Frozen cocktails carry a good deal of baggage in the cultural imagination. If your first vision at the mention of "frozen cocktail" is that of a rotating slushie machine, dispensing candy-pink blends of cheap booze and artificially flavored mixers into plastic palm-tree-shaped novelty glasses, to be handed off to and sucked down by slurring Spring Break revelers—well, that's basically always been our first vision, too. But, thanks to the collection we've built up of recipes for frosty, refreshing beverages that aren't overly sugary or one-note, we know to set our preconceived notions aside and enjoy a blender drink or two, one of summer's most rewarding pastimes. After all, if you're making your own cocktails at home, you can make them any way you want, mixing it up with less common frozen-cocktail ingredients, like mezcal, Suze, or even (gasp!) Scotch. Start yourself off with a Daiquiri made right (read: not syrupy-sweet) or a margarita, the king of all frozen cocktails. Then move on to something a little more unusual: a frozen Negroni, for instance, or a frozen gin and tonic. Whatever your poison, the 11 recipes below include just the right cooling and sophisticated concoction for you.
Frozen Gin and Tonic
If a standard G&T is your default cocktail selection, you'll love this crisp and tart frozen version, an excellent rebuttal to the idea that all blender drinks are cloying. It's spiced and sweetened with a concentrated tonic syrup; a dash of orange bitters adds a nice aromatic quality. To avoid over-dilution, chill the ingredients in the freezer before adding ice and blending.
Frozen Mezcal Palomas
Traditionally, a Paloma is a simple, refreshing highball made by spiking grapefruit soda with tequila. Frankly, though, mezcal does even better in this deliciously complex drink, adding a whisper of smoke and savory, herbal notes to sweet grapefruit and honey. A pinch of salt helps bring out the mezcal's smoky character.
Frozen Blood and Sand
It may sound odd, if not off-putting, to use Scotch in a blended drink, but the orange juice and cherry brandy in a Blood and Sand does give the drink a slight tropical feel. Blending a cocktail up with ice inevitably dilutes its flavor, so we choose robust ingredients here—peaty Scotch, rich Luxardo syrup instead of Cherry Heering, and Grand Marnier instead of orange juice.
With its bracing, bittersweet mixture of gin, Campari, and vermouth, the Negroni is an iconic warm-weather cocktail. Normally, it's made with a 1:1:1 ratio of those ingredients; for this frozen version, we use a little less Campari and vermouth to allow the flavor of the gin (we like a floral, botanical style, like G'Vine) to come through more strongly.
Watermelon White Negroni Slushie
A White Negroni replaces the Campari with Cocchi Americano and the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth. To make this frozen version of the drink a bit more summery, we infuse the gin with fruity watermelon—rather than adding the melon or melon juice straight to the blender, which would water it down more than we'd like.
Sweet Peach Frozen Daiquiri With White Pepper and Green Tea
The frozen Daiquri is often thought of as the poster child for everything that's wrong with typical blender drinks: saccharine-sweet, artificially flavored, and, honestly, not strong enough to bother with. But you can make a great frozen Daiquiri, as long as you use the right technique. Here, the key is ripe fresh peaches, which we blend with white rum and lime juice. A syrup flavored with white pepper and grassy green tea adds complexity.
Savory Cucumber and Green Chartreuse Frozen Daiquiri
This vibrantly colored Daiquiri is made with cucumber instead of a (culinary) fruit, giving it a mildly savory flavor that's a gentle introduction to vegetable-based cocktails. White rum and lime juice reappear in this recipe, but we also add a bit of herbal Green Chartreuse.
Frozen Jungle Bird
Dating back to the late 1970s, the Jungle Bird is a tiki drink made with rum, pineapple, lime, and Campari. Inspired by a drink made at Chicago's Three Dots and a Dash, this frosty variation uses a mixture of bold, dark blackstrap rum and Navy-strength rum, plus maple syrup for a complex sweetness, astringent Campari, and tangy fresh pineapple juice. The result is pleasantly bittersweet and rich, despite its tropical look.
Peach and Tequila Frozen Blended Cocktail
When life hands you overripe peaches, make...boozy-overripe-peach-ade. Cocktails are the perfect way to use up fruit that's a little past its prime. Here, we combine fresh peaches and pineapple with pineapple juice, cooling mint leaves, blanco tequila, and Suze—a French aperitif with a floral, citrusy flavor backed by a gentian-root bitterness. For most of our frozen-drink recipes, we recommend chilling your base in the freezer, but there isn't enough liquor in this one to keep it from freezing solid, so you're better off sticking it in the fridge.
Peachy Rum and Coconut Frozen Blended Cocktail
Coconut and rum form the base of many a too-sweet "tropical" cocktail, but balance out that combination with a generous dose of Angostura bitters and your drink will take on a nicely spicy, astringent edge—but not enough to overpower the peaches in this recipe. We finish the drink with a float of dark rum (optional) and a dash of cinnamon.
The Best Frozen Lime Margaritas
Of course, there's no way to talk frozen cocktails without talking margaritas, and, though I usually prefer mine on the rocks, you can't beat an icy, brain-freeze-inducing frozen margarita on a scorching day. Don't even touch that bottle of sour mix on the supermarket shelf: You can easily make a far better drink from scratch, using just tequila, triple sec or Cointreau, lime juice, and simple syrup.