Put a Little Frost On Your Glass
Tropical, trashy, perfect: there's no wrong way to go frozen. Alright, there are a few.
August 29, 2017
By Richie Nakano | Image leaf via iStock
I like booze-filled frozen beverages as much as the next guy.
A lifetime of coveting the frosty goblets of syrupy margaritas at Chili’s, and of watching my parents joyfully take down a pitcher of frozen Bacardi pina colada on hot summer days, led me to this point. Despite this, I could never really figure out the best way to pull it off during a night out. Then, on an outing with Scott Vivian [chef/owner of Toronto’s Beast], I saw the light.
He ordered a beer, shot, and frozen cocktail all at once, and dove in—shot first, then alternating between the beer and the frozen drink. It was terrifying and brilliant and resulted in a nice, evenly trashy buzz, and the hangover seemed at least 50 (okay, 20) percent lighter.
We are not all capable of Vivian-level techniques, and we won’t always be at a nice, respectable cocktail joint when our craving for daiquiris rears its umbrella’d head. But we can, by process of elimination, avoid the worst of it. Take it from a chef who is not exactly a bartender and still harbors many shameful wounds from strawberry daiquiris past!
Blender vs Slushie Machine: Blenders are loud and don't always pulverize ice the right way—but the ratios of booze to syrup is almost always right when it’s mixed to order. The frozen drink machine goes the other way; it’s silent and produces delightfully velvety drinks. But if the mix hasn't had time to properly freeze, or has been sloshing around in there for too long, the results can be a melty, metallic-tasting mess. Be brave, and choose wisely.
Sweet vs Sour: In order to steer clear of sugary Slurpee country, most bars will pump a ton of acid into their frozen drinks—which is great. (Have you had a Slurpee lately? They make your mouth convulse.) Citric acids have their own results, of course: drink water, have an antacid, order the nachos. All these things will help.
The High-Proof Drink That Melts Into Sugary Booze Syrup: On your first sip you're shouting “WOW THIS IS STRONG” louder than you intended and stirring feverishly. Soon, that elation fades as the booze busts out of its icy prison into a lukewarm, caustic syrup. You force yourself to drink it down, because you paid for it, damn it, but: if your drink is boozy, drink it fast and be done with it.
The Low-Proof Drink That Basically Turns Into A Cup-Shaped Snowball: On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the low-proof frozen drink. They start off fine, with everyone politely sipping and kind of shrugging at each other, saying things like, “it’s not bad, is it?” Then the drink gets a little condensation on the outside, then the condensation re-freezes, then the low-proof juice inside kind of re-freezes as you pull liquid from the bottom, just like when you wasted seven bucks on a Sno-cone thing at the fair. Probably abandon ship and switch drinks.
Is This a Mix-Ins Place?: Some bars think this is a cute thing to do; mix in pieces of fruit, sometimes even boba, like you’ve come for a boozy Pinkberry. It’s always awful. The mix ins freeze—hard. When you suck one up through your straw, you wind up with a frozen rock in your mouth. Keep your DQ Blizzard and frozen cocktail sensibilities separate (is something my dentist told me once).
In NYC, check out The Gander’s Watermelon El Jimador Slushie, and if you've yet to dip your toe into the frosé pool, Bar Primi (and about a zillion others) is where it's at. SF's The Morris made waves with its green chartreuse slushie, the liqueur's spicy herbal notes cooling into something incredibly soothing in frozen form, and Smuggler's Cove is a legit treasure trove of icy drinks. In Chicago, Eataly's gelato bar has you covered with a rosé granita, tiki favorite Lost Lake is always reliable for a best-you-ever-had daiquiri, and holy shit, Spilt Milk has a FROZEN COFFEE (easy tiger: it's coffee, whiskey, and liqueur).
Where's your favorite place to get a buzzed brain freeze? Let us know @chefsfeed!