The Cooler Side of Cocktails How to Handle Alcohol in Frozen Desserts

Cheers! Salud! Gan Bei! Sláinte! Prost! Cin Cin! Sante! Who says toasts are only for beverages? If you’re looking to raise your gelato dish rather than your glass, here are some important tips before you take on creating delicious alcohol-infused frozen desserts.

The inherent challenge when using alcoholic beverages in frozen applications is that the freezing point of alcohol is significantly lower than that of milk or water. Water freezes at 0°C (32°F) while alcohol (ethanol) freezes at -114°C (-173.2°F).1 Home and commercial freezers never reach this low (not to mention it is far too cold for the rest of your dessert), so adjustments must be made to accommodate the alcohol content of the beverage you intend to use.

Because alcoholic beverages are a mixture of alcohol, water, sugar, flavours and other additives, the exact freezing point of a particular beverage will depend on its alcohol percentage. Beverages are always labeled with both the percent of alcohol as well as the “proof” value (alcohol per volume). The proof of a beverage is simply calculated as twice the alcohol percentage (pure, 100% alcohol would be 200 proof, for example). Of course the alcoholic beverages we consider for frozen dessert applications typically have proofs far lower than this, and the basic rule of thumb is that the higher the proof, the lower the freezing point.

Here are a few examples of how the proof value translates to a specific freezing temperature:2

• 24 proof (12% alcohol) liquor freezes at -6.7°C (20°F)

• 64 proof (32% alcohol) liquor freezes at -23.33°C (-10°F)

• 84 proof (42% alcohol) liquor freezes at -34.44°C (-30°F)

Next, let’s take a look at the alcohol percentage by volume (ABV) for your drink of choice:3

• Beer (pilsner, lager, porter and cider): 4%–6%;  Stouts: 5%–10%

• Sparkling Wine: 8%–12%

• Wine (General): 10%–15%

• Fortified Wines (port, sherry, marsala, madeira, vermouth, etc.): 16%–20%

• Liquors/Spirits (General): 40%; Light Liquors: 20%

• Cask-strength (barrel proof) Whiskey/Rum: 60%

Depending on the alcohol content of the beverage you intend to use, the options are to limit usage in the recipe or to cook off the alcohol in the beverage before using (which, if done slowly, generally leaves behind the flavours of the beverage). In the case of gelato or sorbetto production, it is recommended to use a base that contains the proper stabilizers to support alcohol content (PreGel offers Base Allegra, which contains specially formulated ingredients to help aid in the freezing process, while creating a smooth and creamy texture in the final product).

As a general guideline, it is recommended to use 50 grams of alcoholic beverage per 1 kg of liquid base, based on a 90 proof beverage. The quantity may be increased with a lower proof alcohol – for example, 100 grams per 1 kg of base may be used in the case of a 45 proof alcoholic beverage.

The key to success with alcohol-infused frozen desserts is to understand the type and proof of beverage you are using. For example, Grand Marnier and Chambord are both cognac-based liquors; however, Grand Marnier is 40% alcohol (80 proof) whereas Chambord contains a mere 16.5% alcohol (33 proof). Depending on which flavour profile – orange or raspberry – you may be looking to achieve, you will have to take the alcohol content and flavour per volume into account for your recipe. Practice makes perfect as with any recipe, and never let a good spirit go to waste!

For alcoholic gelato and sorbetto recipes, visit Questions? Contact PreGel Canada at  and they will assist you with your recipe.