What Is a Frappé, Anyway?

No one seems aligned on what, exactly, defines them, but some things are for sure: They’re cold, easy to make and delicious.

Ordering a frappé can be a bit of a gamble—it’s never certain exactly how the drink will arrive. At El Floridita in Havana, they come courtesy of the blender; Trader Vic preferred to serve his poured directly over shaved ice; and today it’s not uncommon for frappés to arrive under a mountain of crushed or pebble ice. This disparity is perhaps unsurprising given that the loose definition of the drink is one that is simply “iced or chilled.” And really, what more could you ask for at the end of a summer’s day? Cobbled, crushed or blended—who cares, frappés are delicious and easy to make, to boot. Just throw what’s in your glass over some ice or in the blender and voila.

Perhaps the most iconic example in this class of drinks is the Absinthe Frappé. First served in New Orleans in the late 18th century as a (simpler) alternative to the traditional absinthe drip, the frappé requires no specialty tools, and does away with ceremony by opting for sweetness by way of simple syrup rather than the standard sugar cube tediously dissolved by slowly dripping water. Riffing on a similarly iconic frappé, Bobby Heugel and Tommy Ho of The Pastry War in Houston channel Hemingway’s drink of choice in their Floridita Daiquiri Frappé. Paying tribute to the Cuban original, the drink hews closely to the classic recipe with its dry white rum, maraschino liqueur, lime and granulated sugar, all blended with crushed ice and garnished with a lime wheel.

More a method of drink service than a proscribed formula, just about any drink can be made into a frappé. At New York’s Dante, Naren Young turns the Negroni into a bone-chilling aperitivo ideal for a hot afternoon. Equal parts gin, vermouth, Meletti Bitter and orange juice thrown over cobbled ice, it’s a lower-proof rendition of the stirred classic for which the West Village bar is renowned.

Of course, as with their non-frappé’d counterparts, it was only a matter of time before disco drinks joined the party. In Paul McGee’s Harvey Wallbanger Frappé, the popular 1970s mixture of vodka, Galliano and orange juice gets a frozen reboot that sees OJ swapped for dry Curaçao while a touch of lime juice adds extra acidity. The Amaretto Sour similarly gets the frappe treatment at New Orleans’ Manolito, where owner Nick Detrich adds an unexpected splash of pineapple juice for a bittersweet kick. True to the drink’s nostalgic qualities, it arrives—how else?—in a V-shaped Martini glass.

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