How to Make Frozen Drinks and Stay Chill All Summer

This make-ahead method is the best way to make frozen cocktails at home.
Three types of frozen drinks using our favorite frozen cocktail recipes.
Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Michelle Gatton

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For most of the summer, a gin and tonic (or an “other stuff and tonic”) will do. But when temps climb and humidity gets thick—but I’m still trying to entertain friends outdoors—all I want to do is stick my head in the freezer. Or suck down a frozen cocktail.

While the ingredients are the same—spirits and sometimes liqueurs, juices, and ice—frozen drinks just get me in a cooler state of mind. A frozen G&T is way more fun than a fizzy one. A frozen margarita? Yes, please, with a salted rim. And so I set out to add three new frozen drinks to the Epicurious cocktail archives—three particularly awesome ones.

Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Michelle Gatton

How to make frozen cocktails that stay frozen

Over years of trial and error in recipe development, I’ve found that your success with making frozen drinks at home (sans professional slushy machine) depends a lot on the temperature in your kitchen. Heat is the enemy. When I lived in a spot where summer was the same 65-ish degrees as every other time of year, I could make frozen drinks with a cup of ice and everything blended into a perfectly cool slush that stuck around. But if it’s hotter where you live, you’ll need to protect that chill.

You can certainly load the blender with extra ice if the ingredients still look pretty liquidy rather than evenly slushy, thick, and almost creamy after blending. The downside? The more frozen water you add, the more diluted the flavor of your cocktail becomes. A few extra cubes won’t hurt—go ahead and add them if you need them—but an extra cup will make a difference in the final taste.

The best way to battle the problem of melt is to batch up your drinks in advance and chill the mix in your freezer. I use mason jars for this, but any freezer-safe container will work as long as it really seals. Thanks to alcohol and sweetener, most cocktails won’t freeze solid, even if you keep them in the freezer overnight. But particularly juicy drinks, and any that are lower in alcohol, may become slushy after a couple of hours. Pour or spoon them into the blender with the measured ice—if they’re truly frozen, a minute on the counter should make this possible. Once blended, the prechilled combo will stay slushy for longer, because the cold beverage won’t immediately start warming up the ice the way room-temperature ingredients would.

One other note: If you aren’t working with a high-powered blender, you may want to keep your batched drink in the freezer while you crush some ice. (A meat mallet can make quick work of it provided that you put the ice in a resealable bag wrapped in a kitchen towel.) The crushed ice will save your blender a bit of work, and the less time your drink spends in the blender getting smooth, the less the machine will heat up.

Now that we’ve covered the technique, it’s time to pick a recipe and get you a little closer to having a blended cocktail in your glass.

Frozen Fresh Ginger Moscow Mule

Almost everyone I’ve ever met loves a gingery drink, but the question of how gingery is definitely a matter of personal preference. “I want a ginger cocktail to burn my face off,” my colleague Lauren Joseph told me. Epi’s executive editor, Sonia Chopra, agreed: On a scale of 1–10, she wants her ginger to go to 11. Others in our crew wanted to taste the heat and spice without going full-on ginger bomb. This flavorful recipe—adapted from Bon Appétit’s nonfrozen version—has plenty of spice (I’d call it a 5-plus), balanced with caramelly muscovado sugar and fresh lime.

Amaretto Sour Slushy

I hadn’t had an amaretto sour for what feels like many lifetimes, but the moment I saw bartender Natasha David post this frozen version, I knew I needed it. David and her husband, Jeremy Oertel, designed the drink to pair with the wood-fired pizza at Half Moon in Hudson, New York. And while their cooling concoction has that fragrant almond flavor I recall from many too-sweet drinks of yore, it’s also truly tart and fresh, not too sweet at all. And there’s an added twist: It’s served with an optional float of bracingly bitter Fernet Branca, which gives the drink a blast of herbal flavor that pairs remarkably well with the almond liqueur. (The drink works well without the Fernet, too, if you’re not a big fan of bold amari.)

Frozen Rosalita

If you do like a touch of bitterness in your summer drinks, this last one is for you too. It’s essentially a refreshing frozen margarita that uses a citrusy amaro instead of orange liqueur. The Rosalita is a shaken drink from bartender Dylan O’Brien that’s served at Prizefighter in Oakland. It’s my favorite libation so far in Robert Simonson’s latest book of mezcal and tequila cocktails. And for me, this drink has become the ideal template for a frozen riff.

Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails: Mixed Drinks for the Golden Age of Agave, by Robert Simonson

The simple recipe below sticks with Prizefighter’s delicious Montenegro and tequila combo—though you can also make it with mezcal, or a mezcal and tequila mix if you want just a touch of earthy, herbal smoke. The Montenegro adds orangey flavors and a bit of deep complexity, but if you have a well-stocked liqueur cabinet, feel free to split up that ounce among your favorite amari. (A 50-50 mix of vegetal Cynar 70 Proof and Montenegro is 🔥; I also like to pair that mix with a blend of whatever citrus I have on hand, rather than doing all lime.) Either way, a salted rim brings the flavors together—don’t skip it.