Stout + Ice Cream + Caramel = Heck Yes
Everyone loves a root beer float. That is a fact. We might not indulge in them too often now, but I remember the Friday nights as a kid: rented movies, delivery pizza, and the hope of a root beer float to finish off the night. It was a special treat because my parents didn't keep much soda in the house. Some people might be more familiar with the black cow or the Coke float, but my heart will always lie with the root beer float. Whichever beverage you prefer, the ice cream float is a thing to marvel at.
Now that I am older, the tooth-numbing sweetness doesn't appeal to me as much as it used to. Searching for something a bit more complex and with a little less high fructose corn syrup, I stumbled upon the beer float, a beautiful combination of ice cream and dark beer. The beer float is something taken from my dreams, the kind of beverage so simple that we don't even think about it until it is right in front of our faces. I have decided to share the beer float with Korea, and add my little touch to it: topping it with bourbon vanilla caramel.
The first ingredient we need to talk about is the beer. It’s no secret that stouts are difficult to come by in Seoul. It is a shame, but I have seen some new imports start popping up at bars and restaurants. Still, it is almost impossible to find anything other than Guinness at the store. Oatmeal or chocolate stouts shine in this recipe, but, in a pinch, Guinness works just fine.
A high-quality ice cream is also important. I could spend this article walking you through the ice cream-making process, but I doubt most people have an ice cream machine. Just make sure you grab a decent vanilla ice cream, because anything less would be a crime against the final product.
I use vanilla sugar in my caramel mainly because I have it on hand, but also because it complements the bourbon. There is no problem using plain white sugar to start your caramel, but making vanilla sugar is as simple as putting a whole vanilla bean in a jar of white sugar. After about a week, the sugar will be infused with an intense vanilla flavor. Vanilla beans can be an exotic ingredient in Korea, and quite expense as well, so if you can't get your hands on a vanilla pod (I implore you to try -- it is worth it.) you can use a splash of vanilla extract in the following recipe.
The caramel sauce is the only real cooking in this recipe. It is a quick process, but make sure to keep your eye on the sugar (it can turn from a deep amber to a burnt mess in the blink of an eye.) Also, remember that this stuff is like edible napalm. Use a heavy-bottomed pan that won't tip easily. You don't want hot caramel airborne at any point of the process.
After that, it’s just a matter of putting all the ingredients in a glass. I feel almost guilty calling this a recipe, but that quickly dissipates when I sit down with a frosty glass of ice cream, caramel, and beer.
Friday nights might have changed for me now that I am older, but I can guarantee that many of them this October will be spent with a beer float, homemade pizza and a good horror movie.
Bourbon Vanilla Caramel
- ½ cup white sugar infused with vanilla
- 2 Tbsp water
- ¼ cup of heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp butter
- pinch of salt
- 1 shot of bourbon
Add the sugar and water to a medium saucepan over low heat. Cover. Let the mixture come to a boil. Check on the mixture, watching for the color to change to a pale amber color. At this point, the sugar can go from pale amber to black in a matter of seconds, so keep an eye out. Right when it is starting to turn a deep caramel color, turn off the heat and whisk in the butter. Return to a low heat and add the bourbon and cream, gradually whisking it in. Let it cook for another 45 to 60 seconds. Remove from the heat and let it cool. If it is too stiff when cooled, gently heat the caramel sauce and whisk in another 1-2 tablespoons of cream.
Make sure the caramel sauce is a bit on the runny side, so it doesn't seize up in the cold beer.
Beer Float with Bourbon Vanilla Caramel
- 1 dark stout, chilled
- 1-2 scoops of vanilla ice cream
- 2 tablespoons of bourbon vanilla caramel sauce
Add the ice cream to a large, chilled glass. Slowly pour the stout over the ice cream, then top with caramel sauce.