All-inclusive resorts are the worst thing to ever happen to frozen cocktails. I know this because as a young, sunburn-prone college senior, I stayed at such a resort during an all-girls spring break trip to Jamaica. No more a cliché vacation could have existed: Friends and I pounded layered “Bob Marley” shots, participated in exceedingly hungover water aerobics classes, and drank our body weight in strawberry daiquiris. For months thereafter, the mere sight of a blender incited headaches.
But in the adult years since, I’ve learned not to punish blenders for the sins of Club Med bartenders. I’ve seen the light: Delicious, balanced frozen cocktails exist. No less a bible than Jim Meehan’s Meehan’s Bartender Manual includes a few frozen recipes, in fact. And if the tiki revival of the past decade has taught us any lasting lessons—while paradoxically making our memories quite fuzzy—it’s that serious cocktails can also be fun. Chicago’s Lost Lake, recently named the best American cocktail bar at Tales Of The Cocktail, has practically made a mascot of the banana dolphin garnish. Fire up the blender, people—you can smile and drink a serious cocktail at the same time, I promise.
But not all frozen cocktails are created equal. Below, you’ll find a ranking of such cocktails from a girl who never met a neon bendy straw she didn’t like.
You think Ernest Hemingway drank just any swill? Okay, he probably did, but he also inspired the greatest frozen cocktail to ever exist. A proper Hemingway daiquiri is a tart love song to your taste buds—just ask Hemingway himself, who wrote of daiquiris in Islands In The Stream, saying: “He had drunk double frozen daiquiris… that had no taste of alcohol and felt, as you drank them, the way downhill glacier skiing feels running through powder snow and, after the sixth and eighth, felt like downhill glacier skiing feels when you are running unroped.” Can your cocktail do that? Other frozen daiquiri riffs—the ubiquitous strawberry versions, cruise-ship facsimiles—are fine, but tend to be overly sweet. Still, rum and blenders were undeniably made for each other.
Like the Hemingway daiquiri, the piña colada has historic origins. Its roots date to mid-1950s Puerto Rico, and specifically to the Caribe Hilton bar. Unlike with daiquiris, though, I am no stickler when it comes to the historical veracity of my piña coladas. Yes, a gussied-up version with homemade coconut cream and fresh pineapple juice is, technically, fresher and more balanced than the slush swirling behind the poolside snack stand but, goddamn it, I’ll take the cheap slush, too. I am only slightly ashamed of how much I love the sugary combo of pineapple and coconut.
These margaritas are served in vessels ranging in diameter from six inches to kiddie pool, and the proper way to order one is to scream “Maaaaargs, bitches!” while raising your hands to expose your tube-top tan lines. More socially acceptable versions exist—a taco spot I visited regularly in Phoenix served $5 happy-hour frozen margs with a terrifyingly deceptive amount of tequila—but the appeal of frozen margaritas is in their playfulness. If you want a real margarita with top-shelf tequila, go for it on the rocks. The rest of us don’t have such compunction.
Before there were Shamrock Shakes and spiked Thin Mint-esque desserts, there was the grasshopper, a retro concoction of vanilla ice cream and crème de menthe that sounds wrong, yet hits your brain in some deep-cortex pleasure center you can’t describe. Frappéd and creamy, the grasshopper leans on the mint liqueur hard to keep it from veering into straight-dairy heaviness. Not a mint fan? Try a Pink Squirrel, an equally retro ice-cream cocktail that subs crème de noyaux for crème de menthe.
It’s basically a milkshake (see above), but it gets you drunk. Also, chocolate.
See, even those classy Italians like frozen cocktails. Their refreshing combination of lemon sorbet, vodka, and prosecco would probably be wildly more popular in the States if any of us could figure out how to pronounce it. (Even when said correctly—“Zzzgropeeeno”—it sounds like you’re slurring.)
No matter what Instagram tells you, you do not in fact need to frosé all day. If you frosé all day, you will subsequently frosé all night until with arms wrapped around the toilet, you fro-say through smeared lipstick “make it stop I’m never drinking pink wine again.” Also, wine is the perfect consistency on its own. Adding ice just makes it watered-down and weird. Pass.
All the hangover of frosé, half the Instagram potential. Hard pass.
I’m all for easy cocktails, but tube-of-lemonade-concentrate plus plastic-jug vodka is stretching the boundaries of the word “cocktail.” And did you know that every time you make drink of these, a suspendered mixologist loses his bowler hat? Frankly tragic.
I went there, and I wish I hadn’t.