"There's not often a time you're drinking a slushie when you're not having fun," observes chef and restaurateur Christina Nguyen.
These frozen concoctions can take you back to being a kid sipping a giant cola Slurpee at the movie theater, or a young adult sampling a frozen margarita at a beachside bar. Always, blended ice drinks bring to mind warm weather and its freedoms. Making them involves stirring together alcohol, sugary juices and water, then freezing the mix. Over in Wisconsin, a popular summer pastime is turning the Badger State’s famed Brandy Old Fashioned into a big batch of Brandy Slush.
“People who grew up in Wisconsin will tell you that every holiday, there was this frozen ice-cream pail of this thing and everyone was drinking it,” says Nick Kosevich, co-founder of Bittercube cocktail consulting.
Kosevich knows slushies. He came up with 12 adult versions to spin in a row of machines at St. Paul’s Can Can Wonderland. At home, blenders make easy work of whirring together ice, juice and spirits.
Nguyen’s Minneapolis restaurants, Hola Arepa and Hai Hai, keep a rotating slushie on the menu, including a to-go nonalcoholic version to spike at home.
Just be mindful of the ice you’re using. A piña colada doesn’t pair well with “ ‘pot-roast’ tastes” absorbed by long-lingering freezer cubes, says Erik Eastman, director of sales for Pure & Clear Minnesota Ice, which supplies bars with crystalline blocks and cylinders. Many local liquor stores sell bags of the slow-melting “shards” for home use. They’re denser than regular freezer ice, which means you’ll need a powerful blender.
Whatever ice you use, “blend longer than you think you should, always,” says Olivia Gardner, bar manager at Stilheart Distillery and Cocktail Lounge in Minneapolis’ North Loop, which also sells a nonalcoholic slushie kit for home mixing. Gardner invents new slushies by crafting an “elixir” of juices that pair with almost any spirit.
“It’s the most fun way to consume alcohol,” she says. “It just brings back that childhood joy.”
Try these three at home:
Mangonada Slushie Kit
From Hola Arepa, holaarepa.com. $16, serves 4
Pour 1/2 cup of Mangonada mix (mango, pineapple, lime, tamarind chamoy and bitters) into a blender with 2 cups ice, 1/4 cup rum or your favorite spirit, and blend. Garnish with included lime wheels.
Slushie Cocktail Kit
From Stilheart Distillery, stilheartdistilling.com. $16; serves 5
A nonalcoholic slushie kit includes a bottle of elixir, dried orange and grapefruit slices for garnish and a bag of ice. Blend 3 tablespoons of pre-made elixir, 1 cup ice and 3 tablespoons vodka, rum, gin or another favorite spirit. Garnish with included slices of dried orange and grapefruit.
Bittercube Brandy Slush
From Nick Kosevich, of bittercube.com, who doubles the recipe and freezes it in a plastic ice-cream pail to last all summer. Earl Giles Piloncillo Syrup is available locally, or you can substitute simple syrup by adding 1/2 cup sugar to an additional 1/2 cup water as you steep the tea bags.
• 4 c. water, divided in half
• 4 tea bags (green or black)
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 1/2 c. sugar syrup, such as Earl Giles Piloncillo Syrup
• 3/4 c. frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
• 3/4 c. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 c. brandy
• 1/4 c. floral liqueur, such as Heirloom Crème de Flora
• 1 tbsp. bitters, such as Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters, plus more for serving
• Lemon-lime soda
• Orange slices
• Maraschino cherries
Boil 2 cups water and steep the tea bags for 5 minutes. Discard tea bags. Whisk in sugar and sugar syrup.
In a large bowl, combine tea mixture with remaining 2 cups water, juice concentrates, salt, brandy, liqueur and bitters, whisking until incorporated.
Pour mixture into a gallon-size freezer bag and freeze for at least 24 hours.
When ready to serve, break up the large chunks with your hands before opening the bag. Scoop a cup of slush into a glass and top with lemon-lime soda and a dash of bitters. Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.