Frozen Cocktails Cool Down a Hot Summer

Restaurant and bar operators are freezing cocktail concoctions in new forms

Inspired by the better-bar trend, some operators are enlivening frozen cocktails with fresh, seasonal ingredients; premium spirits; and whimsical spins like adult popsicles and push-ups.

At ADC, the rooftop pool lounge of the Donovan House in Washington, D.C., frozen specialty cocktails “are flying off the roof,” said Kevin Haiz, a marketing consultant to the hotel. “We sell a couple hundred drinks a night.”

Three frozen drink machines pump out vodka, rum and tequila creations with varied flavors, like the Sake Garden, which blends pink grapefruit vodka, muddled cucumber and fresh lemon, lime, ginger and grapefruit juice, priced at $11.

“The fruity flavors are what really go,” Haiz said.

The summer attraction at Tipsy Parson in New York City is frozen Lynchburg Lemonade, priced at $13. It is served in a metal julep cup that frosts on the outside when the frigid machine-dispensed libation is added.

“We have a following of people who come in regularly to hang out in our two front window seating areas and drink frozen drinks,” said general manager Stephen Savage.

At Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, N.Y., two drink machines pump out frozen margaritas made with 100 percent blue agave tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime and orange juices. They are priced at $8 per glass, $30 per pitcher.

“We decided we would not have individual blenders, we would not muddle fruit, but we would pour really honest drinks out of the best things you could stock your bar with,” said Charley Ryan, co-founder of the sprawling complex of dining, bowling and live music, which holds up to 600 customers.

In steamy Charleston, S.C., the fine-dining restaurant Tristan is finding eager takers for cocktail popsicles made with the same bar goods as its scratch-made conventional tipples.

To make his popular Cucumber, Lime, and Tequila Popsicles, manager Ken Maciejewski combines peeled and juiced English cucumbers with fresh lime juice, silver tequila, simple syrup, agave nectar and grapefruit juice. He pours the mixture into plastic popsicle molds, inserts popsicle sticks and freezes it for 24 hours. They are priced at $3 for a full-sized popsicle, $1 for a mini taster size.

Other Tristan popsicle hits include the Berry Sparkler, made with blackberry vodka, blackberry, and raspberry purées, lemon, basil and champagne; and the Jalapeño Blood Orange Margarita, with house-infused jalapeño tequila, blood orange juice, lime, and agave nectar.

High above Atlanta at Rooftop 866, the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel’s rooftop garden lounge, Boozy Pops push-ups are the new treat this summer. Offered in flavors like Watermelon Basil, Peach Poblano and Blueberry Lemoncello, they are priced at $3 each.

Executive chef Janine Falvo and pastry chef Kelly Lovett freeze mixtures of fresh fruit purées, fresh herbs, and spirits in sheet pans overnight. They scrape the slushy ice crystals like an Italian granita and pipe them into plastic push-up dispensers, to be topped with a bit more fruit purée and then frozen until service.

Falvo and Maciejewski both said that perfecting the texture of their frozen novelties was a challenge. That’s because alcohol freezes at a far lower temperature than a commercial freezer can reach. It is actually the water-based ingredients in the cocktail mix that freeze and create structure, affected by the amount of alcohol acting as antifreeze.

“You have to find the right proportion of alcohol and mixer,” said Maciejewski, whose cocktail popsicles are firm enough to hold on a stick. “You may have to go a little heavier on the mixer and lighter on spirits. But it should taste like a cocktail.”

For Falvo’s Boozy Pops, which are served in plastic push-up tubes, a slushy state is desirable.

“It is never completely frozen, because of the alcohol,” said Falvo. “That allows it to have a softer consistency, so you don’t have to work so hard at eating it.” 

—James Scarpa

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