Ice and easy: The rise of the frozen cocktail
In this weather, the most cooling drinks come straight from the freezer.
What drink have you been toasting the recent warm weather with? A glass of Pimm's perhaps? Or a stiff gin and tonic? What about a frozen cocktail? After all, what better way is there to cool down than with an icy, fruity concoction? Britain is currently in the throes of a love affair with everything from frozen margaritas to alcoholic slushies, and demand is so high that most of the country must be walking around with brain freeze.
As with so many drinks trends, we have our friends across the pond to thank for the frozen-cocktail fad. In America, it is the norm for bars and restaurants to offer a selection of them, usually sold in a receptacle not much smaller than a bucket.
Have a glance at the drinks menu at any hot new opening in the capital (Casa Negra in Shoreditch is perhaps the most recent) and it's more than likely to have a selection of icy tipples on offer (sadly, usually arriving in rather more modest-sized glasses than you'd find stateside).
Voodoo Ray's, a hip New York-style pizza joint that opened in Dalston, east London, last November offers three tequila slushies made in its Italian granita machines. Aside from the house offering, a frozen lemon and lime margarita made with Sauza Hornitos Reposado tequila, Cointreau, agave syrup, and citrus juices, it also has seasonal specials (currently one called Cup o' Joe that uses coffee tequila, coconut and cherry, and a strawberry schnapps, made with strawberry, ginger and elderflower).
"The customers love them. They sell extremely well; slushies are definitely our signature thing," says general manager Ella Robertson. "Despite being slushies, they are premium cocktails; we develop all the recipes ourselves and use top ingredients. It's a really good product."
And demand for them isn't limited to our all-too-brief summer. "Because of the recent weather they have been selling really well, obviously, but, to be honest, we've always sold a lot. Even in the middle of winter," says Robertson. "The thing with slushie machines is you can put anything in them, but to be truly good you need to use premium ingredients and treat it like a cocktail. It's all skills and love… and choosing a pun-filled name."
And if the price of drinking them out on the town puts you off – you'll be hard pushed to find one cheaper than £6 – then you can always try making them at home. All you'll need is a blender, some booze and Poptails, a new book by Laura Fyfe that includes more than 40 alcohol-soaked ice lollies, ices and slushies, such as White Russian ice pops and red wine granita. Fyfe was inspired to write the book after she stumbled upon a frozen-cocktail stall at London's We Feast festival.
"I've noticed the trend booming in the States and the British cocktail market is evolving, too. People are looking for alternative and fun things to serve to their friends," she says.
But if you can't be bothered with all that cutting, pouring, and blending (and, let's face it, who can in this weather?) then why not just buy a ready-prepared one? Parrot Bay frozen cocktails come in one-serve pouches with flavours ranging from berry daiquiris to pina coladas. Sold at supermarkets in the drinks aisle, all you need to do is stick them in the freezer for six hours before serving. Diageo, the world's largest drinks company, launched Parrot Bay in the UK back in April and so far it's been a great success.
"There's been explosive growth in frozen alcoholic drinks in the US over the past three years; triple-digit growth levels, in fact," explains Claire McQuattie, marketing manager at Parrot Bay. "And another trend we're seeing is a lot more alcohol consumption taking place at home, so this is just combining the two. This is something new and fun, and comes without the hassle of having to make your own."
Whether indulging at home or out on the town, it's worth noting you should go easy. A decent frozen margarita can be so tasty that the alcohol content is often masked (remember, it's not a Slush Puppy) and if you sip too spiritedly you'll end up with the dreaded brain freeze. Now all we need is for the great weather to stick around.
Some like it cold: icy recipes
Serves 6 as a slushie
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Freezing time: 6 hours
125g caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 lime
75ml lime juice
300g chopped watermelon
6 tablespoons tequila
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons agave nectar
Put the sugar and lime zest in a saucepan with 250ml water. Place over low heat. Gently bring to a simmer, allowing the sugar to dissolve. Let it bubble gently for 5 minutes, remove from the heat, and pour in the lime juice.
Place the chopped watermelon in a food processor or blender, add the lime syrup, tequila, Grand Marnier, and agave nectar and blitz until well combined.
Pour into a freezer-safe container, cover, and place in the freezer for up to 6 hours, giving it a good stir every 2 hours. Remove from the freezer, blitz in a food processor or blender, and pour into glasses. Allow to thaw a little (approximately 10 minutes), then serve.
Preparation time: 10 minutes + 30 minutes infusing
Freezing time: 6 hours
125g caster sugar
4 sprigs mint
6 tablespoons bourbon
Place the sugar and mint in a saucepan with 250ml water and slowly bring to a boil, allowing the sugar to dissolve. Let simmer gently for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to infuse for 30 minutes.
Put the blueberries and bourbon in a food processor or blender, and pour over the syrup, mint sprigs included. Blitz until completely smooth. Pour into six ice-lolly moulds.
Place the moulds in the freezer. Let them set for 2 hours, insert the lolly sticks, and allow to freeze until completely solid (about four more hours).
'Poptails', by Laura Fyfe, published by Spruce, £8.99
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