For New Yorkers, 2023 marks the 10-year anniversary of a major event: the introduction of, and subsequent mania caused by, the Cronut.
For the uninitiated, the Cronut is a hybrid between a croissant and a doughnut. It has the fried, glazed exterior of a doughnut with the buttery, multilayered interior of a croissant. The Frankenpastry is the invention (and registered trademark) of Dominique Ansel, a pastry chef who runs an eponymous bakery in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood.
The Cronut may now seem like a tired fad—Dunkin’ even served its own take on it for a while—but 10 years ago it was all the rage. Throngs of people would wake up before dawn and wait in line for hours to get their hands on the $5 novelty before the supply ran out. When I moved to New York City in the fall of 2014, when Cronut mania was still in full swing just a year after its debut, you bet your ass I did the same thing. Was it worth it? Of course not. But I got to experience a part of culinary history. Since then, the Cronut has gone on to inspire other weird dessert hybrids like the croffle.
Just as the Cronut craze began to fade, Ansel attempted to one-up himself with the Cookie Shot. Introduced to the masses at SXSW in 2014, the Cookie Shot is pretty straightforward (or should I say straight up?): It’s a chocolate chip cookie in the shape of a shot glass served with milk inside. The only way to eat it is to shoot the milk (gross) and then eat the cup (okay).
While the Cookie Shot didn’t spark a black market economy the way the Cronut did, it still had the staying power. A 6-pack of shooters with a bottle of milk is available in the shop for $34.50. But if you’re based on the west coast and in need of a shot of Madagascan vanilla milk from an edible glass, you no longer have to fly all the way to NYC. Now, you can make a pit stop in Las Vegas.
At Ansel’s new Las Vegas bakery inside Caesars Palace, you can get yourself a cookie shot 24 hours a day from the Cookie Shot Vending Machine. But here’s the kicker: The vending machine is fully manned by a robot—the first of its kind, according to Forbes. The robot picks one of the cookie cups off of a shelf, fills it with (Madagascan vanilla) milk, and hands it to the customer via a tiny door. The machine can produce up to 75 of these treats per hour—something to be aware of if you plan on taking a big group photo with all your cookie shots raised in a toast.
According to Ansel, he and RoboChef had been developing the project for two years, and this is only the beginning. “Now it makes me wonder what other kinds of robots and pastries we can create!” he told Forbes.
Could an AI-powered Cronut maker be in our future? Perhaps I’d wait in line for that.