Jelani Johnson’s Granita Tips
Temperature: Because every freezer is different, you may need to adjust the water (or other diluent) to account for different freezing temperatures. Also, to scale up any of the following granitas, batch the ingredients in liquid form, then separate into individual portions, rather than freezing a larger batch.
ABV: According to Johnson, an ABV of approximately 13 percent yields the best consistency, ensuring that the mix doesn’t freeze too solid or melt too quickly. As a general rule of thumb, start with the following: For 2 ounces of 80-proof spirit, add 4 ounces of zero-proof ingredients as a diluent.
Sugar content: With a higher dilution than a typical cocktail, a granita needs a higher sugar content. Johnson recommends using 1.5 times the typical amount of sweetener.
Like the cranberry sauce cocktail carted out each fall or hot buttered rum during the holiday season, the push for granitas hits, without fail, at the height of summer. The Sicilian dessert is a balm for the hottest days of the season, seemingly a no-brainer—why pull out the shaker or mixing tin when you can opt for an icy, boozy granita pulled straight from the freezer instead? Perhaps it’s because many iterations of the staple call for breaking out a blender, prepping cubes of frozen fruit or shaving ice.
In other words, making the drinks is not as effortless as consuming them—that is, until now. To simplify the process, we asked Jelani Johnson, bartender and assistant distiller at Great Jones Distilling Co., to help us make actually easy granitas. Each of these recipes is based on a classic cocktail and designed to be made in a home freezer; the only tools necessary are plastic deli containers and a fork. Here are the recipes, plus Johnson’s tips to make the best granitas at home.
Because the Espresso Martini doesn’t call for juice, its texture when frozen and whipped comes out more fragmented, like shaved ice, rather than a frappé. Johnson recommends serving this rum-based take with unsweetened evaporated milk or cream for a richer, rounder texture and dessert-like feel.
The cooling Mojito is an ideal candidate for a frosty makeover. Johnson’s hinges on a homemade mint syrup, which muddles two full mint sprigs into an ounce of sweetener for an extra-herbaceous kick. Replacing the simple syrup with honey yields a slightly more complex sweetener, which, alongside pineapple juice and crème de pêche, can transform the Mojito Granita into the tropical, slushy Missionary’s Downfall.
One of the simplest recipes, the Garibaldi Granita combines the aperitivo’s expected orange juice and Campari with an ounce of vodka in order to raise the proof and achieve the right slushy texture. Garnished with an orange slice, this take on the aperitivo drink is well-suited to the frozen format because orange juice is a flavor-packed diluent. According to Johnson, the simple granita is “my biggest slam dunk.”