As consumer tastes continue to mature, traditional slushy-style cocktails are following suit. Beyond Daiquiris and Piña Coladas, many bars are now offering a growing roster of creative frozen concoctions that feature upscale spirits, both mixed fresh and poured from slushy machines. The result is a variety of cool ways to beat the summer heat for even the most discerning drinkers.
Swanky’s Vittles and Libations in Denver offers seven base flavors for its adult slushy program, poured from five different SaniServ frozen drinks machines. From those basic offerings, the bar lists nearly 30 specialty frozen drinks on its menu, showcasing a wide array of flavor combinations that create new cocktails. The drink machines can produce more than 100 servings in an hour, and Swanky’s owner Mark Kinsey says that on busy days, the drink machines are constantly being refilled. “Our adult slushies are definitely unique to the area, and they sell very well no matter what the temperature is outside,” Kinsey says. “Sometimes they’re in such high demand that the machines can’t keep up. We pre-make the drinks in batches and store backups in a cooler to fill the machines as needed.”
Swanky’s most upscale frozen specialty drink is the Margarita-inspired Tequilin’ Me Softly, made with Espolòn Blanco Tequila, triple sec, orange juice, and sweet and sour mix ($8.50 a 16-ounce cup; larger sizes are also available). The venue also lists a frozen White Russian made with Taaka vodka and guests can customize it by adding shots of other spirits, like Skrewball Peanut Butter whiskey. “Our slushies are a significant percentage of our alcohol sales,” Kinsey says. “You won’t find our flavor options anywhere else.”
The bar concept Wet Willie’s has built an empire around adult slushy cocktails. The company operates ten bars in six states and offers a full roster of frozen drinks served from slushy machines at each location. Wet Willie’s lists up to 20 individual flavors on its menu and allows guests to combine drinks to make their own personalized twists. The most popular drink, the Call A Cab, blends cherry and strawberry flavors with Bacardi rum and Everclear, and it’s joined by other guest favorites like the Jack and Ginger, a riff on the Kentucky Mule made with Jack Daniel’s whiskey, ginger root, and lemongrass ($11-$13, depending on location).
“Our drinks are received extremely well,” says Troy Brantley, the manager of Wet Willie’s in Savannah, Georgia. “Our drinks are made with top-notch ingredients. There will always be a market for basic, unique, and upscale Daiquiri-style offerings and we’re well-positioned to deliver and satisfy those demands.”
In Chicago, the bar Nights & Weekends lists a slushy Tequila concoction called the Frozen Diablo ($16), which mixes Corazon Blanco with Fruitful Blackberry liqueur, lime juice, and Gosling’s Ginger beer. It’s joined by other upscale slushies like a Bacardi Silver-based Banana Daiquiri and Wheatley vodka-based Vodka Redbull. And in New York, Tao Group-owned The Beach at Dream Downtown—colloquially known as Dream Beach—offers the frozen whiskey-centric Bright Gold, blending Buffalo Trace and Jim Beam Bourbons with earl grey tea, lavender honey, and lemon, and the Frozita, made with Volcan Blanco Tequila, Montenegro amaro, The Beach by Whispering Angel rosé, strawberry purée, and lime juice. Both drinks are batched and served out of slushy machines.
“Enjoying frozen drinks outside is a summer staple,” says Tao Group’s corporate beverage manager, Erin Davey. She adds that the frozen drinks at Dream Beach are the most popular cocktails on the menu in the summer months. “Being able to offer a frozen cocktail with higher-quality ingredients is just another way to elevate the experience for our guests,” Davey says.