Absinthe Ice Cream

When I originally came up with this ice cream, the year was 2009, which seems like a long, long time ago, in so many ways. Absinthe had been banned in France since 1914, blamed for a host of societal ills, even being accused of causing people to go crazy (which has since been debunked; most blame additives added to cheap absinthe, which caused brain damage), and the spirit was revived and legal again, nearly a hundred years later.

Distillers quickly hopped back on the absinthe bandwagon, the green anise-flavored drink revived everywhere, from Switzerland (where it was originally created), to France and California. People went a little crazy again, inventing everything from absinthe gummi bears to absinthe cake. Eventually some of the hoopla subsided as people realized – with its high-proof (many hover in the 60-75% range) – that absinthe was something best enjoyed in small doses. Or in my case, with chocolate.

Finding myself with a few bottles of modern-day absinthe on hand, I decided to revisit it, which made me realize how much I love absinthe in ice cream. Even without the absinthe-flavored truffles, it’s a terrific scoop, paired with a wedge of bittersweet chocolate cake or brightly-flavored orange sorbet.

The color of absinthe can vary, ranging from clear to pale yellow, to red or bright green, depending on the brand. Due to its strength, absinthe is always diluted, and I can’t think of a better way to enjoy it that in this ice cream. My original absinthe ice cream alluded to the truffles, which I didn’t include in the original recipe, but I added them here.

One thing you’ll like about this ice cream, aside from the dynamic anise flavor, is the smooth texture of both the ice cream and the truffles, which I designed to stay soft in ice cream. Even for those who are not fans of anise, it works incredibly well in this ice cream, and may surprise you.

Absinthe Ice Cream
Print Recipe
About 1 quart 1 quart (1L)
I folded absinthe-flavored chocolate truffles (see Note) into this ice cream, but you can swap out regular chocolate chips, or serve it without the chocolate, and garnish scoops with chocolate shavings, a few candied fennel seeds scattered over the top, or doused with chocolate sauce.
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
pinch of salt
2/3 cup (130g) sugar
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream or half-and-half
5 large egg yolks
3-4 tablespoons absinthe
about 1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate truffles or chocolate chips
1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan.
2. Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream or half-and-half into the bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.
4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
5. Strain the custard into the cream or half-and-half. Stir over the ice until cool, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.
6. Stir in 3 tablespoons of absinthe. Taste, and add an additional one if desired, before freezing in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once churned, fold in the chocolate truffles.

Note: To make the chocolate truffles (adapted from The Perfect Scoop), heat 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (140ml) heavy cream and 3 tablespoons light corn syrup in a small saucepan until it starts to boil. Remove it from the heat and add 6 ounces (170g) chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, stirring gently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in 2 to 3 teaspoons absinthe, to taste.

To shape the truffles, pour the mixture into a small bowl and chill thoroughly. Once firm enough to scoop, use a teaspoon to scoop up little bite-sized pieces of the truffle mixture and set them on a plate lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Freeze until ready to use.

The Perfect Scoop

Related Links

Ice Cream Making FAQs

Absinthe Frappé (Imbibe Magazine)

Easy Chocolate Ice Cream

The Wormwood Society (Absinthe FAQs)

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

Making ice cream without a machine

Meet your maker: buying an ice cream machine

Espresso Granita Affogato (Recipe)

Tasty absinthe ice cream with chocolate truffles!

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190 comments

  • Marisa
    May 19, 2009 12:15am

    Recipes alone don’t usually make me laugh out loud, which I quite enjoy doing. Except for when I have a cold. Then it just makes me cough. Stories about chasing baguettes, with or without a recipe, make me laugh out loud. So you should keep telling them.
    Reply

    • jane
      May 28, 2019 5:32pm

      Where’s the part about chasing baguettes? I’d love a laugh today and David your gentle yet knowing humor is why I’ve read this blog as a vegan for at almost a decade :D Reply

  • May 19, 2009 5:49am

    Hallucinant! – like the french would say (both for the absinthe & the ice cream).
    Reply

  • Claire
    May 19, 2009 10:20am

    David,

    As many have said above, your commentary and stories are what make this blog unique and one of my regular morning stops. Please don’t change a thing!
    Reply

  • May 19, 2009 12:11pm

    I loveee alcoholic flavored ice creams! And my boyfriend loves absinthe – we need to make this! Thanks David! P.S. Have you ever had Bailey’s ice cream? It is divine…send us a recipe for homemade! :)
    Reply

  • May 19, 2009 4:26pm

    Dear David
    You have to write more about all the stuff people are telling you not to write!!! I love reading them, about the French, your funny encounters, daily things…I really enjoy reading them…I went to your book signing today, he he i was the asian girl from Indonesia… :) thank you for a great night David!
    Please keep writing blogs that you feel like writing, regardless..after all you have a great number of followers…and fans!
    Emmelyn
    Reply

  • May 19, 2009 5:24pm

    Oh please don’t stop writing about Paris! I’m absolutely missing Paris so much and reading your blogs makes me want to go back there. And besides, what’s a blog without adding life into it? Whoever gave you that advice is absolutely ridiculous.

    By the way, absinthe ice cream does sound interesting. I can just imagine the taste and how the absinthe will be kicking in as you swallow a bite. I’m excited. I wonder if I can test it out in our restaurant…
    Reply

  • Arturo
    May 19, 2009 10:36pm

    Seriously, Your recipes are great, but seriously its your zest for life that keeps me coming back. I have plenty of books with even more recipes. It’s a BLOG for crissakes.
    Reply

  • May 20, 2009 1:49pm

    I love all of the things you write about and would be disappointed if you took any of that ridiculous advice too seriously. Thank goodness your tongue knows what to do even when your hands are tied.

    Reply

  • May 21, 2009 11:16am

    Pretty please don’t skip the stories!
    Reply

  • Adell
    May 21, 2009 12:30pm

    How come there is no mention of Absinthe in the gorgeous “Scooped” article in Fine Cooking (June/July 2009)? (Absinthe/Licorice perhaps? or Absinthe Lavender?)
    It looks completely delish. My faves (in order) Whisky Gingerbread, Double Vanilla Bourbon, Armagnac Prune. Now I just have to stop fantasizing about how good they taste and make them!

    Reply

  • Melissa
    May 22, 2009 11:52am

    Who’s the sad bastard telling you to stick to the recipes? Stop withholding your stories–don’t punish us to make your point against them!
    Reply

  • Stephanie
    May 25, 2009 5:56pm

    Don’t stop with the stories. I love hearing about how wacky France is.
    Reply

  • Alexis
    May 27, 2009 4:32pm

    I know I am a little late in commenting, but keep the stories coming (both food and non-food related). They’re hilarious!
    Reply

  • Carolyn
    June 1, 2009 7:52pm

    Love yer blog. Surfed on in through google with a question about the article on ice cream which appears in ‘Fine Cooking.’ In all the years I have made ice cream, when I add the basic recipe to the freezer, the manufacturer’s instructions tell you to fill to the line with milk (depends on the freezer). I have two teenage sons and you can just imagine how much ice cream I go through! So, for a four quart freezer, do you recommend doubling the custard? I don’t mind making two batches; just want to make sure amounts are consistent in texture and not flat tasting when I go to freeze them.

    Thanks!

    PS. I never did get to France…drove near Alsace and was stunned by that countryside. So truly lovely.
    Reply

  • June 2, 2009 3:27am

    Hi Carolyn: You can double any of my ice cream custard recipes, but just remember that some machines require freezing the canister 24 hours before churning a batch (unless you have a self-refrigerating machine). So if you have to churn two batches in that kind of machine, follow the manufacturer’s advice (and mine) about letting it freeze rock-solid.
    Reply

  • June 6, 2009 12:48am

    Holy crap is that ice cream good. I made it with 4 tbsp of absinthe, and it’s crazy tasty. I didn’t realize quite how well the absinthe and chocolate would go together.

    Thanks!
    Reply

  • Ed T
    August 6, 2009 3:23am

    Hi David,
    My friend is inviting me to her Mad Tea party, I wanted to do Absinthe but can’t justify a huge bottle, instead going with chartreuse liqueur, would the chocolate bits still work? (hmm really need to untie those hands of yours….!) Thanks!

    Yes, you certainly could add Chartreuse in lieu of absinthe. I love Chartreuse and the chocolate chips would be super with it. -dl
    Reply

  • Ed T
    August 7, 2009 3:59pm

    Thank David!
    I did the chartreuse recipe in your book… came out a bit more icy that I would have liked…however I love the chartreuse + sour cream flavor…can I substitute the whole milk with heavy cream and add the 5 yolks to give it a smoother creamier texture? Thanks..
    Oh the dark chocolate.. very nice touch.. had to restrain… hmm must tie my own hands now…
    Reply

  • September 8, 2009 3:43pm

    Dear David,

    I read your article about absinthe and ice cream and it looks absolutely delicious.
    Reply

  • Laura
    February 14, 2010 8:36pm

    I think I’ll have to make this soon. Herbal liqueurs are my favorite. I recently made a similar recipe but used Grand Marnier, and orange blossom water, and orange zest in place of the absinthe. It was the exact creamy orange and chocolate ice cream I’ve been craving for years! Thanks for all the inspiration.
    Reply

  • Janet
    May 23, 2019 4:37pm

    Question: I know it won’t be the same, but can I use pastis instead of buying a bottle of absinthe that I probably won’t use? Reply

  • Cyndy
    May 23, 2019 4:53pm

    I read back through the article and all of the comments, and I can’t see where someone told you to stick to writing recipes instead of commenting on life.

    Maybe it was someone at your book signing? Or a publisher? Whoever it was, they’re wrong wrong wrong!

    I’m going to squirrel a bottle of Absinthe back to the US in November. That’s where my ice cream maker lives. Reply

  • Linda
    May 23, 2019 5:05pm

    Just curious: why do the instructions for the absinthe truffles have us spoon the bits one at a time instead of what looks in your photo like spreading on a sheet and chopping into small pieces? Reply

    • May 23, 2019 5:45pm
      David Lebovitz

      I used a pastry bag and people don’t like using them at home (from what they tell me…) so I recommended the pour & scoop method. Reply

  • Darla
    May 23, 2019 5:22pm

    May we eat the truffles independently from the ice cream or are they too strong to eat straight? We enjoy absinthe with coffee after dinner and would love to make the truffles for an after dinner treat. Reply

  • Washington, DC
    May 23, 2019 6:01pm

    Are raki/Pernod interchangeable with the absinthe? Reply

  • Andrew
    May 23, 2019 6:31pm

    Your blog, commentary and recipes are a delight. Thank you. I’ve seen others ask but I may have missed an answer, but would pastis/Ricard/Pernod work as or nearly as well? Reply

  • karen
    May 23, 2019 11:45pm

    Here is another recipe that I must try. I love homemade ice cream. especially flavors that aren’t available commercially. Absinthe and chocolate is a must.

    Your recipe for glazed fruit is now a staple for me. I glazed fresh figs when in season, lemons and cherries. Wonderful! Reply

  • May 24, 2019 1:12am
    David Lebovitz

    karen: So happy you like the glazed fruit recipe. Nice to know you’ve made it with figs and cherries as well : )

    Andrew, WashingtonDC, and Janet: Pastis (and other anise-flavored spirits) are a little different but it would likely work. You may need to add the full 4 tablespoons to the custard, but you can try it and see how it tastes. If you do, let me know how it works.

    Cyndy: Don’t recall what that was about but likely one of the “stick to food” people, who are tiresome.

    Darla: They’re formulated to be soft even when chilled, so they’ll be hard to pick up and eat. There are chocolate truffle recipes in my books, The Great Book of Chocolate and Ready for Dessert, that are meant to be eaten on their own. Reply

  • Amy
    May 24, 2019 3:15am

    J’adore toujours touts vos choses. Reply

  • Robert Hark
    May 24, 2019 7:37pm

    Love your blog. We were recently in Germany and had a lot of pastry with mohn (poppy seed-honey) filling. We love it. Do you ever bake with mohn ? Reply

  • Shelley Matheis
    May 25, 2019 12:23am

    I’ve been confused. I’ve been thinking that absinthe is what you use to make a pastis! Reply

    • May 25, 2019 7:42pm
      David Lebovitz

      Pastis was marketed after absinthe had been banned, as a legal alternative. Pastis is anise- and licorice-flavored and is usually clear, and has a different flavor profile than absinthe. Absinthe, in general, has a lot more complexity, which can vary by brand. Reply

  • The midnight baker
    May 26, 2019 12:21am

    Why did I have to see this recipe? I am avoiding sweets right now, and I am the only Absinthe lover in my circle… so making this will be dangerous. But, oh my.. this looks like the most amazing ice cream in the world… and I just so happened to have my ice cream maker chilling.. it was supposed to be for a light sherbert for visiting family, but I might just have to make this instead! Reply

  • KIMBERLY GERBER
    May 28, 2019 7:03pm

    Hi David,
    I think something strange is happening on the blog. I looked at some dates on the comments and some say 2009 and some say 2019.

    Does anyone else see this? Reply

    • May 28, 2019 7:56pm
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Kimberley: I did a reboot on my previous blog post about this ice cream, updating the recipe and photos, so some comments will show up from 2009 as well as now. I was going to go an edit them but there are quite a few. Hopefully I’ll have time to do that shortly! Reply

  • Marianne
    June 2, 2019 4:59am

    Oh my….My dearest friend passed away I year ago…one of his hobbies was making absinthe from scratch..I still have a few bottles and I am going to make this …..we worked together for 15 year(pharmacist and pharmacy tech) When he suddenly had a cardiac arrest,and I was also told I was going to have urgent open heart surgery(no disease just a damn mitral valve gone bad) the irony is that we worked on the cardiac unit of the hospital…..my heart aches(I’m healthy now) but this will be a bittersweet tribute to him Reply

  • Rachael
    June 4, 2019 3:05am

    When you’re developing an ice cream recipe, how do you decide whether Philly style or custard style is better for a given flavor? Do you test both? Reply

  • June 4, 2019 7:06am
    David Lebovitz

    Rachael: Most people prefer to taste and texture of custard-based ice cream so I tend to make those, but some like the ease of Philadelphia ice cream. For fruit-based ice creams I often don’t add eggs. This one could be adapted to non-custard based ice cream for sure.

    Marianne: Sorry about your friend but nice he left some good memories for you. Sounds like he would enjoy your making (and eating!) ice cream made from the absinthe he created! Reply

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