The Unexpected Liquor That Pairs Perfectly With Chocolate Ice Cream

When booze meets ice cream, it's a beautiful thing. To transform a childhood favorite into an adults only concoction with a kick, pair chocolate ice cream with cognac. Cognac is warming, a little spicy, intensely aromatic, and often regarded as an after-dinner spirit, making it a natural fit for dessert. For this boozy chocolate creation, we're taking a cue from the brandy Alexander cocktail, which combines equal parts brandy, chocolate-flavored crème de cacao, and cream. Here, the interplay of chocolate ice cream and cognac will be a sensory experience to remember.

Blend chocolate ice cream and cognac into a milkshake for the most uniform distribution; just be sure to reduce the amount of milk you'd normally add to avoid over-thinning. Or, simply assemble a "grown up" sundae by drizzling a slug of cognac over a dish of chocolate ice cream.

What exactly is "a slug" of cognac? When building a sundae with full-proof liquor, any more than 2 or 3 teaspoons per dish is going to be overpowering. If you're mixing the cognac into a milkshake, 1 to 2 ounces is enough for a full blender. Even if you like your desserts on the extra-punchy side, use the low end baseline as a jumping-off point and adjust to taste. Also, take into account that alcohol lowers the freezing point of ice cream, particularly when the ABV is as high as it is in full-proof cognac. For optimal consistency, freeze your chocolate ice cream to 20 degrees Fahrenheit before assembling your boozy dessert.

Not all cognacs are created equal

In the world of fine spirits, it's common for fans to enjoy their sipping cognacs with a few squares of milk chocolate, specifically XO cognac. The XO label doesn't mean "hugs and kisses," alas. It's an aging designation, a surprisingly unglamorous shorthand for "extra old," with the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend being at least 10 years old. Indeed, the adage "aged to perfection" certainly applies here, and XO cognacs are a natural fit for pairing with milk chocolate for their rich notes of toffee, chocolate, and nuts. XO cognac would similarly complement chocolate ice cream's profile for a slightly sweeter pairing. If you happen to have an appropriate cognac stocked in your home bar, a drizzle would work wonders for your dessert. That said, many XO cognacs are rather expensive, and if you plan on loading up your ice cream with lots of flavorful sundae toppings, there's no need to use up your top-shelf stuff here.

Some good budget-friendly cognacs that would work well for building a creamy dreamy dessert include Raynal VSOP with almond and walnut top notes, or Paul Masson Brandy Grande Amber VS featuring prominent notes of caramel and vanilla. Depending on your taste preference, A.E. Dor Cognac Rodell Napoleon tastes like buttery popcorn, white pepper, and caramel for a little salty dimensionality, plus an inviting deep luscious honey amber hue for an enticing visual appeal.

Sundae samples to help get your tastebuds churning

By mixing boozy warmth with cold ice cream, and introducing complex bitterness and sweetness, you end up with a nutty, smooth dessert that highlights the roasted notes in the cognac. For a dessert that's as delicious as it is sophisticated, you can stop at the chocolate ice cream and cognac duo. But, if you feel like building a true sundae, we've got some ideas. Embellish your boozy bowlful with caramel sauce, chopped nuts, maraschino cherries, and dark chocolate shavings. A sprinkle of flaky sea salt would also help showcase the flavors of both the chocolate and the cognac. To adjust the sweetness, drizzle your ice cream with simple syrup, just as you might do to balance a cocktail.

Feeling extra luxurious? Garnish your sundae with a thick draping of fudge, a few dark chocolate truffles, and a whole strawberry. (And if you have any edible gold leaf waiting for a special occasion, now's the time.) If you like your sweets a little salty, top that cognac chocolate ice cream with salted peanuts, caramel sauce, and crumbles of pulverized Snickers candy bars for a sticky yet texturally interesting sundae with a playful edge. To make the cognac shine as the star of the show, take a cue from the French Connection cocktail and whip up a sweet, rich dessert by drizzling or blending your chocolate ice cream with equal parts cognac and amaretto, topped with slivered almonds and maraschino cherries to serve.