Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

Frozen Cocktails

A refreshing remedy to the summer heat is the frozen cocktail. Ice-cold, thick, frothy and capable of giving you “brain freeze” can sound pretty good on a hot summer day. We typically opt for the “rocks” version of drinks (in the case of the Margarita, for example), or choose to serve a drink “up” (as you might when making a Daiquiri). Both of these drinks can be made as frozen versions and we will cover those soon, but they won’t taste right without some adjustments. The flavors just don’t hold up when blended into a “slushie” without tweaking the proportions. That’s because a lot of tiny ice and aeration thickens the mix and has a super-chilling effect due to rapid, thorough dilution. If a recipe does not account for this, it will taste watered down and sometimes almost flavorless! In order to execute a frozen version of any cocktail we need two things: a good blender and an updated recipe.

When it comes to cocktail blenders, you need something that can make fast work of ice cubes. The right proportions of liquid to solid is important, but it won’t matter if your ice just bounces around and stays chunky without actually breaking down into smooth particles. As we were drafting this post, AMZCHEF reached out and asked us to review their 8-IN-1 Professional Blender and offered a discount for our readers (see below). It’s a 2000-watt monster with built-in presets to control speed and timing—or you can pulse it on and off using touch controls that are easy to wipe clean. It utterly destroyed the ice in this recipe, and we had a perfect, smooth result in seconds.

In addition to a capable blender, you need a good recipe—or rather, an updated recipe to convert a favorite classic into its frozen cousin. Over the summer we will feature several examples, but today we are starting with the Negroni. It may sound a little strange at first, but the key to pushing the flavors of a Negroni (or any cocktail) past the icy dilution is sugar. Blended drinks will always have more consumable volume than their traditional versions because you are literally drinking the ice, and all of that water will dilute the flavor. Such lengthening requires additional sweetness to bring back the balance of flavors you expect from every sip. For the Frozen Negroni, we are using Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s tip of adding orange juice and simple syrup.

Frozen Negroni
1 oz gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth
2 oz orange juice
.75 oz simple syrup
8 oz ice

Add ingredients to a blender and process on high for several seconds or as long as it takes to break down the ice into a smooth but thick texture. Pour into a lowball glass, garnish with an orange slice and serve with a straw.

Morgenthaler suggests simply using the juice of one whole orange which is typically around two ounces. We made orange super juice, so we used that, but freshly-squeezed is the best option. Orange goes perfectly with the Negroni which retains its signature bitterness from the Campari but as a frozen version, it transforms into a refreshing smooth straw-sipper that is perfect for a hot day. We used local Rose City gin and Imbue vermouth resulting a gorgeous pink color.

The amount of ice is important to achieve the right texture. A couple cubes over or under is not going to affect the flavor much, and the amount listed is approximate but makes a good start. It can help to weigh your cubes the first time you make this or check their displacement with a measuring cup. Our bar fridge makes crescent-shaped cubes and we found that 28 of these is perfect, though slightly more than 8 ounces. It sounds overly specific to measure the ice which doesn’t normally matter as much in a shaken drink or when filling a rocks glass, but consider the ice/water an ingredient, since it will be consumed with everything else and it all has to work together. Is there some flexibility? Sure, but once you nail the amount for your situation you can make a batch of these or a repeat and remain consistent.

We realize not everyone has access to a blender which is one reason we haven’t posted many frozen cocktail recipes in the past. However, if you want to try frozen versions, a blender a necessary tool to break down the ice—and one we will use again in upcoming posts. It’s also handy for flash-mixing tiki drinks, or whipping up some non-alcoholic smoothies, or nut butter, or ice cream, or even soup—a blender is versatile. AMZCHEF is offering a 30% discount code for our readers. Just follow the link to the 8-IN-1 Blender and use code SUMMITSIPS during checkout. Thanks, AMZCHEF!

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