pineapples, and many other types of produce under the influence. Other than acting as a sponge for our shot, there’s not much else to this one. Granted, some ritzy brands have picked up the trend and started offering gourmet varieties that cost as much as a full meal.
  • Alcoholic whipped cream. To top it all off, we have alcoholic whipped cream sold under names like “White Lightning” or “Whipped Lightning” and marketed as a topping with a bit of a “kick.” Most commercial varieties are about 15% ABV, so using it to top off coffee or dessert is unlikely to have much of an effect. Of course, if we shoot it straight into our mouth, that’s a different story. 

See a pattern emerging here? With the exception of Jello shots, not many of the fancy boozy desserts that emerged in recent years are likely to give us much of a buzz if we use them the way they’re intended (and if we don’t, we might just find ourselves close to a diabetic coma). But that doesn’t mean they’re not without some risks; as we’ll see later on, there are plenty of reasons to maintain a healthy skepticism about these not-so-innocent “treats.”

Tipsy Scoops and More

When it comes to boozy desserts, ice cream has become especially popular. Shops like Tipsy Scoops, Buzzed Bull Creamery, Scoops of Booze, and many others have opened their doors across the country, with some of the first trendsetters based in large cities like New York. Today, however, we can find them pretty much everywhere (and with the advent of online liquor delivery services, “everywhere” really does mean everywhere).

The Science of Mixing Alcohol and Ice Cream

What is liquor-infused ice cream? Exactly what it sounds like — ice cream that contains alcohol. And how do they get the booze inside? It’s more scientific than we might think:

  • Making ice cream. Conditions have to be just right for ice cream to maintain the creamy, scoopable texture we love. Water freezes at 32ºF, but the sugars and fats in ice cream lower the freezing point of water, so it’s a balancing act to get the right ingredients at the right temperature. 
  • Adding alcohol. Alcohol has a much lower freezing point than water. Unlike water, alcohol won’t freeze until it reaches temperations well below that. In fact, pure ethanol needs to reach -173.5°F to freeze. The higher the alcohol by volume (ABV), the lower the freezing point (that’s why people can keep vodka bottles in their freezer without risk of turning them into glass-encased ice sculptures).

What does this mean for liquor-infused ice cream? Well, it’s easy for things to get a bit too mushy. Adding alcohol — especially of the higher ABV variety, such as vodka or tequila — could create one big liquefied mess. 

As a result, we can’t add too much liquor to ice cream. A good rule of thumb most manufacturers use is about 20% alcohol for the weight of the ice cream’s base. For example, 1000 grams of ice cream base can contain 200 grams of 80-proof alcohol (about 40% ABV). These proportions will result in ice cream that’s about 8% alcohol by volume, at least in theory. In practice, it often has a lot less. Why? Because ice cream is supposed to taste, well, good. Even 8% ABV is pushing it if we want the ice cream to stay soft and creamy.

Ice Cream With Alcohol: Does It “Work”?

Can you successfully add alcohol to ice cream? Yes. Will it get you drunk? That depends on several factors.

Some Varieties Have a Higher Alcohol Content Than Others 

A HuffPost article asks: “Liquor-infused ice cream may taste boozy, but can it actually get you drunk?” It’s unlikely, but some varieties might have a bit more kick than others.

One consideration is legal status: staying in the “food” category requires manufacturers to keep the alcohol content in ice cream within the guidelines. While federal law says that any product containing more than 0.5% ABV can’t be considered food, the bar is different in each state. 

For example, in New York liquor-infused ice cream can max out at 5% ABV, while in Maryland it can go as high as 9%. As a result, Maryland’s Arctic Buzz is more likely to give us the “buzz” promised by the name although we’d still have to eat a lot of it to feel intoxicated.

Preparation Methods Vary

Preparation methods may also explain why some liquor-infused ice cream might leave us feeling more tipsy than others. Commercial methods are easier to standardize and keep consistent than homemade methods.

The Way We Respond to Alcohol Varies, Too

Whether or not liquor-infused ice cream gets us tipsy also depends on our individual biology. Will it get us “drunk”? Probably not, but it can trigger a desire to drink. Our response to alcohol varies, and some of us might feel the effects in a small amount while others might not. In some cases, our sensitivity might even be high enough to trigger unpleasant symptoms, such as facial flushing, headaches, nausea, and cardiovascular effects. (For an in-depth look at alcohol intolerance, check out “10 Alcohol Intolerance Symptoms To Be Aware Of”).

The Boozy Placebo Effect Plays a Role

Sometimes the mere thought that we’re having ice cream with booze is enough to make us feel drunk. If we watch people talking at a bar, they often act tipsy before their drinks even arrive. 

Research backs up placebo effects: the thought about what we’re experiencing when we consume something can have real physical effects. We really do “become what we think about”!

Is Liquor-Infused Ice Cream Dangerous?

Now, is liquor-infused ice cream a good idea? That’s a whole other question. The simple answer is no — it doesn’t put us in imminent danger — but it’s probably not doing us much good either

It’s Loaded With Calories

Both alcohol and ice cream are front-runners in the “biggest diet disasters” race. One unit of alcohol (a standard shot) has about 100 to 120 calories — “empty” ones at that. In addition to the fact that they don’t provide any nutritional benefits, there’s another problem: the body sees alcohol as a poison and prioritizes its metabolism over other nutrients. The result? Everything else we eat (including that ice cream the booze is in) will likely get stored as fat.

Together, alcohol and ice cream are a double whammy for potential weight gain. A ½ cup serving of Tipsy Scoop Buttered Hot Rum Liquor Infused Ice Cream has 250 calories. That’s quite a bit more than the typical 137 calories in a similar-sized serving of vanilla or the 143 calories in chocolate ice cream.

The Sugar-Alcohol Mix Is a Potential Problem

In addition to calories, the ice cream and liquor combo poses other risks. For one thing, ice cream can have a masking effect on the booze, leading us to consume more than we planned to or realized. Moreover, alcohol disrupts our blood sugar levels, leading to temporary sugar crashes followed by higher blood sugar in the long run. Likewise, eating high-sugar foods such as ice cream can compromise our ability to break down glucose over time, leading to diabetes. Together, the duo increases our risk even more.

It’s a Double Dose of Dopamine

And there’s more! Both alcohol and sugary treats boost our dopamine levels. Together, this tag team can do a number on our brain’s reward system, sending us back to the bar (or the ice cream counter) a few too many times. Alcohol and sugar cravings tend to go hand in hand, and the boozy ice cream mix can amp them up even more.

It Looks Like “Normal” Ice Cream

One of the main dangers is the sneaky “undercover” quality of liquor-infused ice cream. It looks and tastes like ice cream — and that could be a problem:

  • Kids could eat it by accident (or on purpose). If it looks like ice cream and smells like ice cream, our toddler doesn’t have any reason to think it isn’t ice cream. Alternatively, an older child could raid the fridge for some Tipsy Scoops to enjoy under the radar. 
  • It can be a hidden trap for those trying to stay away from booze. It’s kind of like grabbing a “special” brownie: we might not realize what we’re eating until it’s too late. 

It might sound funny at first — after all, didn’t we just say that the alcohol content in most liquor-infused ice cream is pretty low? However, in both cases, the results could be devastating. For small children, even a tiny amount of alcohol can be harmful. And for someone trying to stay away from alcohol because they’ve misused it in the past, that boozy scoop of ice cream could be a trigger for an all-out binge or relapse.

Tips for Safe Scoops

Tips for Safe Scoops

Here are a few tips for staying safe around liquor-infused ice cream:

  1. Watch your intake. Whether you’re planning to have them together or separately, watch your intake of both “booze” and “scoops” to avoid going overboard. Too much of either will leave you feeling less-than-stellar in the long run. 
  2. If you’re unsure, ask. Does the ice cream your party host gave you taste a bit suspicious? Don’t hesitate to ask.
  3. Don’t keep liquor-infused ice cream around kids. The last thing you want is a toddler digging into the “Tipsy Scoops” in your freezer (or your teenager sneaking it out at night for a snack). If you do keep liquor-infused ice cream around, make sure that everyone (including guests who might be trying to stay away from booze) knows exactly what it is.
  4. Try other treats. Why not try a fun smoothie or mocktail instead? You’ll still get a frozen treat along with a healthy serving of real fruit and a boost of hydration.
  5. Kick the cravings. Use urge-surfing techniques to stop cravings for booze and/or ice cream in their tracks. Reframe has plenty to choose from!

In the end, remember: sometimes it’s best to keep good things such as ice cream the way they are. What’s wrong with a simple (small) bowl of Baskin-Robbins Baseball Nut or Ben and Jerry’s classic Chunky Monkey?

Not So Innocent

All in all, while liquor-infused ice cream probably isn’t something to lose sleep over (as long as we keep tabs on it when kids are around), it’s also not as innocent as it might seem. No, it probably won’t get you drunk. But it won’t do you much good either.

Summary FAQs

1. What is liquor-infused ice cream?

Liquor-infused ice cream is a culinary trend combining alcohol and ice cream. This type of ice cream is designed to keep the alcoholic content, potentially making us feel the effects.

2. Can liquor-infused ice cream make you drunk?

Whether liquor-infused ice cream can get us drunk depends on several factors, including the alcohol content of the ice cream and our own biology. Some varieties may have higher alcohol content, which could lead to tipsiness for some of us. However, getting drunk is unlikely in most cases.

3. What are the potential risks of consuming liquor-infused ice cream?

Risks include the high calorie and sugar content that contributes to potential weight gain, the possibility of consuming more alcohol than we realize due to its masking effect, and the combined impact on our blood sugar and dopamine levels, which could exacerbate cravings for more alcohol and sugar.

4. What is the overall verdict on liquor-infused ice cream?

While liquor-infused ice cream is unlikely to cause intoxication for most people, it's not without risks. It’s good to be aware of its contents and potential effects.

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Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

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