It was with some trepidation I approached the Jameson soft serve at Boiler Room in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. As a rule, I generally don’t drink anything that starts with a J. People usually look totally befuddled when I say this—before I rattle off the list: Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Jägermeister, and, of course, the ubiquitous Jameson.
Boozy desserts are hard. Balancing sweetness, usually something like ice cream, and alcohol can generally lead to a whole mess of unfortunate results (see: the mudslide).
It helped that it happened to be a very hot, very muggy day. But when I sidled up to the bar and asked to learn a little more about the Jameson soft serve and how it’s made, I learned just one fact: it’s a secret.
Thought up by Boiler Room’s first chef, the recipe has been closely kept under wraps for the last few years—especially from Jameson, which has persistently (and sometimes sneakily) tried to get the chefs at the popular pizza joint to fork it over.
At any given time, the restaurant has two flavors of boozy soft serve available (since some people truly abhor Jameson, as it turns out), chef John Steinfels and bar manager Erik Dorf told me before I daintily spooned each of the cold concoctions into my mouth. On this particular day, aside from the Jameson iteration, there was also the Flying Monk, a mixture of Old Crow, amaretto, and espresso vodka, plus some secret ingredients, to be certain.
The Jameson soft serve was, to my relief, more than just palatable. The Irish whiskey describes itself as exhibiting “exceptional smoothness,” though I would heartily disagree. But the soft serve was more like the echoes of Jameson—far-off ones, at that—which had softened dramatically while still remaining intact. What I’d say is a rather sour flavor (the whiskey) is present immediately, for just a split second, before it mellows and quickly transitions to notes of coffee, caramel, and strong vanilla.
OK fine, it was pretty good.
The Flying Monk flavor wasn’t nearly as strong—and my palate was also beginning to frost over—but it wasn’t as coffee-y as I had hoped, and the vodka tasted apparent in the final notes that lingered, unwanted, since I’ve never fancied myself a vodka woman.
These soft-serve flavors rotate often—sometimes weekly—and Steinfels said they do seasonal flavors around the holidays, like pumpkin in the fall and peppermint around Christmas. And they’re always boozy.
To that end, I wondered, “How much of this will I have to eat before I feel drunk?”
It took about eight minutes to find out.
If you find yourself in Chicago, you can try the Jameson soft serve at Boiler Room on any day of the week year-round—even in the blusteriest months of the Windy City’s winters.
Photo by Andrew Nawrocki, Groupon