The History Dish: Ambergris Ice Cream

Image from, from a 2008 article that postulates ambergris might be the next big flavor.

Food historian Ivan Day has discovered what is believed to be the first recipe for ice cream, written in a manuscript by Lady Anne Fanshawe of England. Dating to c. 1665, she flavors her ice cream with mace, orangeflower water, or ambergris.

Ambergris is an “intestinal slurry,” believed to be a ball of muscus-covered, indigestible squid beaks. This mass is ejected into the oceans by sperm whales, much like a cat disgorging a hairball. A ball of ambergris floats in the sea until it washes ashore and is collected. Throughout the 18th century, it was a prized flavoring for sweets and today it is still valued today as a base for perfumes. Its smell and flavor can range from “earthy to musky to sweet.” At the current Whales: Giants of the Deep exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, you are encourage to sniff a large ball of very valuable whale puke.

I needed to known what ambergris ice cream tasted like.  Ambergris is very, very expensive: it will run you about $25 per gram. There are more affordable, essential oils made from it, but often they are labeled “not for consumption.” I searched far and wide and finally found Dewberry’s Herbal, an Etsy shop stocked with handmade essential oils that even let you choose which oil base you want. I picked the “True Ambergris” with grapeseed oil, the most neutral of oils!

I have been psyched for this experiment for weeks! …And the end of the story is the ambergris got lost in the mail. Or, stolen from the foyer of my apartment building. It is no where to be found–and I’m crushed.

To be continued…when I can work out the insurance claim, or scrape together money to by some more, Ambergris Ice Cream will happen!

8 thoughts on “The History Dish: Ambergris Ice Cream

  1. NOOOOOOO! Ahem. Sorry I’ve been reading your blog for ages and that’s no way to start a first comment but blimey, I am GUTTED for you. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what it was like!

  2. Gutted is the best way to put it! I know, it’s such a disappointment. And I even had the chance to debut it at the Brooklyn Brainery’s Ice Cream Club this Saturday! Ambergris ice cream is always just out of my reach…

  3. I have some if you’d like to try it… the real deal. Gray and smelling of a life of sea and salt. People love it or hate it. I’m crazy about it.
    Let me know.

  4. I remember you did a blog post about ambergris hot chocolate! I’m having a replacement shipped for tuesday, so we’ll see how it goes!

  5. That’s tragic!!! I’m dying to know what it tastes like. Some of the 16th century recipes I work with call for ambergris, but I always assumed it was out of the realm of possibility.


  7. Pingback: Ambergris ice cream | DEPT 110, Spring 2018

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