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
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 delicious.com.au.