Scotch Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Recipe

Impossibly rich and smooth with deep notes of honey, caramel, and flowers.

Three scoops of Scotch vanilla bean ice cream in a bowl.

Serious Eats / Max Falkowitz

Why This Recipe Works

  • Adding Scotch to the custard base softens the texture of the ice cream while complimenting and accentuating the vanilla.
  • Infusing the custard base with a vanilla bean and adding vanilla extract once it cools intensifies the flavor of the ice cream.

It's not much of a stretch to say that any baked sweet during the holidays could benefit from a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sure, you could reach for store-bought, and it wouldn't be bad at all. It'll melt nice over cake and pie and you'll go to bed happy. But it can't compare to the crazy-delicious luxury of real-deal homemade ice cream, impossibly rich and creamy, fragrant to the point of seductive.

This is one of the best ice creams to come out of my kitchen, and is on the shortlist for best vanilla ice cream I've had anywhere. It's a classic French vanilla: Flavors of butter and custard slink into the honeyed, floral, caramel notes of vanilla bean. The texture is pure silk. The aftertaste lingers and lingers.

As for the Scotch, consider it a vanilla enhancement. A good Highlands Scotch shares vanilla's floral and honeyed flavors while adding depth and maltiness. The whisky plays background here: Don't tell people it's there and they might not catch it. But it's just the thing to make this a vanilla ice cream of champions.

The next time I make this (and rest assured, there will be a next time) I may try a smokier Scotch for an ice cream with more bite. But this version is perfect as-is. Pecan pie, chocolate cake, apple crisp: watch out. Vanilla's coming for you.

December 2011

Recipe Details

Scotch Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Recipe

Active 30 mins
Total 10 hrs
Serves 8 servings

Impossibly rich and smooth with deep notes of honey, caramel, and flowers.


  • 2 cups cream

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 1 vanilla bean (Mexican or Bourbon; see notes), split and scraped

  • 8 egg yolks

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3 tablespoons Highlands Scotch whisky (recommended: Glenlivet 12)

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste (see notes)


  1. In a heavy saucepan, bring cream and milk to a bare simmer. Stir in vanilla bean and seeds, cover, and let steep for 1 hour. Remove bean, wash away dairy, and set aside to dry. Spent bean can be added to a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar.

  2. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until well-combined and light in color. Slowly pour yolk mixture into dairy mixture, whisking well to combine. Cook custard on low heat, whisking frequently, until it thickens, coating the back of a spoon but leaving a clean line when swiped with a finger.

  3. Strain into an airtight container, then stir in vanilla extract and Scotch. Add salt to taste. Chill overnight, then churn the next day according to manufacturer's instructions. Eat immediately as soft-serve or let firm up in freezer for 2 to 3 hours.

Special Equipment

Ice cream maker


To play against such a floral whisky I use Mexican vanilla bean, which has a powerful spicy funk. Avoid Mexican vanilla extracts, which are often cut with cheaper, potentially toxic ingredients. Mexican vanilla beans are amazing, but should come from sources you trust.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
374 Calories
28g Fat
22g Carbs
9g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 374
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 28g 36%
Saturated Fat 16g 80%
Cholesterol 279mg 93%
Sodium 259mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 8%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 22g
Protein 9g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 105mg 8%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 169mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)