Scooped: Kaffir Lime and Gin Ice Cream


Whenever I have the chance in Chinatown, I pick up a pack of kaffir lime leaves, aromatic herbs that are to conventional limes as the Old Spice Guy is to all other men. Their perfumed aroma is something mere mortal limes could never hope to achieve; something like lime blended with mint and basil, orange rind, and rich-fleshed tropical fruit. Most of my lime leaves are greedily sucked into Thai curries, but I make sure to save some for dessert.

Last year, in Scooped's infancy, Ethan and I made a sorbet with kaffir lime leaves, coconut water, star anise, and ginger. It was good—very good—but I'm one of those people who will always turn down sorbet for the option of ice cream instead. So here we go again.

This is the full, pure flavor of kaffir lime distilled into ice cream form. Intense, but rounded out by dairy and eggs, perfect for scooping over warm peach pie (peach and lime is a combination that doesn't get nearly enough love). But as long as we're talking about distilling flavors, let's talk about gin, which at its core is an extraction of a bouquet of herbs and spices that conveniently go quite well with limes of all forms. I don't know of a gin infused with kaffir lime leaves, but I'll readily make a gin and tonic with them. And I'll even more readily make ice cream with the pairing.

What you get is a powerful but tranquil meditation on citrus and spice, herb and hooch. The generous slurp of alcohol gives the cream a silky texture that lets a parade of flavor glide around your palate: musk, citrus, juniper, licorice, herb, coriander, rose, and so forth. This is an ice cream best enjoyed in small doses to appreciate its delicacy. Take a spoonful and let it wash over you.