It’s no surprise that the pre-batched, pre-chilled freezer cocktail—an established trend at top-tier bars during the Before Times—became an unwitting star of our new at-home era. The convenience of a ready-to-drink Martini is, after all, perfectly suited to the home bar. Naturally, this technique also stars in Welcome Home, the pandemic-penned book by the Death & Co. team conceived as a guide to better home cocktails. But co-owners Alex Day and David Kaplan offer more than just the basics—the duo demonstrates how to make your freezer cocktail work even harder.
Since 2016, when Death & Co. New York served its first freezer drink—a variation on the Flame of Love, a Hollywood classic—the bar has included at least one freezer cocktail on every subsequent menu, including at their Denver and Los Angeles outposts. For cocktails at home, however, the authors turn to the freezer Martini, Negroni and Old-Fashioned as versatile templates ready to become sours, fizzes, highballs and more.
“I’m not always the best about planning ahead, so if I have the itch for a stirred cocktail, I always make more than one serving and place it in a 375- or 500-milliliter bottle [to keep in the freezer],” says Day, adding that after a round or two, he’s sometimes ready for a change. For him, that might mean adding peak-season strawberries to a batched Negroni (“use the discarded fruit to make the best damn sorbet you’ve ever had”) or Meyer lemon zest to Martinis or Bamboos for a fresh spin on the classics.
Tyson Buhler, a Welcome Home contributor and Death & Co.’s national beverage director, suggests thinking of batched cocktails as “a base spirit of sorts.” Topped with seltzer, a Martini becomes an invigorating highball; a squeeze of lemon and a quick shake with simple syrup yields a vibrant sour. “You’ll need to adjust the sweet and sour depending upon what’s in the batched Martini,” says Buhler. “But it’s a great way to gain a better understanding of balance.” The team recommends starting with two ounces of your freezer batch, then adding three quarters of an ounce of lemon juice and anywhere from a quarter-ounce to three quarters of an ounce of simple syrup for a sour; add an egg white, dry shake, then shake again with ice and top the mixture with soda water for a fizz.
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Another way to upgrade the freezer batch is by adding modifiers like eau de vie or liqueurs—about one ounce per 750-milliliter bottle. Day is a fan of adding a splash of pear eau de vie; the addition of unaged brandy elevates everything from Martinis and Sazeracs to Manhattans in a way that is hard to replicate in a single-serving drink. “That’s the fun of experimenting,” says Day.
To ensure a ready-to-drink experience when the cocktail is pulled from the freezer, Buhler suggests adjusting the water content depending on the type of cocktail being batched. “It’s a safe rule of thumb, when working with cocktails that contain fortified wines, to start at around 15 percent of the total volume of liquid in water,” he explains. For a standard 750ml bottle, for example, plan on batching 20 ounces of the cocktail in question with three ounces of added water. “That level of dilution shouldn’t freeze in most home units,” says Buhler.
For higher-proof drinks like an Old-Fashioned, add 20 percent of the total volume in water, or half an ounce per serving. Regardless of which cocktail you keep stored in the freezer, the Death & Co. team recommends using a long-lasting synthetic cork rather than a screw-on cap, which can leak or warp, and leave a couple ounces of head space to allow water content to expand.
While the freezer cocktail will never replace the ritual of a cocktail prepared à la minute, according to Buhler, “it’s about finding ways to make drinks be more adaptable and efficient, with the possibility of being more delicious,” he says. “That’s an endeavor we’re always willing to pursue.”