Who doesn’t like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain? Especially when it’s hot outside. During the sweltering heat of summer, frozen drinks take center stage. Not only do they help keep cool, but they’re also delicious and evoke the feelings of being on vacation, no matter when or where you indulge.
To understand how these frosty libations became such a sensation, first, we must look to the past. “Frozen cocktails have been around since prohibition when many Americans traveled to Cuba where fruity frozen daiquiris were new and very popular, and their popularity traveled back to the U.S., post-prohibition,” content creator and cocktail educator Jaylynn Little says.
“Blended drinks enjoyed a heyday in the ‘50s and ‘60s once other drinks such as the piña colada and frozen margarita stepped onto the scene,” she continues. “In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s pre-made drink mixes were trendy and made it easy for anyone to enjoy [one] at home. I would say that frozen cocktails hit their stride in the early 2000s as we saw bartenders applying a craft cocktail approach to the blended drink category by using fresh citrus and fruits, quality ingredients, and diverse spirits.”
Alexandra Dorda, founder and owner of Kasama Rum agrees that reimagining other cocktails as frozen drinks has been a big factor in their surge in popularity again. “In more recent years, making frozen versions of other drinks like rosé, negronis, and even martinis have helped to bring more caché to the frozen drink category overall,” she says.
Little adds that blended cocktails’ wide range of flavors and options ensure there is a frozen cocktail for every taste preference. And they tickle more senses than just our tastebuds. “Frozen drinks are visually appealing with vibrant colors and enticing garnishes,” she explains.
Frozen Cocktails Rules Of Thumb
From creating the flavor of the cocktail to blending for the best texture and consistency, creating a great frozen concoction isn’t an exact science, but our experts have some helpful advice for making your beverage a chilled delight.
Little first wants to point out that while the ingredients' flavors don’t change between a shaken or stirred craft cocktail and a frozen drink, there can still be a variation in taste. “The flavor profile of the spirit and other ingredients can undergo changes when blended,” she says. “Blending and freezing introduce dilution, which slightly reduces the intensity of the alcohol and can mute certain flavors and aromas while amplifying others.”
Dorda notes that, for her, balance is key when it comes to ingredients. “The acid in citrus like lemon and lime is essential for balancing the sweetness in most frozen cocktails and I always add a little pinch of salt as well,” she shares. She also recommends cutting the sweetening agent by half for any cocktail recipe, tasting, and adding more if needed. “If you’re making them at home, adding sweetener as you go and tasting throughout is essential.”
Little also has ingredient tips fit for a frozen drink feast. “I always recommend using fresh ingredients, it really makes a difference in the overall quality of the drink,” she says. More specifically, she adds that “fresh fruits like strawberries, mangos, and pineapples add natural sweetness and vibrant notes.” Also, for some depth and complexity, the experts suggests reaching for liqueurs and spirits, including triple sec, amaretto, and Aperol. “Lastly, incorporating herbs like mint or basil, along with spices such as cinnamon or ginger, can add aromatic nuances to elevate the overall taste profile,” she says.
The next item on the frozen drink agenda is ice. According to Dorda, “Crushed ice is of course ideal for getting a frothy, smooth consistency,” but don’t worry if you don’t have it at home. You can use cubes from the freezer but “make sure to break any big chunks of ice up before adding them to your blender.”
Little explains that there’s more to ice than meets the eye. “The amount of ice used plays a significant role in determining the texture of the frozen drink,” she says. “Generally, more ice will result in a thicker consistency, while less ice will yield a thinner consistency. Adjust the ice quantity based on your preference and the desired texture.”
In addition to ice, the blending time can affect the smoothness and consistency. “I recommend blending the ingredients initially for a shorter time and checking the consistency. If it's too thin, add more ice and blend for a bit longer. If it's too thick, add a small amount of liquid, such as juice or simple syrup, and blend again,”
Dorda says her next tip isn’t “entirely necessary” but can improve your at-home frozen cocktail game, especially if you love an extra cool drink. “Chill as many of the ingredients as possible,” she recommends. “That means sticking your spirit in the freezer ahead of time and keeping any ingredients that shouldn’t be frozen in the fridge if possible. This also includes the glass you plan on using.”
Little takes this a step further and suggests keeping the blender jar chilled as well. The cold ingredients and cold container, “helps maintain the desired texture and prevent excessive melting of the ice during blending,” she says. Most importantly, don’t forget to relax, be creative, and have fun. Little reminds us that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all perfect frozen drink. “The texture and consistency of frozen drinks are subjective, and personal preference plays a significant role,” she says and encourages everyone to, “Experiment with different ratios, blending times, and ice amounts to find the consistency that suits your taste.”
Ahead, your frozen cocktail adventure begins with these expert-approved recipes. Grab your blender and get ready to whip up some icy indulgences.
Easy Piña Colada
This classic frozen cocktail is super easy to whip up. A sweet and frosty treat that gives you an excuse to be on island time no matter where you are in the world.
- 2 oz Kasama rum
- 1.5 oz cream of coconut
- 1.5 oz of pineapple juice
- 0.5 oz lime juice
- 1 cup ice
- Pineapple wedge for garnish
Add the Kasama, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, and lime juice to a blender with 1 cup of ice and blend until smooth.
Sorel Strawberry Slushie
Little says this “very refreshing drink” is “my interpretation of a Caribbean escape in a glass. It's the perfect blend of hibiscus, baking spices, refreshing citrus, and sweet strawberries.” Blend your way into vacation mode.
- 1.5 oz Sorel
- 0.5 oz dark rum
- 1 oz simple syrup
- 0.5 oz lime juice
- 8 frozen strawberries
Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth, and garnish with fresh mint.
Indulge your inner child in summer nostalgia with an “adult” popsicle. These vodka “poptails” are a frozen drink/popsicle hybrid that are the ultimate chill pill. They’re a delicious icy treat ideal for leisurely lounging by the pool or a boozy dessert at a backyard barbecue.
- 1 cup Tito’s Handmade Vodka
- 4 cups frozen cubed watermelon
- 4 mint sprigs
- 3 limes, juiced
- 2 tbsp agave nectar (to taste)
- 1 pinch of lime zest
- 1 cup ice
Combine Tito’s Handmade Vodka, frozen watermelon, mint leaves, fresh lime juice (use a few limes for juice and others for garnishes), lime zest, agave nectar, and ice in a high-speed blender. Pour the mixture into zip-top ice pop pouches with the help of a funnel or liquid measuring cup and freeze for at least 10 hours or preferably overnight. If you're ready to start sipping right away, you can also serve the mixture straight out of the blender in a copper mug with lime wedges and mint leaves and enjoy with a spoon or straw.
*If you’re in a pinch for time and didn’t freeze your watermelon, you can yield similar results by using the same amount of watermelon. Simply add additional ice until your drink reaches a frozen sorbet-like consistency.
Gran Centenario Frozen Melon Margarita
Say hello to this new summer staple drink. The sweet juicy cantaloupe, zesty lime, and tangy tequila blend harmoniously together to level up a classic frozen cocktail.
- 1.5 oz Gran Centenario® Añejo Tequila
- 0.75 oz orange liqueur
- 1 oz fresh lime juice
- 0.75 oz simple syrup
- 0.5 cup cantaloupe (diced)
- 1 cup ice
Place all ingredients in a blender. Pulse blend three to five times in three-second intervals while checking for consistency. Pour into a rocks glass and add garnish.
The Bee’s Freeze
A departure from the tropical nature of most frozen drinks, this gin-based icy concoction doesn’t disappoint. The honey adds a balanced sweetness to the strong flavors of gin and lemon.
- 2 oz Barr Hill Gin
- 1.5 oz raw honey syrup (2 parts raw honey: 1-part hot water)
- 1.5 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup of ice
- Dehydrated lemon (for garnish)
Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend all together, pour into a glass, and enjoy.
Glendalough Rose Frosé
Take the plunge with this refreshing frozen drink. Rose gin, Aperol, and rosé wine are the perfect boozy base for this sweet strawberry libation. After one sip, “Frosé all day” will be your vibe for summer and beyond.
- 1 oz Glendalough Rose Gin
- 1 oz strawberry purée
- 1 oz Aperol
- 4 oz rosé wine
- 1 oz sugar syrup
- Mint sprigs for garnish
Blend all ingredients with ice for approximately 30 seconds (until the ice is broken down into the liquid). Pour into a tall glass, then garnish with a freshly torn and slapped sprig of mint.