Frozen cock­tails – slushies for grown- ups – have had a makeover and are en­joy­ing their time in the sun, writes DAN STOCK. “BIG AND VOGUE AGAIN AREN’T AFRAID

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On a swel­ter­ing af­ter­noon they make so much sense. Drinks that are one part sweet, three parts beat-the-heat, they de­liver a boozy kick in ice-cold slurry form – a slur­pable slaker cus­tom-made for fun in the sun.

But such was the collective han­gover born of buck­ets of frozen mar­gar­i­tas made with cheap tequila in Mex­i­can restau­rants dur­ing the ’80s that frozen cock­tails were ban­ished from the bar.

Un­til now. Last year’s hit was frosé, a frozen ver­sion of rosé – it­self one of the big­gest trends in sum­mer drinks of the past few years. Now it’s ries­ling’s turn to get slushied. At The Boat­builders Yard on the Yarra, the ‘free­zling’ joins a nos­tal­gic Pas­sion­fruit Splice as a duo of frozen cock­tails that bring queues, with the bar serv­ing hun­dreds on sunny af­ter­noons.

Man­ager Bren­dan Stegmann says the ap­peal is part nos­tal­gia – who doesn’t re­mem­ber child­hood Slurpees or Slush Pup­pies fondly? – and part es­capism. “Most peo­ple’s vi­sion of a frozen cock­tail sees them sit­ting on a sun­lounger on a trop­i­cal is­land. It whisks you away some­where re­lax­ing and in­her­ently peace­ful, so this great mini mind break en­ables us to have that hol­i­day vibe re­gard­less of where we are,” he says.

Chris Dempsey of Syd­ney’s El Loco says a frozen cock­tail is a fun an­ti­dote to high-end bar trends.

“At a time when cock­tail cul­ture has be­come a lit­tle too se­ri­ous, peo­ple like things that are ac­ces­si­ble,” he says. “They’ve got sim­ple in­gre­di­ents, they’re easy to drink and look ap­peal­ing. What was so fun about cock­tails in the ’80s was that drinks aimed to be unashamedl­y big and colour­ful. Big and colour­ful is in vogue again and bars aren’t afraid to have fun with their menus.”

El Loco is famed for its range of margarita slushies made with a mod­ern bar­tender’s credo of top in­gre­di­ents and namechecke­d booze. “Noth­ing can mask the sting of bad tequila, not even a heap of sugar and lime,” Dempsey says.

But what about the wine that goes into your punny sunny sip? Wine guy Matt Skin­ner, who cre­ated the list at St Kilda’s newly re­opened Es­planade (‘Espy) Ho­tel, is all for the new-found free­dom in to­day’s bars. “The days of hard-and­fast rules around what you can and can’t do with wine are long gone,” he says. “Wine is just one of the in­gre­di­ents (in frosé), along with fruit syrup and wa­ter. If the frosé boom has in some small way made a new au­di­ence feel more com­fort­able about or­der­ing tra­di­tional styles of rosé, or any wine, I’m all for it.”

Get­ting peo­ple to try new in­gre­di­ents and flavours is the lot of the skilled bar­tender, some­thing the team at Black Pearl in Fitzroy has honed to great ef­fect over more than 16 years. While the only Aus­tralian venue on the cur­rent list of the World’s 50 Best Bars re­mains a go-to spot for thinkin’ drink­ing, even it isn’t im­mune from an­other of the big­gest drink trends of re­cent years. “I’m all for the spritz,” says gen­eral man­ager m “They’re easy Matt to Lin­klater. make, “low in al­co­hol so you c can have a cou­ple and d de­li­cious to boot. They’re a great in­tro­duc­tion to the w world of cock­tails.”

This Vene­tian aper­i­tivo – typ­i­cally made with Aperol or Cam­pari over ice topped with pros­ecco and a splash of soda – is served in a dozen it­er­a­tions at Brunetti’s flag­ship store on Mel­bourne’s Flin­ders Lane, while Syd­ney’s This Must be the Place has a be­spoke list of the thirstquen­chers made with in­fused wines and herb-sea­soned spir­its.

“When made well, the spritz can be tran­scen­dent, re­fresh­ing and in­cred­i­bly sat­is­fy­ing,” says This Must be the Place’s Luke Ash­ton. “But the more pop­u­lar a cock­tail be­comes the more it gets bas­tardised with a di­min­ish­ing fo­cus on qual­ity. The se­cret to get­ting a qual­ity cock­tail is to drink them at a qual­ity bar.”

And, in­creas­ingly, those qual­ity bars are turn­ing their heads to cre­at­ing in­ter­est­ing drinks with­out booze. Lowand non-al­co­holic cock­tails are tipped to be the next big trend in drinks, driven by move­ments such as Feb Fast and Dry July. PS40 in Syd­ney leads the way in no/low-al­co­hol drink­ing and has cre­ated a range of be­spoke so­das as com­plex as a cock­tail – smoked le­mon­ade, bush tonic and wat­tle cola are some of the flavours – but bar­tenders across the coun­try are look­ing for creative so­lu­tions to serve the non-drink­ing drinker.

“The largest growth over the past 12 months has been with non-al­co­holic op­tions and I pre­dict this will con­tinue the with last,” each Lin­klater gen­er­a­tion m says. drink­ing less than

Ash­ton l says as­tute bar­tenders will look to cre­ate cock­tails that don’t rely on juice and syrups, but that are “wellthough­t out, com­plex and de­li­cious”.

But for now, frozen cock­tails are hav­ing their time in the sun, whether it’s a frosé at Wind­sor hotspot Mr Miyagi, a frozen G&T at The Espy or the ‘fa­mous yuzu slushee’ at Ms G’s in Potts Point.

“The sheer pop­u­lar­ity of ‘free­zling’ among old, young, male or fe­male, re­ally makes this a crowd-pleaser with no bound­aries,” Boat­builders’ Stegmann says. “Those In­sta­gram­ming it with their friends tend to be our younger fe­male au­di­ence; the guys are drink­ing them, just not telling their mates!”

Cold, re­fresh­ing and fun, frozen cock­tails, ac­cord­ing to Stegmann, are set to stick around. Pinot freezio, any­one? Find the recipe for the Aperol spritz slushie – a combo of two of the big­gest cock­tail trends – on the cover at de­li­

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