Brooke Santagata-Albers, a former bartender, has traded the bar for a truck and cups for cones.
The self-proclaimed “insane ice cream lady” creates original handcrafted flavors like Strawberry Wine Sorbet and Maple Stout with an intoxicating main ingredient — alcohol — and serves them from a truck.
At first glance, some people might raise an eyebrow at the “nerdy” ice cream truck, Santagata-Albers says. Its blue accents, wood paneling and colorful handwritten signs seem pretty innocuous in a park full of thematic food trucks, until you notice the Tipsy Cones signs and selection of boozy flavors.
“Whenever people see it they have this skepticism, but when they taste it their eyes get so wide,” Santagata-Albers says. “It’s the biggest compliment.”
She started Tipsy Cones two years ago and began selling the product last fall, mostly via delivery. The custom truck rolls into its first summer almost completely booked at festivals, farmers markets and private events.
Santagata-Albers wasn’t a creative ice cream chef until a few years ago. The idea for Tipsy Cones came to her when she and husband Jon Albers were watching a TV segment about a West Coast brewery and an ice cream shop working together.
Even though, thinking back, she says she has always been a terrible baker and had never made ice cream before, “all of the sudden this business plan kind of shot out at my face.”
“I literally said to my husband, ‘If in five years from now I see someone else doing this, I’ll be so upset,’” Santagata-Albers remembers. “I can’t just let an opportunity like this go by. Sometimes you’ve just got to jump.”
The nearly lifelong bartender and waitress bought an ice cream machine and began experimenting on recipes with cordials, beer and wine. Because the alcohol burns off during production, the liquor in the ice cream can’t actually get you tipsy, but it does enhance the flavor of the dessert, Santagata-Albers says.
Even so, if a child comes to the truck without a parent and asks for a boozy flavor, he or she probably won’t get served.
“We don’t want them to think they’re getting one over on their parents,” Santagata-Albers says with a laugh. “Kids probably shouldn’t know how delicious alcohol is until they’re 21.”
Her first flavor, Whiskey Bean, was a hit with her parents who aren’t big drinkers but enjoy whiskey from time to time. (Whiskey Bean made it to the truck with the tagline, “like vanilla, but better.”) More of Santagata-Albers’ recipes went over well with friends.
Husband Albers, a high school physics teacher, designed the exterior of the ice cream truck and helped create a kitchen on the inside. Santagata-Albers says they also built a commercial kitchen in their Stratford home, where she makes all the ice cream herself. It takes three or four days of ice cream-making to prepare for an event.
“I’m literally dancing with the ice cream machine listening to (hip-hop group) Wu-Tang,” she says. “It makes me happy.”
The truck carries about 14 flavors — eight boozy, four booze-free and two or three boozy and vegan. Some alcoholic flavors include Strawberry Short Shot — amaretto, Nilla wafers and strawberries; Mississippi Mudslide – Kahlúa with nuts, cookies and chocolate; and Mint Chocolate Nip — a spin on the classic made with schnapps.
For an upcoming private memorial party, Santagata-Albers is creating a creamsicle flavor based on the screwdriver, the favorite cocktail of the hosts’ late father. A customer-suggested piña colada flavor is in development. Her father, who liked Whisky Bean, is now requesting a cannoli flavor.
“I’m always thinking food, you know I’m just a girl who likes to eat,” Santagata-Albers says. “I’m always watching the Food Network. I think, ‘Let me put blueberry and Limoncello together,’ and I make a test batch.”
At the truck, chatty interactions and the long line — a “total flashback” — bring the Tipsy Cones founder the same satisfaction she had as a bartender. She says it’s also sweet to be surrounded by the friendly food truck community — and still work with alcohol.
“It’s like if I owned the bar now,” Santagata-Albers says. “There’s some kind of joy from owning your business that kind of shoots out of you.”
Find Tipsy Cones ice cream at the Bridgeport Arts Fest July 11, the Downtown Sounds concert series in Shelton July 17 and 24 and the Norwalk Food Truck Festival Aug. 22.
For more, visit tipsycones.com.
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Tipsy Cones’ Spicy Drunken Cinnamon Raisin Ice Cream
Make a day in advance for optimum scoopability.
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- Vanilla bean, halved and scraped
- A medium to large sized bowl with 4 egg yolks, beaten
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup each of Buttershots and Hot Damn (or any butterscotch and cinnamon schnapps you fancy)
- 1/3 -1/2 cup raisins, depending on what your ice cream machine recommends
Take 1 cup of your desired liquor. Bring to a boil, reduce amount by 1/3 and remove from heat source. Drop in raisins and allow to cool completely.
Put a bowl inside another filled with ice. Place a fine mesh strainer over the top bowl. Set aside.
Put sugar, milk, vanilla bean and cream in a pot and slowly start to bring it to a point where it’s steaming, not boiling, whisking the mixture constantly.
Ladle some of the steaming mixture into the bowl containing the four beaten egg yolks, whisking as you do it to avoid scrambling the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the pot and continue whisking, making sure to keep the mixture from boiling.
Dip a spatula into the custard and drag a finger across the back. If there’s a clean line that stays, the custard is thick enough. Pour it through the mesh strainer into the bowl sitting in the ice and remove the strainer. Set the custard aside until it cools, stirring occasionally to help speed up the cooling process. Once cool, place a piece of plastic wrap over the custard. Take the custard bowl out of the ice bowl and place it in the fridge.
Take your cold creamy custard and mix in your cold boozy raisin liquid. (Reserve the raisins until right before you are ready to stop the machine.)
Process in your machine as directed by its manufacturer. Right before you turn it off, add the raisins. Scrape the mixture into a freezable container. Place plastic wrap on top of the ice cream’s surface. Put the airtight lid on and stick it in the freezer for at least 6 hours.
Serve by itself scooped or put it on some raisin toast like a breakfast ice cream sandwich. Bliss out. Serves 3 to 4.