Creamy milkshakes, moist cupcakes and smooth ice cream. What could possibly make these favorite indulgences even more tempting for some people?
That’s right, booze is the latest ingredient being added to the dessert mix, and it's not just for flavoring. One of the newest dessert ingredients is intended to add actual alcohol content.
Pairing alcohol with desserts is a no-brainer combination, said David Guas, chef and owner of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, Virginia, and host of Travel Channel’s "American Grilled."
"Alcohol and dessert always kind of matched up," Guas said, citing alcohol’s commonly sweet heat with hints of fruit, which is often reminiscent of flavors found in many desserts. "Pairing things that have similar characteristics is what works very well, for example desserts with bourbon, caramel and sea salt."
The sweet pairings have proven successful at Burger Tap and Shake in Washington, D.C., where chef and owner Jeff Tunks said their adult milkshakes, nicknamed Shaketails, are a huge hit. The shakes come with fun names to accompany their quirky mix of ingredients, such as The Evil Empire, which is made with vanilla bean vodka, coffee liqueur and vanilla ice cream – essentially a white Russian with ice cream.
"People love ‘em, and on the other side of it we have a lot of fun with the names and coming up with new ideas and specials," Tunks said. "Some of our specials are so popular and bring in such good sales and good feedback that we keep them on as permanent menu items."
Tunks said customers are surprised and delighted when they discover the boozy milkshakes, and that many patrons will come into the restaurant, known for its burgers, and line up just to get a sweet nightcap.
"You’re gonna fall out of your chair when you try these milkshakes," customer James Long said. "It’s good; it’s different. I just never thought you could really put liquor in a milkshake, especially vodka."
Milkshakes aren't the only adult treat making themselves known in the dessert world. Boozy cakes and cupcakes are also gaining popularity.
Faith Alice Sleeper, owner of Crunkcakes in Washington, D.C., has developed a business entirely based on alcoholic cupcakes.
"Alcohol desserts are really a growing industry right now. I mean, why not? Who doesn’t love booze and sweets?" Sleeper said. "People really like it, even though sometimes they are taken aback at first since I do my best to get a shot in each cupcake.”
Crunkcakes makes alcoholic cupcakes for bars and events, and even baked a special batch for Katy Perry in June when she performed at the Verizon Center in D.C. and requested local food items for her dressing room.
Sleeper’s most popular cupcake is the Irish Car Bomb, made with Guinness chocolate cake infused with Jameson and topped with Bailey’s buttercream.
Businesses serving these decadent treats have to I.D. their patrons just like any other bar or restaurant would when serving alcoholic beverages, and they have to acquire the same type of liquor license as well.
Burger, Tap & Shake takes extra warning steps to make sure their customers know what they are getting into with their boozy shakes. The restaurant put a subhead above the Shaketails on the menu that says "Gotta Drink Em Here" indicating that the Shaketails, unlike the regular shakes, cannot be taken to-go due to the alcohol content.
“It’s important for people to slow down and ask how much alcohol is in a dessert if it isn’t already labeled,” Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said. “Desserts are more appealing to people than your average drink and they are likely to eat more of a dessert since it tastes better, so they may get intoxicated faster.”
Despite health concerns, and extra warning steps that must be taken by sellers, Tunks and Sleeper both say they have had success with their boozy desserts. Based on Burger, Tap & Shake’s average sales, there is approximately one Shaketail sold for every 10 regular shakes. And the number of Crunkcakes orders has doubled every year since opening in 2010.
"It’s not a trend that will just disappear. I think that people are always going to enjoy booze in their sweet treats," Sleeper said.
Guas agrees the adult dessert trend is here to stay. He says the best part of making the boozy treats is seeing the reaction of his customers.
"There’s an initial inner kid that comes out, or sometimes it brings people back to their college years," Guas said. "It’s funny to see people react to the desserts. A lot of people kind of look at their watch to see what time of day it is."
You can make a Shaketail at home with a recipe for The Apocalypto, which combines chocolate ice cream and cinnamon whiskey. Click here for the recipe.