Those visiting the Austin area for one of the city’s copious music or film festivals often leave lauding the city’s many renditions of the frozen margarita. In a town known for warm weather, tacos and patio dining, this makes perfect sense: the drink is ubiquitous at casual dining and Tex-Mex spots. That said, drinkers who don’t like tequila — or the often sub-par renditions of the margarita at less discerning spots — may crave something cold but more adventurous. To broaden your summer drink palate, check out how some of Austin’s finest bartenders and restaurant owners create an eclectic and thoughtful list of frozen drinks worthy of a sample on your next visit.
Reposado tequila, Aperol, ruby red grapefruit juice, simple syrup, ice.
This summer, bartender Steven Robbins and the Contigo team added a frozen drink machine to their bar. Restaurant owner Ben Edgerton said the idea was a long time coming: “In the same way that we offer a Hot Toddy menu in the winter, we felt that a frozen drink machine would complement our outdoor seating during summer.” Each week, they switch the cocktail recipe, utilizing classic recipes like Painkillers and Beachcombers while also trying new ideas. So far, the consensus favorite of the summer is the 2:1:2, which is named for the cocktail’s ratios (2 parts tequila, 1 part Aperol and 2 parts fresh ruby red grapefruit juice.) The drink is served in a squall glass garnished with a grapefruit slice and some fresh grated cinnamon. Says Edgerton of offering frozen drinks: “I don’t see this as a departure. It’s simply a different format in which to offer a thoughtful and enjoyable cocktail.”
Frozen beer, Sway Modern Thai
Thailand and Texas may be half a world apart, but both places love spicy food and host many months of hot weather. The parallels inspired Sway Modern Thai to import a favorite Thai tradition this summer: frozen beer. Sway owner Jesse Herman first experienced frozen beer at a bar in Thailand, and explains: “’Jelly Beer’ is a unique Thai experience I was really excited to bring to Sway for the hot Texas summer. We imported a special machine from Thailand that chills the beer below freezing. Once the bottle is open, it freezes before your eyes in a unique, drinkable and hard-to-explain way.” The bready, herbal flavor components of Singha may be the reason for Sway’s frozen beer of choice, as those flavors and the lemon accents make the frozen version especially refreshing.
Adult Milkshake, Peché
Vanilla ice cream, Luxardo Cherry liqueur, absinthe.
Peché owner Rob Pate isn’t usually a big frozen drink fan: “The blender is one of a bartender’s worst nightmares. The Peché milkshake makes it okay.” This shake mixes sweet and serious with the use of absinthe, a favorite at the long-running cocktail haven. “It’s got a big cherry beginning with the liqueur and a vanilla bite from the salted vanilla base,” says Pate. “A touch of absinthe gives it a great ending.”
Frozen Chartreuse Swizzle, Bar Congress
Green Chartreuse, Velvet Falernum, J. Wray and nephew rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, fresh pineapple, crushed ice, mint sprig (w/ molé bitters), grated nutmeg.
Jason Stevens of Bar Congress is a serious scholar of drink history, and the thought behind his riff on the swizzle is apparent. “The original Chartreuse Swizzle was created by bartender Marcovaldo Dionysos and was itself a variation of the Swamp Water. We’ve simply edited the recipe for an improved swizzle to be suitable for blending while retaining its incredible flavor profile.” The drink inverts the usual cocktail ratios to make chartreuse the star and rum the accent. The result is simultaneously fresh, boozy and surprisingly spicy. The chunks of pineapple can battle with your straw, but the balance of the bold flavors utilized is unmistakable. “The flavor of this drink is magical,” says Stevens. “Chartreuse and pineapple create such a beautiful harmony together, creating notes of chocolate and deep spice. The aromatics of nutmeg and mint are insanely important to this cocktail. If you don’t have them both fresh, don’t bother making it.
Frozen Papa Doble, Pleasant Storage Room
Lime juice, grapefruit juice, Luxardo Maraschino, simple syrup, white rum, ice.
This simple, elegant version of the daiquiri focuses on the rum and citrus and may even convert non-rum drinkers to fans. The refreshing, tart flavor profile works well as a frozen cocktail, though the rum’s punch does weaken a bit due to the ice. The Pleasant Storage Room team explains the drink’s famous history: “This was the daiquiri of choice for Ernest Hemingway, aptly named for the man himself and his preference for a double shot of rum. It’s heavy on the booze and light on the sugar, and was one of the first drinks to utilize the electric blender.”
Blood Orange Caipirinha, The Hightower
Cachaça, triple sec, lime, lemon, sugar, Solerno liqueur, blood orange juice.
“When we were kicking around frozen ideas for the bar, we knew we didn’t want to do a margarita,” said Hightower owner Vic Farnsworth. “I started playing with the idea of a frozen caipirinha with a blackberry swirl, and then it evolved from there.” Their favorite version of the drink adds the blood orange flavors using both Solerno liqueur and fresh blood orange juice. Farnsworth dubs the resulting drink a crowd favorite, and emphasizes that the drink’s citrus base and tangy profile accommodates lots of different flavors and accents. “The blood orange adds a fullness of flavor, but we’ve done several variations.”
And for the purists: Canary Melon Margarita, Odd Duck
Cinarron tequila blanco, triple sec, agave, lime, water, galia melon, canary melon, watermelon, and a “mystery” melon.
If none of the drinks above suit your palate, Bryce Gilmore’s famous Odd Duck restaurant serves an elevated version of the frozen margarita for those looking for a fresher twist on a Texas classic. GM Jason James is quick to note that a good bar program doesn’t necessary mean frozen drinks are forbidden. “We believe that a frozen cocktail can be just as good as any other. It all starts with quality ingredients,” said James. He explained that juicing daily, using agave as the drink’s sweetener and emphasis on good texture and balance are their keys to making these drink work, as is seasonality: “The season dictates the flavors, so going with melons was an easy move.”
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