Sweltering summer temperatures can woo even the most diehard cocktail purists into considering a radical possibility: maybe it’s time to order and enjoy a frozen beverage. Decades of sugar-packed cocktail “mixes” and subpar dessert-like drinks from popular chain restaurants make it easy to dismiss frozen libations from a quality standpoint … but with a bit of expert advice and a willingness to get creative, you can in fact create a well-balanced, prestige-caliber cocktail in a blender with ice. Don’t believe us? Take it from these 10 pro bartenders and beverage directors, who’ve provided us with recipes for frozen drinks inspired by “classic” cocktails traditionally served either straight-up or on the rocks.
If you self-identify as a frozen cocktail hater, then we’re willing to bet that there’s a super-sweet, poorly-conceived frozen marg somewhere in your past. Frozen margaritas are so ubiquitous in the United States (especially at Tex-Mex joints) that many drinkers assume that this cocktail is frozen by design. But, of course, a traditional margarita is shaken and served either on the rocks or straight-up. If you’d like to make a frozen margarita with genuine flavor presence and a solid backbone of spirits (rather than a bland, headache-inducing sugar bomb), then follow the advice of bar director Yana Volfson and whip up your margaritas to-order (rather than in big batches). “The one-at-a-time or two-at-a-time hand build of this recipe upholds the character of aperitif and balance that can sometimes get lost in batched slushies,” Volfson tells us.
- 1.5 oz blanco tequila
- .5 oz Curaçao liqueur (Volfson uses Pierre Ferrand Curaçao)
- .5 oz agave nectar
- 1 oz lime juice
- 5 ice cubes
- Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until creamy.
- Pour into a double-walled chilled glass (Volfson recommends Bodum glasses). Garnish with fresh lime zest.
(By Nate Fishman, bartender, Liquor Lab SoHo, NYC)
The Paloma is often considered the margarita’s lighter and easier little sister, but it’s a cocktail force of its very own. And with its combination of tequila and citrus-forward grapefruit soda, it proves ideal for quenching your thirst on a hot summer day. Transforming the Paloma into a frozen beverage only increases its refreshment factor, and bartender Nate Fishman accomplishes this by blending blanco tequila, grapefruit juice, and ice and topping this mixture off with a float of soda water.
- 3 oz blanco tequila (Fishman prefers Santera Blanco)
- 1 oz lime juice
- 1 oz agave syrup
- 2 oz grapefruit juice
- .75 oz water
- Soda water, to taste
- Add ingredients to a blender and fill halfway with ice. Blend, adding ice as needed, until the drink achieves an even texture.
- Pour into desired glass. Finish with a splash of soda water and a pinch of salt.
Frozen Old Fashioned
(By Megan Deschaine, bartender, Doar Bros., Charleston, South Carolina)
A pre-Prohibition favorite that remained a cocktail standard throughout the 20th century, the Old Fashioned experienced a popularity resurgence in the mid-aughts, thanks to its status as Don Draper’s drink of choice. It’s a bourbon lover’s dream beverage, with the addition of bitters and sugar serving to emphasize the bourbon’s natural sweetness. But can it work as a frozen cocktail? According to bartender Megan Deschaine, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” Her top tip for a great frozen Old Fashioned: “One of the biggest mistakes with making blended drinks is over-dilution. Instead of using traditional ice, consider making your own by freezing one of the non-alcoholic ingredients from the recipe to use as the ice.”
- 6 parts bourbon (Deschaine prefers Angel’s Envy)
- 1 part “Good Old Fashioned” simple syrup*
- Orange-juice ice cubes, to taste (for best results, use more of these than of the regular ice cubes)
- Regular ice cubes, to taste
- Angostura bitters, for garnish
- Add ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour into a chilled glass and garnish with Angostura bitters and a twist of orange.
*”Good Old Fashioned” Simple Syrup:
- Add 1.5 cups water, 1 cup Demerara sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 star anise pods, 6 cloves, 10 black pepper pods, and the zest of 2 oranges to a saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Steep for 20 minutes.
- Allow the syrup to fully cool, then strain away the liquid and discard the solids. The syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
(By Denise Petty, tasting room manager, Catoctin Creek Distillery, Purcellville, Virginia)
The Aviation, like the Old Fashioned, can trace its origins back to the era prior to Prohibition. This venerable cocktail feels, in many ways, like a fancier take on the gin sour; it’s got gin, lemon juice, crème de violette, and maraschino liqueur, all shaken and served straight-up. “My all time favorite classic cocktail has got to be an Aviation…[but] summer equals frozen drinks!” says tasting room manager Denise Petty. She solves this quandary by deciding to “to take a chilly ‘lift off’ on the ever-so classic Aviation. The citrusy combination of gin with the sweet Luxardo and tart lemon and floral hints from the Crème Yvette will transport any imbiber to the skies, being whisked off to a cooler part of the world while still in your own backyard.”
- 2 oz gin (Petty uses Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)
- .5 oz maraschino liqueur (Petty uses Luxardo Maraschino)
- .75 oz lemon juice
- 1 bar spoon Crème Yvette
- Add all ingredients to a blender with ice and blend until smooth.
- Serve in a chilled glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
(By Heather Wibbels, whiskey expert and board member, Bourbon Women Association)
“This might be my new favorite keep-on-hand cocktail to store in the freezer for hot afternoons when I need a little treat – it’s a frozen slushie version of the New Orleans classic Sazerac, with a few alterations to make a successful frozen cocktail,” whiskey expert Heather Wibbels tells us of her frosty variation of the Sazerac. “In order to get this to freeze up nicely and look like a cross between a granita and a slushie, I added a good bit of lemonade. This works for two reasons: [first,] this is more of a dessert than a true drink, and [also,] lemons are the traditional garnish for a Sazerac. Because chilling a cocktail and freezing it suppresses both sweetness and flavor, I increase the ratio of simple syrup, absinthe and bitters. Doing this lets the flavors of the absinthe and
- 2 oz 100-proof rye whiskey
- .75 oz simple syrup
- 6 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 7 oz lemonade
- .25-.5 oz absinthe
- Lemon wheel and sprig of lemon verbena or mint, for garnish
- Combine ingredients in a small container and place in the freezer for at least 8 hours but preferably overnight.
- When serving, lightly flake it like you were serving a granita, then mound it in a chilled cocktail glass and spray 3 to 4 spritzes of Peychaud’s bitters on top.
- Garnish with a lemon wheel and lemon verbena or mint. Serve with a small spoon.
(By Ángel Canché Celis, bartender, Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen, Mexico)
When it comes to dessert cocktails, it’s hard to think of a more popular example than the mudslide, a drink consisting of Irish cream, coffee liqueur, vodka, and heavy cream. It’s just a few scoops of ice and a spin in a blender away from a booze-packed Frappuccino, so it makes complete sense that bartender Ángel Canché Celis decided to close that gap by turning the mudslide into a frozen cocktail. He also swaps in coconut cream for the classic version’s heavy cream, adding an extra layer of flavor to this indulgent treat.
- 1 oz vodka
- .5 oz coffee liqueur
- .5 oz Irish cream liqueur (Canché Celis prefers Baileys)
- 1 oz coconut cream
- Shaved chocolate, for garnish
- Add all the ingredients to a blender with crushed ice and blend until smooth.
- Serve in a chilled martini glass and garnish with shaved chocolate.
Frozen Harvey Milk Wallbanger
(By Aaron Paul & Jake Roberts, owners/operating partners, Macondray, San Francisco)
A very “mid-century modern” twist on the screwdriver, the Harvey Wallbanger includes vodka, orange juice, and Galliano (an Italian herbal liqueur with flavors of anise, juniper, and vanilla). When adapting the Harvey Wallbanger into a frozen drink, bar owners Aaron Paul and Jake Roberts looked to a childhood summer favorite for inspiration: the Creamsicle. “We wanted to honor this classic cocktail’s legacy while updating it for summer drinking. We rounded out the sweet, herbaceous flavors of Galliano with some extra vanilla, then layered the frozen cocktail with vanilla and Galliano laced whipped cream to give it an orange creamsicle vibe,” Paul and Roberts explain.
- 1.5 oz vodka (Paul & Roberts use Humboldt Distillery Vodka)
- 1 oz orange juice
- .5 oz lime juice
- .5 oz. vanilla simple syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- .5 oz Galliano
- 1 cup ice
- Madagascar Vanilla Whip, to taste
- Add all ingredients (except for the Madagascar Vanilla Whip) to a blender and blend until smooth.
- Layer the blended cocktail and the Madagascar Vanilla Whip in a chilled glass.
Frozen Missionary’s Downfall
(By Jose “Chuck” Rivera, partner/bartender, Jungle Bird, San Juan, Puerto Rico)
The recent renaissance of tiki cocktails gives bartenders ample opportunity to play around with bright fruit flavors and eye-catching presentations, but there’s no reason why home mixologists can’t get in on the fun, especially if they’re willing to bend the rules a little bit. Bar partner and bartender Jose “Chuck” Rivera opts for a frozen rendition of the classic Missionary’s Downfall, a cocktail traditionally served either straight-up or on the rocks. At Jungle Bird, Rivera likes to use a frozen drink machine to whip up his Downfalls, praising the consistency provided by this equipment. However, it’s entirely possible to make a frozen Missionary’s Downfall with your home blender, and Rivera has a recipe for exactly that purpose.
- 1.5 oz white rum
- .75 oz fresh lime juice
- .5 oz honey syrup
- .5 oz créme de pêche (peach liqueur)
- 1 oz fresh pineapple juice
- 6-8 mint leaves
- Add all ingredients to a blender with ice and blend until fully integrated.
- Serve in a chilled goblet and garnish with a fresh mint sprig.
(By Nick Touch, brand ambassador, The Family Jones, Denver, Colorado)
Over the past few years, the Negroni has ascended into the popular-cocktail stratosphere, with this long-standing Italian aperitivo appearing on beverage lists throughout the country. This gin-and-Campari libation also makes a great candidate for the frozen treatment, according to bartender and brand ambassador Nick Touch. “I love classic cocktails, and the Negroni is one of my all-time favorites. It’s the perfect balance of strong, sweet, and bitter. This variation is based on a ‘breakfast Negroni’ that some friends and I came up with at an airport bar before an early morning flight to Italy. When transforming a booze-forward, stirred classic cocktail like the Negroni into a frozen summertime treat, you have to consider tweaking the ingredients and adding a bit more sugar and water to help it freeze properly and remain balanced. A little fresh citrus always helps a lot too. This variation keeps true to the original with gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, but is brightened up with a bit of fresh grapefruit and lemon juice,” Touch says of his “Fro-Groni” recipe.
- 1 oz gin (Touch prefers The Family Jones Juniper Jones Gin)
- 1 oz sweet vermouth (Touch prefers Carpano Antica)
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
- 1 oz simple syrup
- .5 oz fresh lemon juice
- Add all ingredients to a blender with ice and blend until smooth.
- Pour into a chilled glass and garnish with a grapefruit wedge and a lemon wheel.
Frozen Aperol Spritz
(By Demi Natoli, bar manager/assistant beverage director, Graduate Hotel, Nashville)
Like the Negroni, the Aperol Spritz hails from Italy and enjoys massive acclaim as a hero of the aperitivo movement. By adding ice and taking it for a ride in the blender, bar manager Demi Natoli elevates the Aperol Spritz’s cool relief and turns it into “the drink I am having by the pool (for whatever time we have left of summer). In order to keep the integrity of this cocktail, I wanted to make sure that the [frozen] cocktail emulated the flavors of an Aperol Spritz [rather than using] traditional measurements. I added Aperol and Champagne to the bottom of the glass before adding the frozen cocktail to give it an extra touch of bitterness and effervescence. I added citrus for a bit of tang. The orange juice and vanilla syrup bring out the best of flavors from the Aperol, [and the] gin gives the cocktail a little bump in proof.”
- 1.5 oz Aperol
- .5 oz gin (Natoli uses Ford’s Gin)
- 3 oz Prosecco or Champagne
- .5 oz lemon juice
- .5 oz orange juice
- 1 oz vanilla syrup
- 2.5 cups crushed ice
- Pour 1 oz sparkling wine and .5 oz Aperol into a Collins glass.
- Add the remaining ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour blended mixture into the Collins glass and garnish with an orange wheel.
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