With the strangest Memorial Day weekend in memory behind us, summer 2020 is officially here. While the weirdness is certain to persist for quite some time, one way to cope is to break out the blender and dive back into the cool, crushable abyss of blended cocktails.
This week’s VinePair podcast is dedicated to this oft-neglected category. Adam, Erica, and Zach discuss the origins of some of the best blended drinks, offer tips on how to get the most out of them, and speculate on how the combination of social distancing, to-go cocktails, and seasonal heat just might make the portable slushie truck a new staple of summer drinking.
Or check out our conversation here:
Adam: From Brooklyn, New York, I’m Adam Teeter.
Erica: From Connecticut, I’m Erica Duecy.
Zach: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the VinePair podcast. Guys, I’m not feeling as caffeinated today as I was last week. I don’t know what’s going on. We’re going into Memorial Day weekend, but it’s the weirdest Memorial Day weekend ever.
Z: I know. We had a conversation earlier this week where we were discussing if we should we hold this podcast on Tuesday and Adam your response, “Oh, wait, that’s next weekend? Or next week?” Which is exactly how all of us feel. What does it even mean to have a holiday when most people’s lives are going to be the same?
A: Maybe you’re going to sleep in more?
Z: Not me!
E: What is there to do? Well, you could go to the beach, actually.
A: Not in New York!
E: In Connecticut, finally the beach is at least open so we can walk on the beach. We can’t do much more than that. We can drink on the beach. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to drink on the beach.
E: I’m taking my rosé, and I am going to sit on that beach, and I am going to have some nice drinks. You know what? I am going to celebrate!
A: It is pretty crazy.
E: We made it this far!
Z: Do you have a favorite beach food, Erica?
E: I love rosé and fried chicken. That’s it.
A: On the beach?
E: For sure. I definitely will take a basket.
A: Erica, you are so bougie.
E: Oh my God! I’m talking KFC. I’m talking whatever type of fried chicken I can get my hands on.
A: So you like a cold fried chicken then?
E: Oh, yeah, always cold, for sure.
A: That actually is a pretty good idea. I dig that.
E: Yeah! It’s good. I love it.
A: What about you, Zach?
Z: The thing I immediately thought of was a really bad hot dog.
Z: The only places I will ever eat a hot dog are the beach, a baseball game, and I think those are the only two. So yes, a bad hot dog or maybe something else grilled. It’s from trips out to Coney Island when I was in college and whatever garbage hot dog they sold.
A: Can I give two?
A: Because you know, it’s me.
A: I don’t like the idea of eating this on the beach, but I like the idea of eating it like near the water, and that’s a lobster roll.
A: But I definitely don’t like the idea of it on the beach. Erica’s got the best idea because you can shake off the chicken if you get the sand in it. I could also do a hot dog or a burger. The hot dog’s a really good call because just like the lobster roll. It’s in that one roll, one-handed, and delicious. Any opportunity I can get to eat meat outside of my home I will take because my wife is a vegetarian and she’s been one since she’s four.
E: Oh, yeah.
A: She 100 percent is all behind that Jonathan Safran Foer article, the opinion article that ran yesterday in The Times that said we should all stop eating meat. She doesn’t make me stop eating it, but she’s not really into the whole game. If we’re out of the house and someone’s making a burger, I will 100 percent order it.
Z: Sounds pretty good. But I’m with you in that one of the keys to beach eating, as most outdoor eating is, you need to be able to keep one hand free for drinking.
A: Yes, yes. Also, have to watch out for the seagulls. Two years ago we were in Cape May visiting friends and my wife was eating her sandwich – a cheese sandwich – and a seagull swooped down and took it out of her hand.
E: No way.
A: Yes, took it out of her hand.
E: That’s aggressive!
A: That’s why no one likes these birds. These are the worst birds. But that brings us up to our topic for today which is: We’ve all been convinced over the last few episodes that one of the biggest trends this summer is going to be frozen drinks. So there’s no better time to talk about all things frozen than right now, post- Memorial Day weekend. Whether that’s in a blender, in a slushie machine… The first thing I’m curious about is, from both of you, do you think frosé will be big again this year? Have you had frosé, and what do you think of frosé?
E: I do. It’ll be big, but people will go far beyond frosé this year with all sorts of different flavor combinations. Frosé is fun, but it’s much more of a thing that you will get at a bar or a restaurant. It’s a pain in the ass to make. It’s different from other types of blended drinks because with most other blended drinks you’re freezing a bunch of fruit and then throwing it into the blender with some simple syrup and, a little bit of your booze or wine or whatever it is. But with frosé, you actually have to freeze an entire bottle of wine that you put it in a bowl and it’s become a kind of like slushie, soupy mess. Then, you can make the cocktail with some simple syrup that’s infused with strawberries, as a lot of recipes do. But it’s more of a pain in the ass to make frosé than it is to make other typical frozen drinks. So, I’m not into making it at home.
Z: I’m actually going to go further. I don’t think frosé is going to happen this year. For the reason that Erica explained which is, it’s way better when someone else does it for you. I don’t know about the two of you, but I don’t have any freezer space right now. My freezer is full of all the frozen food I bought to hoard, and I’m very, very slowly working through it. The thought of committing an entire shelf in my freezer to a bowl of frozen rosé just makes zero sense to me. It’s not going to happen in my house. If you’re the kind of person who has a deep chest freezer and has lots of space to play with, you can do that. Erica’s talking about freezing fruit. I’m not even sure I’m willing to do that. I’m going to just put ice cubes, fruit, and booze in a blender, hit a button, and come back 30 seconds later. Blended drinks, there’s going to be a high end for it for sure. In places that can open there’s going to be a demand for it. But at home, you’re just going to see a lot of people looking for the quickest and simplest way. In the end that’s all most of us have bandwidth for right now.
A: I’m going to go even further than you, Zach, which is a real craziness.
Z: Oh, damn.
A: And I’m going to say frosé is gross.
A: I do not like frosé. If I’m going to have a frozen cocktail, I want a frozen cocktail with liquor. Something happens to the rosé when it freezes. It becomes really harsh, and so therefore the only way to fix that, and to balance the fact that it’s become harsh and that the wine’s become damaged is to add a ton of sugar and a lot of other flavorings. And then I would wonder, why didn’t I just make a strawberry-lemon frozen drink and add vodka?
A: If we were just looking for something that’s pink in a glass, why was it the wine? I don’t think it’s a great drink. I know that people have liked it. I know it’s fun to pour in a slushie machine and get served to you from a restaurant. But it’s never been the drink that I want to make. I will echo you, Erica. When I have tried to make it, it’s such a pain in the ass. It’s not the drink for me. But as we all know from previous episodes, I haven’t made a lot of frozen drinks in general because I haven’t really owned a blender. It’s been a little bit harder.
Z: We need an update. Has the Vitamix arrived?
A: The Vitamix has not arrived yet, but hopefully it’s on its way soon. I’m pretty excited about it.
A: I’m pretty excited about it. And then I’ll let you guys know, I’ll take some pictures and we’ll talk about frozen drinks but I do think that frozen drinks will be the main thing this summer. A lot of people will be making them for sure. Erica, you wrote a book on cocktails. What frozen drinks should people be making?
E: When you think about the frozen drinks, one of the most fun parts of it is the nostalgia factor. That was one of the things that I explored in the book. I really was talking about all sorts of different cocktails, but a couple of them ended up being frozen. When you’re thinking about the history of frozen drinks, in the 1950s you have the rise of the household blender. That gives way to the frozen Daiquiri machine and later the frozen Margarita machine. When you think about it, these inventions really changed the way we drink, and it moved us into this period where we had the precursor of Orange Julius going into Jamba Juice and these frozen drinks actually became food categories that people have for lunch. That’s part of it. Another piece of it is that it’s tied to warm weather and fun destinations like New Orleans and Key West. There’s that celebratory, fun thing happening there. There’s also the nostalgia factor of snow cones and shaved ice from Hawaii and the Philippines and other countries in southeast Asia. When you think about the entire category and the history of it there’s a lot going on. One of my favorite frozen drinks is the Hemingway Daiquiri. In the 1930s and ’40’s, Ernest Hemingway frequented a bar in Havana called El Floridita and he famously disdained sugar in his cocktails. So instead of the rum, lime, and sugar that you would have for a typical Daiquiri, he asked bartenders there to swap in instead of sugar, maraschino liqueur and grapefruit juice. This has a slight pink tinge to it, but it’s a really tart and strong drink that was blended or served over very finely chipped ice. He is known to have worked his way through dozens of these. They called them lime slurpy-type things, sometimes ordering doubles so they were called “Papa dobles” down at the El Floridita bar. Sometimes people refer to them as Papa dobles, sometimes people call them El Floridita cocktails, sometimes people call them Hemingway Daiquiris, but that’s one of my favorite drinks to have blended. Another one would be the Piña Colada, another classic. I loved telling this story in the book because I go down to Puerto Rico. My parents-in-law have a place in Puerto Rico, and this is where I spend all my Christmases. It’s really the story of Puerto Rico becoming a destination. In 1949, the Caribe Hilton opened up in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico wasn’t known as a destination for sort of Hollywood types or anything like that. This new hotel transformed the island into a jet-set playground and ushered in all of the development that followed. In 1954, there was a bartender at the beachcomber bar at the Caribe Hilton, and he was given this assignment to create a cocktail that captured the flavors of Puerto Rico in a glass. He toiled away and tried a lot of different stuff. There was this new product that had been developed on the island called “Coco Lopez” which was coconut cream that you find in the grocery store in really ugly cans. But it’s great stuff! He used that in creating this cocktail which had white rum, pressed pineapple juice, and the “Coco Lopez.” That created what we now know as the Piña Colada, which is this creamy cloud of deliciousness. It’s cool, it’s strong, and it’s not too sweet. Even in the ’50s, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, all of these celebrities would be down at the Caribe Hilton drinking this cocktail. Then it became the official drink of Puerto Rico in 1978. Those are my two favorite historic cocktails that you can make in a blender.
A: Now all I want is a Piña Colada.
Z: I was just thinking the same thing.
A: You described that so well. I don’t think I’ve had a Piña Colada since college.
Z: My great Piña Colada story was achieving a life goal: drinking a Piña Colada out of a coconut shell on a white sand beach, which I got to do in Colombia a few years ago at my friend’s wedding.
A: Tell me it was on your honeymoon.
E: That was on the bucket list!
Z: I was there for my friend’s wedding.
A: That is amazing.
Z: It was really cool. Unlike most of the things in my life that I have aspired to do and then have done, it was exactly the way I had envisioned it.
Z: It was pretty cool. I even managed to avoid a sunburn, which I was not sure if I would.
A: That is really, really funny. In terms of frozen drinks, for me it’s still Margaritas. The reason I still like the frozen Margarita is that it’s a consumption controller, if that makes sense. You don’t drink them as fast, so you’re more slow with your pace. For whatever reason, there’s probably a little less booze in them than there is in like the classic Margarita you’re shaking. I find them to be the easiest thing to whip up a pitcher of and put out and slowly drink through the first pitcher with a few friends. Then I make another pitcher over and almost sessionably drink Margs. This is opposed to thinking, I’m going to shake up a huge pitcher of Margs. We’re all going to finish it really quickly because it’s adult Gatorade. Then we’re going to move and have another one of them. For me is a pretty delicious drink.
Z: The advantage of the blended Margarita is that you’re incorporating a lot more water into what you’re drinking. You’re getting the same amount of alcohol, but you’re getting a lot more water. You’re just not hurting yourself in the same way. That’s been one of the reasons I’ve always liked blended drinks. Erica, I have a question for you, though, because I’m curious if this is something that you’ve seen. One behavior I’m curious to see is with the sort of nostalgia for snow cones and shaved ice. The drinks that are mixed over or poured over crushed ice as opposed to being properly blended: I’ve been playing around with that at home a little bit and I personally like the consistency of still small pieces of ice in my drink with certain cocktails. That’s how I’ve been doing my own little like frozen Negroni as opposed to blending the sh*t out of it. If you have a true sort of slushie machine that churns slowly, you can make good versions of those cocktails, but I haven’t had a lot of luck blending them. It gets too frothy, and I don’t like that. I’ve been chipping, or slowly getting very crushed ice and then pouring my Negroni over it. I’ve been liking that, but I don’t know if that’s just me.
E: That’s interesting. I hate that texture. It drives me nuts.
A: Erica hates your idea.
E: But it’s a great idea, though, from the perspective of watering down that drink and making it more sessionable. That’s a good idea. But that small, pebbly texture, like in a Julep, just drives me nuts. I just am trying to just sip the liquid, so I don’t have to imbibe any of the small ice chips. They just hurt my teeth.
Z: I use a straw. Let’s be clear.
A: You might have seen it more if we weren’t in shutdown mode. Maybe you’d see some bars that were moving to do these almost snow-coney cocktails, in the same way that you saw people doing boozy ice cream. This summer, my prediction is that you’re going to see more people taking advantage of the ability to do delivery, to set up mobile slushie machines. We already saw that happen this week in Los Angeles. There’s a wine store, bar, etc. in L.A. called Sarah’s Market. They are using the fact that delivery is allowed to start a mobile liquor store. They’re going around the city, and you can buy from them on your phone. They’re delivering to you because you happen to be waiting in line, and they can deliver to you. You’re going to see a lot of other smart bars and restaurants figure this out and say, “So how do we take an ice cream truck and retro-fit it this summer? Drive out to the closest park and call it ‘such and such’ bar from the East village doing slushie delivery in Tompkins Square Park?” You’re going to see a lot of people liberally interpret the laws until people are told not to. One of the things that is most perfect for that interpretation is the selling of frozen drinks, right? It’s fun, and it’s happening. I don’t know if you’ll see a lot of people waiting in line for someone who’s just pouring out Old Fashioneds outside of Prospect Park or Central Park… Sorry, Zach. I’d name drop one of the Seattle parks, but I just don’t know any of them.
Z: That’s OK.
A: But you know…
E: Gas Works?
A: Or Piedmont Park in Atlanta.
Z: Volunteer Park. We could go on…
A: There’s something fun about this idea of an adult ice cream truck and that what you’re getting is something cold and refreshing with a little bit of alcohol in it that takes the edge off. Especially for someone like you, Zach, who has kids and could use that edge taken off while they’re in the park.
E: Erica, too!
A: Erica, too, true. That’s something we probably will see a lot more of this summer for sure.
Z: At least 50 percent of the appeal to me of having a Piña Colada, in a coconut shell on a beach, is the idea of having a drink in a space that you know in the U.S. is not usually a permitted drinking space. I agree that you’re going to see a ton of people really appreciating and getting excited about that ability to have a drink in public. We’ve talked about that before on the podcast. When you combine that with most of our childhood nostalgia for essentially the ice cream truck, it’s going to be huge as long as people can make it work legally. In some parts of the country that may be a bigger challenge than others, but you’re starting to see most municipalities move to allowing some degree of mobile cocktail delivery or sales. It’s this question of, as summer progresses, are they going to see more crackdowns on drinking in public? That’s another topic which we’ve talked about but I think if it’s doable, it’s going to be huge. It’s the exact right kind of flavor set, right? It’s a little sweet. It’s definitely often fruity and fun. The mobile old-fashioned cart? Good luck, if that works for you.
A: Right, no one wants those if you’ve got that frozen drinks cart. Earlier in the fall we had Kelvin Slush Co. come by the office, and they’re a producer of adult slushies, all with organic, sustainable ingredients. They’re really high-quality mixes. They mostly supply restaurants, but I’m sure they’re pushing probably to supply consumers now, too. You can take their mixes and make a frozen Aperol Spritz. They have a citrus mix that would stand in for what you would normally use the orange slice for. Then you would just add Aperol and sparkling wine and blend it all up. You’re gonna see more of that as well, like frozen Moscow Mules, frozen Mojitos, all that kind of stuff that you could do at home with mixes like this. And as we’ve seen with everything else that’s been happening, a lot of these businesses that had mostly been supplying restaurants have been pivoting to also now supply consumers. Whether that’s the meat purveyor that’s now selling steaks, or Zach said a few episodes ago, getting oysters now from someone who normally would sell to restaurants. You’ll see some of these companies that were supplying to bars and supplying classic high-quality mixes to bars, now figuring out ways to sell to consumers. Just before we did the podcast, I went on Kelvin’s website, Kelvin Slush Co., and now they have a link to Amazon. They’re figuring out ways to sell this to consumers. You’re still going to get the big industrial jug of the mix, but at least now you can use that mix with instructions now on their site for how to use it in a blender as opposed to a slushie machine and make really awesome drinks at home.
Z: It’s going to be a central part of socializing. You talked about the pitcher of Margaritas. Erica, I’m curious if you have suggestions. Beyond a Piña Colada or Hemingway Daiquiri, which are both delicious, what are some other kind of cocktails that would are already blended cocktails or that could translate into that space?
E: I’ve played around with frozen drinks before, and I was just looking through some of my notes from a couple of years ago. One idea that I had had before was to create a template. So, what’s the template that you can use to create a really good sort of fail-safe boozy slushie? My template was 1 cup frozen fruit, ¼ cup ice, 2 oz of booze, 3 tablespoons of simple syrup and then two or three teaspoons of either lemon or lime juice. If you take that as a general template, you can do so many different things like blackberries, lime, and rum as one. Honeydew, lime, and vodka as one. Peach, lemon, and bourbon as one. Watermelon, lime, and tequila as one. With the template idea and using whatever you have, all you need is the booze, the kind of fruit that you think will go in it, always some sort of lime or lemon juice to really bring out the flavor, and then the simple syrup is absolutely essential. I had been playing around with this before I really found that the simple syrup is what makes the texture work. These drinks can tend to get really ugly in the glass, so they can tend to separate. Then you have all of this foamy stuff at the top and the ice and then it’s just liquid down at the bottom. But what sugar can do, what simple syrup can do, is help unify the texture of the drink. Because you’re drinking a frozen drink, you can also increase the amounts of sugar a little bit more than you would for a shaker drink because when things are colder, your perception of sweetness is dialed down a little. Even if you’re using a little bit more simple syrup to preserve the texture of the drink, it’s not going to taste too sweet. You also do need a little bit more sugar because of the dilution factor, so my recommendation is even if you don’t like sugar in your drinks (and believe me I do not like sweet drinks at all), I would find myself adding a little more simple syrup than usual and not finding the resulting drink to be too sweet.
A: That’s really interesting, Erica. Now that I have my frozen cocktail expert on speed dial, I have another question for you. How much ice do I add? I don’t know how I’m trying to describe it. Either it’s so liquidy because I didn’t add enough, or it’s so much ice that it’s like Zach’s weird drink that he tried to get us all into where you’re just pouring a cocktail over shaved ice. How do you know how much to add?
E: I found that when I was doing only frozen fruit, like frozen berries, frozen melon and no ice, it was too thick. It was basically a smoothie that you’re going to have for breakfast or something.
E: I’d say use one cup of fruit and one quarter cup of ice. Play with that ratio a little bit. If you want a bit of a thinner drink, add a little more ice. If you want a thicker drink, remove the ice. That’s around the area that I would play to get something that’s drinkable. You can either sip or drink it through a straw, but it’s not too, too thick.
A: Would you always add frozen fruit to a frozen drink? Is that sort of like your thing you have to do to get the consistency?
E: Absolutely, 100 percent.
A: Going back to the El Floridita, what gets frozen there? You said its rum, Maraschino normally, and lime juice, right? … So what are you putting in to make that work?
E: In a drink like that that doesn’t have a base fruit, you wouldn’t be able to do that.
E: For a frozen Mojito, you can’t do that because it’s just rum, lime, and mint. Or for gin, Campari, and grapefruit juice, you wouldn’t be able to do that. But for something where you actually have some actual fruit like peaches or honeydew melon or cantaloupe or berries or even watermelon, something like that that you can freeze the fruit, that will help maintain the texture of the drink.
Z: You also can — if you still have ice cube trays lying around, even though your fridge has an ice maker — you actually can freeze your lime juice or your grapefruit juice and use that as an ingredient.
E: Good point!
Z: And it works pretty well, too.
E: That’s a great idea.
A: Cool, guys. This has been really interesting. I can’t wait to whip up some frozen drinks. Hopefully by sometime this weekend my Vitamix will arrive, I will make some frozen drinks, I will send a picture to you guys, and we’ll talk about how delicious they were. I’m going to get crazy this summer.
E: Nice. You’ve got to tag us! I’m excited!
A: I know, I will.
Z: We have to come up with the official frozen drink of the podcast. We’ll have to work on that.
E: We have to do that!
A: We do.
E: It should have gin, Campari, grapefruit, or something similar. That combination of flavors is really speaking to me right now.
A: I could get down with that. I could get down with that.
Z: We can work on that. Not blackberry, Erica? I feel like you’re all team blackberry.
E: No, I am blackberry but I always go back to the things I really love, which tends to include Campari.
A: Me, too.
Z: Fair enough.
A: This had been amazing, as always. For all those out there listening if you have a favorite frozen drink or a frozen drink we should try, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know. And we’ll see everyone right here again next week.
Z: Sounds good.
A: Thanks so much for listening to the VinePair podcast. If you enjoy listening to us every week please leave us a review or rating on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever it is that you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show. Now for the credits:
VinePair is produced and hosted Zach Geballe, Erica Duecy and me, Adam Teeter. Our engineer is Nick Patri and Keith Beavers. I’d also like to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder Josh Malin and the rest of the VinePair team for their support. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you again right here next week.
Ed. Note: Transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.