It seems we’ve spent the beginning of the summer of 2017 tripping over last year’s hangover: frosé, a slushy pink drink that’s clogged drink menus, spawned hashtags and, smartly, seized on the continuing obsession with all things rosé.
But there’s a new wine-based frozen drink in town.
Stevie Stacionis, co-owner of Oakland wine shop Bay Grape, has been quietly advocating for friesling—frozen riesling—since first tasting frosé last summer. According to her, the base wines share a few key attributes: Both can exhibit aromatic depth and dimension, and they won’t break the bank.
“There are incredibly good, quality rieslings that are affordable,” says Stacionis. “You don’t have to feel like you’re experimenting with, or ruining, something really expensive.” That and riesling’s varying levels of sweetness mean that you often don’t need to add extra sugar if you choose a feinherb, kabinett or spätlese riesling. But which level of sweetness is optimal?
When tasked with the friesling challenge, Ryan Fitzgerald of San Francisco’s ABV and Over Proof built his Sommer Schatzi on a base of 2016 Lietz QbA Feinherb (16.7 grams of residual sugar, 7.4 grams of acidity), plus a chamomile-infused honey syrup, lemon juice and fresh mint. Claire Sprouse of Williamsburg’s Sunday in Brooklyn, meanwhile, offered the richer Canary Nest, which incorporates sweet vermouth, pear brandy, citrus and housemade cinnamon syrup alongside an off-dry riesling (the Leitz would work well here, too).
Both bartenders opted for a blender, but you can also freeze the wine directly, either with or without the addition of spirit, modifier and/or citrus. To find the optimal sweetness level without adding dilution, I started by adding three wines (all under $20) to the freezer overnight, each of them containing varying levels of residual sugar and acidity: 2014 Böcking Riesling (15 grams of residual sugar, 7.7 grams of acidity), 2015 Dr. Thanisch Feinherb Riesling (14.7 grams of residual sugar, 8.7 grams of acidity) and 2015 St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Riesling (25.5 grams of residual sugar, 9 grams of acidity).
I was surprised by how much flavor was maintained during the freezing process but still opted for a few add-ins. My favorite version, made with the St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis, benefitted from a dose of fresh lemon juice and peach-infused vodka, which amplified the natural stone fruit aspect of the wine.
Because slight variations in both sugar and acidity make for big variations in the final product, the key is to build friesling like you would any other cocktail: Start with the profile of your base and build from there. The beauty of a wine-based frozen drink lies in the wiggle room it offers, after all.
“Acid, tannins, sweetness and so on vary from style to style and bottle to bottle,” says Claire Sprouse. “You want to address those nuances by bumping up the acid or sweetness to get it—Goldilocks-style—just right.”