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Good, Cold Fun: Frozen Cocktails for Late Summer

Emily McIntyre

Long the embarrassing stepchild of the artisan cocktail world, frozen cocktails are cool again.

As consumers and professionals, we're lucky the frozen cocktail is back, because they impart a carefree element to what can be an intimidating or exclusive beverage scene. With the tiki renaissance, we remembered just how fun Piña Coladas can be; with the frozen cocktail movement we legitimize our sneaky longing for a tart, sweet, refreshing slushy Margarita on a hot summer day.

Still, working with fresh fruit juices and quality spirits gets challenging in a slushy machine-and everywhere in the beverage industry the temptation to cut corners always lurks-meaning a bad frozen cocktail can happen as easily as a good one. Here, three outstanding cocktail bartenders across the country let us in on the magnetism of their frozen cocktail programs.

Mother's Ruin
was one of the first craft cocktail bars to rediscover the out-and-out fun of frozen cocktails, and General Manager James Metze estimates they've come up with over 250 different cocktails to date.

"Every day we see what we have downstairs, what's in season (right now we have a watermelon honeydew slushy). We've done a peanut butter and jelly, a bananas foster, the list goes on." At first the slushy machine was an afterthought at Mother's Ruin, a laid-back bar famous for being the industry gathering spot in a city full of top-tier beverage professionals. Soon, it was going through 25-gallon batches a day in the summer.

The steaming streets of Kansas City and its strong foodie culture make frozen cocktails a no-brainer, and Jerry Nevins at Snow & Co. Artful Frozen Cocktails says he sees a huge cross-section of customers enjoying his batched frozen cocktails. "Our demographic is really just people who like frozen cocktails-the drink spans your preconceptions. Everyone likes to come in-from 21 to 70, all backgrounds!" Snow & Co. Offers a spectrum of drinks, including a frozen beer cocktail collaboration with local brewery Boulevard that adds local vodka, orange juice, and lemon in a summery celebration.

In Houston, Alba Huerta, along with famed cocktailian Bobby Heugel and team at The Pastry War has been crafting batched frozen cocktails for several years now. The first cocktail Huerta made in a slushy machine was the signature pale purple Aviation, and she once made batched frozen cocktails for 90,000 people at SummerFest over two days. Keg cocktails, Mint Julep cards, and a frozen Daiquiri factory on the lawn-months of planning and a huge amount of logistics brought what has to be one of the best alcohol experiences to an outdoor festival ever.

At The Pastry Wars, Huerta serves a frozen Margarita that pays homage to that regional specialty: Key lime and Persian limes, agave nectar and Tapatio tequila all frozen with orange zest-infused water-a memorable drink for summer refreshment.

Traditional or not, the frozen cocktail movement is welcome and bartenders everywhere are embracing it.

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