It’s hot out. The sun is bright, the air is humid and we’re in the midst of what feels like an eternal purgatory of frizzy hair and sweaty armpits. Surely there must be a remedy—a cool respite from the heat. One that, preferably, includes alcohol. Cold, cold alcohol.
Enter frozen drinks: frosty mugs of nostalgia that tug on our collective memories of snow cones and Italian ice, lapped up on scorching days spent making mayhem in any number of global cul-de-sacs. There is no reason why these same memories can’t be topped with, say, rum. Or Fernet Branca. Or even Jäger, damnit. We’re adults.
The blended drink has undoubtedly become synonymous with frozen versions of the Margarita, the Daiquiri, the Miami Vice and all manners of Technicolor variations that can be funneled into a machine in constant revolution, dispensing slush at the ready.
But the craft cocktail movement is not above the blender, and the category has expanded to include drinks that are as clever and unexpected as their un-blended brethren.
Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s is a master of the blended drink. His three hard-and-fast rules to going frozen:
Ice: “I recommend using only crushed or finely cracked ice, made in a food processor or with a Lewis bag and mallet.”
Ratios: “I begin with equal parts—by volume—drink and crushed ice… Then I start the blender at the lowest possible speed, and slowly turn up the power as the drink becomes smoother. Then, with the lid off, I slowly add more crushed ice until I see the drink beginning to fold in upon itself in a smooth crease.”
Sugar: “The fact that blended drinks contain a higher proportion of water than, say, stirred or shaken cocktails, means that more sugar is required to translate the proper flavors.”
At Polite Provisions, Erick Castro has given the Piña Colada a new lease of life by dropping the white rum and adding herbal Green Chartreuse in his Piña Verde. In NYC, Robert Sachse goes heavy on the orange and Missouri love for 151’s smoky Show Me State, a mix of dry orange curaçao, mezcal and orange juice. PUNCH’s own Frozen Moscow Mule is the epitome of a classic transformed for summer: vodka, lime juice and ginger beer, all mixed together with lots and lots of ice. At Brooklyn’s Donna, Jeremy Oertel rings our classic cocktail and resort bells in tandem, with a mash-up of the Strawberry Daiquiri and the Negroni in his aptly named Strawberry Negroni. He takes a similarly bitter approach to his revision of the Piña Colada, the Brancolada, which mixes gold rum and Branca Menta for a cool, minty play on the OG.
Meanwhile, in Portland, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, no stranger to the blender, remakes the classic Negroni sweetened with a touch of simple, while his former colleague David Cordoba reimagines the frozen Margarita by adding Jägermeister to the mix, resulting in the Jägerita. And last but by no means least, the Once Over #2—Ryan Gannon of Cure’s frozen reinvention of the New Orleans bar’s original Once Over cocktail, topped with a generous sprig of mint and a floater of mezcal.
So dust off that blender. It’s your friend, especially during the final weeks of frozen drink season.
Special thanks to our friends at West Elm for outfitting us with all of the beautiful glasses, trays, carts and more that these drinks appear in, and on. And to Tuffet, for allowing us to play around in their gorgeous backyard.