When a blizzard slammed the Northeast during the first week of February this year, chef José Andrés did what a lot of younger people did. He went outside his Bethesda, Md., home with the appropriate tools and shot a video of himself making a cocktail using fresh snow. Filling a Martini glass with overflowing fluff, he added mezcal and sweet vermouth along with dried raspberry sugar and salt. It was such a hit among his fans, with nearly half a million views, that the next day he would return to make a slightly more avant-garde yuzu Margarita in the snow, without even using a glass.
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“If you’ve done it well,” he says at the end of that video as he takes another bite of his snow cocktail, “it works!”
Indeed, snow consumption is certainly nothing new — no matter your age now, there’s a good chance you ate a hunk of snow when you were a kid. So why not update it for adulthood? In fact, Google Trends shows people have been searching for “snow cocktails” since the earliest days of the search engine. There are likewise hundreds of snow cocktail recipes online, things like the Snowflake Martini and Sex on a Snowbank, mostly created by bloggers with names like 3 Yummy Tummies, NellieBellie, and Sugar, Spice & Glitter.
And, yet, this winter it seems snow cocktails have finally escaped the mom blogosphere and become younger, hipper, and more mainstream.
“I think so many people have posted [snow cocktails] because craft cocktail education has become more accessible this year, with Reels and TikToks,” believes Courtnee Futch, a chef and author based in Jersey City, who recently made a snow cocktail video with gin and a homemade blueberry cardamom syrup.
She also thinks the unusually large snowfall totals created by the Groundhog Day nor’easter might be another reason there has been a proliferation of social media videos this year. In past years she has attempted what she calls “snowtails,” but living in an urban environment meant that she never got huge, fresh mounds of bright white snow ideal for a video. When the blizzard left a foot of clean snow on her car’s roof this February, though, she finally had enough to shoot one.
Of course, the great thing about a snow cocktail is that it need not be all that complex. You can simply add a snowball to a rocks glass and top it with rum, like Austin, Texas woman Tracey J. Lackovich (@trizaycee) did in early January. Or apple pie moonshine. Or dump colorful syrups over a few ice cream-scooped balls like @lary8a did for her NA version.
TikTok also shows how impromptu these can be. In one post from late December, Jamie Johnson uses a stemmed glass to take a big scoop of snow from her front yard and, as Andy Williams croons “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” she adds heavy cream and amaretto liqueur to the glass to make what she calls a SNOWmaretto Cocktail. While Twitch streamer j0beats makes a more considered one using snow along with tequila, butterfly pea flower, and lemonade to produce a “Frozen”-inspired cocktail that changes colors from blue to pink.
Yes, of course, these are not exactly canonical cocktails by any stretch of the imagination and many don’t look particularly tasty, even. But, snow cocktails do have fans in the legitimate drinks world as well.
Taylor Ivison of @cocktail.kitchen found snow cocktail inspiration from an unlikely resource — Dave Arnold’s seminal book “Liquid Intelligence.” In it, Arnold writes about using Japanese shaved ice instead of a blender for frozen drinks and, with that in mind, Ivison opted for two fresh snowballs when making what he calls his Spiced Apple Snowball, which features Laird’s Apple Brandy, Bénédictine D.O.M., and a house-made cinnamon clove syrup.
“The snow cocktail thing is definitely having its moment right now,” says Ivison. He chalks it up to so many people stuck at home and working on their culinary game, and all the better if their dishes and cocktails “wow” on social media.
“I have done snow cocktails almost every year that there is enough fresh snow,” says Nick O’Connell, the Boston-based creator of the triple-barreled Togroni. But he only began filming them this winter when he started attempting Snowgronis. At first, he just thought it would be fun to see three different-colored liquids hitting the snow at once, but he quickly learned of its practical implications as well.
“Dispensing in under five seconds and chilling instantly upon hitting the snow — I’d like to think it is the fastest Negroni ever made!” he says.
But, let’s be honest, these snow cocktails are mostly made out of pure whimsy and for entertainment purposes. Which still doesn’t mean they have been immune to critiques from nofuniks online. On several private drinks-industry Facebook groups of which I am a part, professional bartenders criticized chef Andrés for making his seemingly slapdash drink in front of his large foodie audience. Though, eventually, most people came around to see the joy it imparted.
“I was annoyed at first too, but realized it’s just lighthearted fun,” one man posted. “I mean, no one should take a drink made on snow seriously anyway.”
And that’s kinda the point. As we work through the doldrums of another brutal winter, heightened in our misery by a pandemic that prevents us from having legitimate cocktails inside warm bars, going outside to dump booze on some fresh snow feels like a special event. It’s transportive too, able to make you forget all the things you are no longer allowed to do as you do something you might not have done since you were a kid.
As Tijuana restaurateur Miguel Torres reasons before making his Andrés-inspired Aspen Screwdriver on TikTok:
“When life gives you snow, make cocktails.”