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Apr 24/13

Boozy Milkshakes: Drinks Meet Dessert at the Bar Posted by: Melissa Tucker | 0 Comments

Milkshakes are bringing all the boys to the bar. Well, boozy shakes and beer floats to be exact. And with the combination of Loblolly Creamery and locally brewed beers at Vino’s and shots at White Water Tavern, you can bet it’s better than yours. The mixing spirit officially began in February with the first “boozy milkshake night” at White Water Tavern, now a regular event on the first Wednesday of each month.

But how did it all shake out? Well, White Water’s kitchen manager Jonathan Wilkins said he felt a business-related affinity for Loblolly’s Sally Mengel and Rachel Moore.

“We’re all kind of in this development thing of people in their 20s and early 30s that are starting restaurants in town and have the same sort of ethos going on,” he said, meaning a focus on fresh, locally sourced ingredients and a community-oriented perspective.

White Water Tavern kitchen manager and culinary mastermind Jonathan Wilkins

As Wilkins was already in the midst of “pushing people’s palates” with offbeat burger creations during the Wednesday night live music desert, he invited Loblolly to set up a milkshake station in the bar.

“I had been doing burger night with some weird, inventive burgers on Wednesdays. So, I thought it would be a good pairing. They could come down and set up a milkshake station, and try to make the flavors of ice cream they bring complement the burger we’re doing that week,” he said.

“We make make it really fun. People usually start showing up about 6 p.m., and we get a lot of people that normally don’t come here and hang out at night,” he said.

Mengel said the formula for the milkshakes is a shot of liquor, a half a cup of milk — coconut milk for vegan milkshakes — and three scoops of ice cream or sorbet all churned up. Wilkins and Loblolly let customers call the shots for the shakes.

“We let people decide what they want in there,” Wilkins said. “A lot of people would do like a chocolate and bourbon or they’ll do a vanilla milkshake with rum. One time Loblolly had a strawberry champagne vegan sorbet, and folks were pairing tequila with that.”

The night’s burgers might have been inventive, but Wilkins said patrons played it safe with the liquor, even though the options were pretty limitless.

“We’ve got a root beer liqueur people might throw into a vanilla milkshake. Then there’s this stuff called Catdaddy, which is a spiced corn liquor that kind of tastes egg-noggy. You could put that in a vanilla deal.”

For Mengel, the idea of a more nighttime twist on her family-friendly soda fountain operation was appealing.

“It’s a lot of our core fan base that goes out to these events, so I think it’s fun to use our ice cream in a different way, and pair it with something that might be a little bit different. Our soda fountain is definitely a family crowd, so it’s a more adult version — like a soda fountain at night kind of thing.”

“A float walked into a pizza brewpub … “

On Tuesday April 16, the scooped creams and tapped kegs were united in a pint glass at Vino’s, as a soaped-up Steve Martin sang about picking out a Thermos … for you.

This was the first night of sweet beer fusion and the idea originated from a relationship between Dan Moore of Loblolly Creamery and Josiah Moody, head brewer at Vino’s for the past 18 months. As most ideas do, the one to combine beer and ice cream began with two guys shooting the breeze over brews.

“It actually, really started out with sipping outside drinking beer together,” Moody said. “It was Dan’s idea to do it. He’s been making really amazing and experimental ice cream. I try to do experimental beers as much as I can, too. We talk about flavors a lot, and this led into doing a beer float.”

In preparation for the first beer float night, Moody hauled growlers to the Loblolly kitchen to spend time summarily scooping and mixing, stirring and sipping.

Did you have any experience mixing beer and ice cream?

“Hell, no. I had no idea about it, no experience with it. There’s some history, although it’s kind of scattered,” he said. “To my knowledge this is the first time it’s been done in Arkansas.”

At the culmination of that kitchen experimentation, the team had four options for the beer float night’s debut: oatmeal stout and mint chocolate chip, Rock Island Steam with Loblolly’s Vanilla Steam, a Helles Bells Bock with nectarine plum sorbet and a nonalcoholic root beer with double vanilla.

Behind the bar, employees spooned ice cream into pint glasses and streamed beer on top of that. The whole concoction was “muddled” to meld the flavors.

“We wanted it to be an even mix of both the ice cream and the beer flavor,” Moody said.

Roughly six gallons were purchased from Loblolly, and the oatmeal stout and mint chocolate proved to be the most popular. They muddled through until the mint chocolate chip was gone. The vegan Helles Bells bock concoction proved to be less of draw, and mixers ended the night with leftover sorbet.

Moody confessed to being surprised by the crowd and plans to make the beer float night a regular thing on the second Tuesday of the month.
“We did not expect the turnout that we had. We were so pleased,” he said. “We had the back room packed. Now we will probably do it throughout the summer, based on the response that we got.”

The next Boozy Milkshakes night at White Water Tavern will begin at 6 p.m. on May 1. The next beer-float night at Vino’s will begin at 7  p.m. May 21.


Melissa Tucker is the Little Rock editor for Bourbon and Boots.


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