Loyal Serious Eats readers know that we’re staunch defenders of the frozen cocktail. Most blender drinks might be crimes against good taste, made with bottom-shelf booze and artificially flavored mixers, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with the concept. On a hot day, who could really complain about what is essentially an alcoholic slushie?
Our mission to reclaim the frozen cocktail begins with rescuing the classics—daiquiris, piña coladas, and margaritas made with real fruit and good liquor. But that’s just the start. You can give all sorts of cocktails the blender treatment, from the Negroni to the Blood and Sand. Keep reading for 15 refreshing recipes that will teach you to love frozen cocktails.
Forget your daiquiri preconceptions—at its purest the cocktail is a delicious mix of rum, lime juice, and sugar. We’d recommend going with an assertive dark rum since chilling a spirit mutes its flavors somewhat. When it comes to sweetening the drink we like turbinado sugar, which is more flavorful than white sugar.
Our recipe for a frozen strawberry daiquiri uses the same ratio of rum, lime juice, and simple syrup, then adds two strawberries and just a pinch of salt. Be sure to taste and adjust as you go, though—different rums and different strawberries can taste wildly different.
A daiquiri shouldn’t be overly sweet if you make it properly, but if you’re still looking for a sharper edge, then consider replacing half an ounce of the rum with Fernet Branca, which will give the drink a bitter, minty bite. Fernet can be an intimidating spirit, and this is as easy an introduction as you will find.
We’re starting to stray further from daiquiri orthodoxy, and here we make the drink with ripe fresh peaches and a simple syrup flavored with white pepper and green tea. It might sound like a lot for one cocktail, but the grassy tea and spicy pepper are wonderful complements to the sweet fruit.
White pepper and tea not unusual enough for you? Then try making a frozen daiquiri with cucumber. As far as vegetable-based* cocktails go, this one is quite approachable, with just a mild savoriness backed up by herbal Green Chartreuse.
*I know cucumber’s technically a fruit, but who thinks of it as one when it comes to cooking?
There are no artificial flavorings here—our piña colada gets its tropical taste from coconut cream and ripe pineapple. To let those natural flavors shine, we freeze all the ingredients before blending, which means less ice and less dilution. It might sound silly, but don’t skip out on the paper umbrella.
There’s no reason blender drinks have to be sweet. If you want something a little more bracing, try this frozen take on the classic G&T. Rather than using tonic water (believe us, you don’t want to pour that into the blender), we flavor the cocktail with concentrated tonic syrup.
If our frozen gin and tonic is up your alley, you have to try this frozen Negroni. We use the traditional mixture of gin, Campari, and vermouth, but instead of a 1:1:1 ratio, we cut back on the Campari and vermouth. You can use whatever gin you’d like, but something floral will taste especially summery.
Here we move to the White Negroni, which uses Cocchi Americano and dry vermouth in place of Campari and sweet vermouth. Watermelon gives the drink some summer flair—instead of blending in watermelon juice and diluting the cocktail, we infuse the melon right into the gin.
This recipe is inspired by the Paloma—a simple highball of grapefruit soda spiked with tequila—but replaces the soda with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, lime juice, and honey. Instead of tequila we use mezcal, which adds a savory complexity. Just a pinch of salt helps bring out the character of the smoky spirit.
You probably associate blended drinks most closely with liquor like tequila or rum, but that’s not the only option. Here we go with Scotch, making a refreshing variation on the Blood and Sand. Since blended drinks are always slightly diluted we replace the Cherry Heering and orange juice with more intense Luxardo syrup and Grand Marnier.
We have to tip our hat to Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash for inspiring this version of the Jungle Bird. The rich, bittersweet cocktail is made with the classic combination of pineapple, lime, Campari, and rum (we go with both blackstrap and Navy-strength). Maple syrup sweetens the drink while also adding some depth.
Overripe fruit is perfect for cocktails—it’s extra sweet, and once you’ve blended it up you’ll have no idea how mushy it was. We put overripe peaches to use in this cocktail, blending them with fresh pineapple, pineapple juice, mint leaves, blanco tequila, and a citrusy French apertif called Suze.
Coconut and rum can already veer toward sickly sweet territory, so you might be worried that adding in peaches, too, would be a bad idea. This drink ends up remarkably balanced, though, thanks to a healthy dose of astringent Angostura bitters and a dash of cinnamon. We like to finish the drink with a float of dark rum, but you can leave it off if you’d prefer something less heavy.
You didn’t think we’d make it all the way through this list without mentioning the margarita, did you? The most iconic blended drink is also one of the easiest to make—when all the recipe calls for is tequila, triple sec or Cointreau, lime juice, and simple syrup, there’s no good reason to even consider using sour mix.