Does Boozy Ice Cream Really Make You Drunk?

Experts break down the alcohol content of ice cream made with liquor.
Jonathan Knowles via Getty Images

When you’re looking for an indulgence, you may opt for a stiff drink or a pint of ice cream. But you could also go with a combination of the two.

Over the years, many new brands have started selling boozy frozen treats, including Arctic Buzz, Tipsy Scoop and SnoBar. Traditional ice cream brands like Haagen-Dazs have also dabbled in alcoholic flavors.

There has been growing interest in “trendy, Instagrammable desserts and cocktails,” according to Rachel Chitwood, director of sales and marketing for Tipsy Scoop.

“With everyone stuck at home this past year ― and looking for a way to relax and escape ― the demand for our boozy ice cream was higher than ever,” she said. “If you can’t go to the beach for a tropical drink, we can bring the tropical drink experience right to your couch.”

Liquor-infused ice cream may taste boozy, but can it actually get you drunk?

Federal law doesn’t consider products containing less than 0.5% alcohol by volume to be alcoholic, but other regulations vary by state.

“In New York, our liquor-infused ice cream is considered a food as long as it contains less than 5% alcohol by volume,” Chitwood said, noting that Tipsy Scoop’s flavors all had to be tested to confirm they were below that threshold. (You must be 21 or older to purchase the ice cream.) Maryland-based Arctic Buzz, on the other hand, packs up to 9% in its ice cream.

Increasing the ABV in ice cream can introduce some complications, said Douglas Goff, a food science professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

“Alcohol depresses the freezing point and makes ice cream soft, so if too much is added, the ice cream will become too soft and have a very short shelf-life,” Goff said. “Consequently, in many cases, some alcohol can be added, like a liqueur or a spirit for example, but often the flavor intensity is boosted with a non-alcoholic flavor to match.”

The average 12-ounce beer contains about 5% ABV. A pint of ice cream is about 16 ounces, so it would be quite difficult to reach that concentration of alcohol in ice cream.

“You would have to eat a lot of ice cream to be the equivalent of two to three standard drinks,” Goff said. “Probably you’d get satiated by the fat before that could happen. So no, it won’t make you drunk.”

But that doesn’t mean there’s no effect, and Chitwood said it’s a common misconception that the alcohol gets “cooked out.” You still need to be mindful about getting behind the wheel if you’re eating alcoholic ice cream.

“I can definitely attest that I have gotten tipsy from taste testing boozier flavors, like those with whiskey or tequila, early in the morning on an empty stomach,” Chitwood said. “Like with the consumption of any alcoholic beverage your tolerance depends on body size, hydration and what you’ve eaten that day. If you’re a regular drinker, it’s unlikely that you will get more than slightly buzzed from consuming our ice cream.”

Still, getting drunk was not the intended goal for the founders of Tipsy Scoop.

“We’re often asked, ‘How much ice cream do I have to eat to get drunk?’” she said. “Getting drunk off of our ice cream is not actually the point, that’s why we call it ‘Tipsy Scoop’ and not Drunk Scoop.”

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misattributed a quote about ABV in ice cream to Goff and has been removed.

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