There’s a time to revel in frozen drinks, and that time is now. With Fourth of July happening during a pandemic, and plenty more 90-degree days coming, a boozy slushie is one way to make the best of it all.
Fortunately, frozen cocktails are among the easiest spirited drinks you can whip up. All you need are five basic components: Fruit, citrus, sweetener, ice, and alcohol. A high-quality blender is an added plus, and you can skip the booze if you’re in the market for a mocktail.
“It’s supposed to be effortless. That’s the fun of blender drinking, you just throw everything in,” says Ram Krishnan, owner and manager of cocktail bar Writer’s Block Rehab. “You play with it, add more ice or fruit if needed — it’s hard to go wrong, and there really isn’t any right or wrong.”
Of course, there are some tricks to making a better frozen drink. Krishnan shares his advice, along with a recipe for a pineapple ginger slushie. Experiment with the spirit of your choice or make it booze-free. Then check out the recipes for two other summer classics: Frosé, and a spritz made with one of the season’s sweetest treats.
“Frozen fruit is OK for your smoothie or protein shake,” says Krishnan. “But not for your cocktails.”
Seasonal fruit will brighten the flavor of your drink. It’s often sweeter, too, which means you can cut down on added sugar.
Gin, vodka, rum, and whiskey are interchangeable with most fruit. For darker spirits, opt for bolder flavors, like those of pineapple, blood orange, passionfruit, berries, and pear.
How much sugar you need will depend on your fruit and your preferences.
“If I taste a super sweet watermelon, I might not even use a simple syrup,” says Krishnan. “If your berries aren’t very sweet, then balance that with added sugar.”
Always sample your fruit first. If using a recipe, make an educated guess as to whether you should adjust it. Err on the side of caution, but if you end up with something too sweet, simply set aside some of the cocktail in the fridge. Add more alcohol to the blender, and possibly some fruit, too, and go from there.
Another trick: If your fruit’s not ripe enough, grill it. “I love pineapple on the grill — just throw it on for a minute or so, and it intensifies the sugar,” says Krishnan.
If you’re wondering why your cocktail is icy, your blender is likely the culprit. For creamy results, high-power blade action is a must.
Krishnan’s go-to brand is Vitamix. Understandably, not everyone’s ready to drop $300 on a blender.
If you’re using a blender that lacks a little oomph, try freezing your fruit and using it in place of ice. It’ll produce smoother results, and you can lighten up the drink after with a splash of seltzer or sparking wine.
Another reason high-power blenders come in handy: Shorter blend times make for a colder, less soupy drink.
“If you puree for too long, the blades create heat, and so it makes it more watery, and sometimes can even change the flavor notes,” says Krishnan.
To decrease your blend time, chop the fruit as small as you can, and use crushed ice. You can make your own crushed ice by blitzing larger cubes in a food processor or running them through the blender for 20 to 30 seconds, and straining the excess water.
“Your total blend should be two minutes max,” says Krishnan. “Start slow for the first 15 seconds to get the ingredients moving, and then switch your blender to high, using a wooden spoon to wipe down the sides.”
Build complexity by adding a small pinch of salt to the blender.
“There’s a reason they salt the rims of margaritas,” says Krishnan. “Tequila really works with salt, but a speckle of salt can also enhance the flavor of fruit.”
Skip the salt in berry-based cocktails. It’ll bring out the tartness, says Krishnan.
No, you don’t need to chug your boozy slushie and bring on a brain freeze. But frozen drinks are designed to be made fresh and consumed quickly.
“With any cocktail, if it’s sitting on the bar for too long, it changes the composition, and that’s especially true for frozen ones,” says Krishnan.
You can leave a pitcher at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes, but once it starts to melt, don’t expect to refreeze it and have it taste the same, says Krishnan. Pour and store extras in the freezer immediately.
A tropical drink with a slight kick, this boozy slushie is perfect for relaxing outdoors, whether on the beach, your stoop, or back patio. For a spicier version, substitute the ginger for a slice of jalapeño, or tame it down by swapping in 10 to 15 mint leaves.
1 cup vodka (can substitute with tequila or rum)
3 cups pineapple, diced
1/2 cup agave or simple syrup (reduce if you like it less sweet; for the simple, dissolve ¼ cup sugar into ¼ cup water)
1/4 cup lime juice
5 cups ice cubes or 4 cups crushed ice
1-inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
Place ice in a blender, and run for 20 seconds, if whole, or 5 seconds, if crushed. Add remaining ingredients, and blend for another 30 seconds, or until slushy. Pour into a pitcher and serve, or place in the freezer for 30 minutes for a thicker version.
To make it a mocktail: Follow the recipe above, excluding the vodka. Start with two tablespoons of sweetener, and add more, to taste.
Courtesy Ram Krishnan, owner and manager of cocktail bar Writer’s Block Rehab
Two summery drinks packaged into one, this slushy spritz is as refreshing as a slice of cool watermelon. The watermelon syrup yields enough for a couple spritz pitchers. Store any extras in the refrigerator.
1 ½ ounces dry gin, such as Bluecoat American Dry Gin
¾ ounces watermelon syrup (see below)
1 ounce fresh lime juice
¼ ounce aperol, or any citrusy aperitif
¾ cup of crushed ice
Mint, to garnish (optional)
Add all ingredients into a blender. Blend on high for 10 seconds, or until creamy. Pour into wine glasses, and garnish with a fresh mint.
(Yields 16 ounces)
1 ½ cups diced watermelon
1 cup sugar
1 pinch sea salt
Place ingredients in a blender; blend on high until the sugar is dissolved. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
To make it a mocktail:
Shake or blend 1.5 ounces of the watermelon syrup with 1.5 ounces lime juice and ¾ cup crushed ice. Pour into a glass and top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with mint.
Courtesy Canyon Shayer, bar manager at Philadelphia Distilling
This recipe riffs off of Assembly Rooftop Lounge’s popular frosé, leaving out the cocchi rosa and dry vermouth to make a simpler at-home version. Garnish with whatever fresh berries are in season.
1 cup dry rosé wine
5 quartered strawberries
¼ cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup crushed ice
Fresh berries, to garnish
Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until you reach a milkshake consistency. Garnish with berries.