Manhattan Ice Cream
We love ice cream cocktails, like Grasshoppers and Pink Squirrels (they’re so campy and convivial!). But the last time we were sipping on an ice cream cocktail, we couldn’t help but think, “What if we flipped the words around and made a cocktail ice cream?” So, we turned to one of our all-time favorite cocktails for inspiration: the Manhattan. And in order to do the perfect, classic quaff justice, we use all of its actual ingredients in this ice cream — it’s not a mere approximation of the flavors.
The base is a basic stovetop custard made with whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, and egg yolks. But in addition to the typical granulated sugar, we use dark brown sugar to give the ice cream more of the Manhattan’s caramelly sweetness. We also simmer some rye whiskey directly into the base — the liquor’s signature peppery bite balances out the sweet stuff (and of course, makes it taste more like an actual cocktail).
We let the base chill for a few hours in the fridge. And then right before churning, we stir in vanilla, sweet vermouth, and Angostura and orange bitters — plus a couple more tablespoons of the whiskey, so you get the perfect amount of boozy kick.
A couple of churning tips from the test kitchen: Alcohol makes ice cream freeze much slower than usual, so be sure to let the core of your ice cream machine sit in the freezer for a full 24 hours to help speed things along — and make sure the ice cream base is fully chilled before pouring it into the machine. Also, we added as much whiskey to this recipe as we could without changing the texture; if you add more booze, it might not freeze (but it’ll probably be very fun to eat).
Once the ice cream is nice and churned, we layer it with chopped Luxardo cherries and a syrup we make with reduced Luxardo juice, a splash of rye, and a couple dashes each of the bitters. Frozen and set, this ice cream has an almost buttery texture — so rich and custardy, it hangs around on your tongue. And the cocktail’s flavors come through in every bite: the honey notes of the whiskey, the subtle spice of the bitters, and the lush fruity flavor of the Luxardo. And boy, oh boy, do we love getting a bite with lots of big, chewy cherries!
All in all, this Manhattan-inspired ice cream is a delightfully grown-up and irresistibly yummy dessert. We’d make it for a cocktail party, just to throw people for a loop — and to give the whole affair some playful vibes. But we also might make a batch and hide it in the back of the freezer … because it just might be too good to share!
For the ice cream mix:
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
4 Tbsp rye whiskey, divided
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
3 Tbsp sweet vermouth
15 Luxardo cherries, quartered
For the cherry syrup:
⅓ cup Luxardo cherry juice (most of the juice from 1 jar)
2 tsp rye whiskey, divided
Special Equipment: Ice cream machine
If your ice cream machine has a removable bowl for freezing, place the bowl in the freezer at least 24 hours before making the ice cream mix.
To make the ice cream mix: In a medium saucepan, combine the whole milk, 1 cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons rye whiskey, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, and a pinch of kosher salt. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk mixture starts to froth and steam rises, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth.
Add about half of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture, one ladle at a time, whisking continuously, until the egg mixture is warm and has been fully incorporated.
Pour all of the warm egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk. Heat over medium heat, whisking continuously, until steam rises from the mixture but before it starts to simmer. The mixture should thicken slightly and coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and immediately stir in the remaining 1 cup heavy cream. Strain the mixture into a bowl, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.
To make the cherry syrup: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the Luxardo cherry juice and 1 teaspoon rye whiskey. Gently boil the mixture for 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon rye whiskey and 2 dashes each of Angostura bitters and orange bitters. Pour the mixture into a container and set aside until ready to churn the ice cream.
When the ice cream mix is cold, stir in the vanilla bean paste, remaining 2 tablespoons rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, 5 dashes Angostura bitters, and 2 dashes orange bitters until fully incorporated.
Pour the ice cream mix into the ice cream machine and churn until the mixture is thick, 30 to 35 minutes.
Scoop a quarter of the churned ice cream into an airtight container, layer in a spoonful of cherry sauce and a quarter of the cherries. Repeat with 3 more layers of ice cream, cherry sauce, and cherries. Reserve the remaining cherry sauce for serving. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.
Serve the ice cream with the remaining cherry sauce.The ice cream can be stored for up to 1 week in the freezer.