While evocations of sun, sand and rosé don’t hurt — hey, wear a mask out there — not all icy beverages require heat waves or pink wine. Drink good, well-made frozen drinks because they’re good, and well made. And sure, drink them barefoot in the summer grass, but also boot-clad in winter, or any other time that you’d drink an ice-cold martini or a shaken margarita.
To lean into slushy, boozy adult treats, you don’t necessarily need to pull out a blender — although you certainly can. Go frozen without extra kitchen tools by combining sweet vermouth, fresh orange juice, orange liqueur and simple syrup, and freezing into a granita that’s low alcohol by volume. Keep it light, as is, or top it with an ounce or so of a favorite spirit — brandy, bourbon, tequila, whatever you prefer — to push the drink to party status. (The prepared slush also sits nicely in your freezer for a few days, covered, should your socially distanced gathering be limited to one guest.)
However and whenever you approach your frozen drinks, you should follow a few tricks to making them simple and delicious.
First, the colder everything starts out, the better. Tiffanie Barriere, a bartender and educator based in Atlanta known as the Drinking Coach, recommends chilling bottles or base mixes for a few hours in the refrigerator before blending.
“That way, the ingredients are all the same temperature, and the final blended drink doesn’t get too diluted,” she said.
Ice is frozen water after all, so the more you use, the more you dilute your drink. Starting with cold bottles and mixes is key to keeping things frozen longer, whether you’re blending with ice or pouring a spirit over a prepared slush, snow cone-style.
Speaking of ice, use the right size. Medium-to-small cubes or crushed are best. Whenever possible, Barriere reaches for store-bought, bagged ice.
“It’s filtered and crushes easily,” she said. “You don’t want to use those big ice cubes because that’s just wasting a pretty cube.”
If you don’t have crushed ice or small cubes, you can make your own. Barriere wraps standard ice cubes in a clean table linen or dish towel and uses something heavy — a skillet and a firm hand work well — to crush them on a stable surface. Remember that ice absorbs flavors and aromas from the other items in your freezer, so keep frozen fish fillets and drink-bound ice far apart.
Finally, the colder the drink, the less our taste buds perceive sweetness. Counter this by rimming your serving glasses with a bit of citrus juice and sugar, adding a bit more simple syrup as you blend or topping your final cocktail with sweet, syrupy maraschino cherries (reach for the deep red, stemless versions whenever possible).
No matter the month or locale, frozen drinks can be oversweet sugary messes, or they can be great, balanced cocktails. Choose for yourself!
But Barriere makes the undeniable point: “It’s a childhood memory. It was exciting to get Popsicles and ice cream for a treat as a kid. As an adult you can have that same frozen feeling — in a cocktail.”
Recipe: Sweet Vermouth Slush
Yield: 6 servings
Total time: 5 minutes, plus at least 8 hours’ freezing
- 10 ounces fresh orange juice
- 8 ounces sweet vermouth
- 4 ounces simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water)
- 2 ounces orange liqueur
- 2 ounces filtered water
- 4 1/2 to 6 ounces hard liquor, such as tequila, gin, mezcal or bourbon
1. In a shallow 9-by-9-inch baking pan, combine the orange juice, vermouth, simple syrup, orange liqueur and filtered water. Whisk to combine, then place in the freezer, uncovered, for 3 hours.
2. After 3 hours, use a fork to scrape the frozen edges of the mixture toward the center, then continue freezing until the mixture is nearly set, at least 5 hours or overnight.
3. Once frozen, use a fork to scrape into a fine, granitalike texture. If you are not serving immediately, transfer the vermouth slush to a covered container and freeze until ready to use.
4. To serve, add 3/4 cup/6 ounces of the slush to a lowball glass and top with 3/4 to 1 ounce of your preferred liquor; serve immediately.
Recipe: Frozen Tom Collins
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Total time: 10 minutes, plus at least 4 hours’ freezing
- 8 ounces gin
- 6 ounces fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 large lemons)
- 4 ounces simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water)
- 5 to 6 cups cracked or crushed ice cubes
- Maraschino cherries and syrup, preferably Luxardo, for serving
1. In an airtight container, combine the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Seal and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.
2. Transfer the chilled mixture to the blender, add the ice and blend until smooth and slushy.
3. Divide the mixture among 6 lowball glasses; garnish each with a few cherries and a drizzle of cherry syrup. Serve immediately, and store any extras in the freezer in a covered container until ready to enjoy.