Many Columbians fondly remember the slushy, frozen drinks of their youth: convenience store slurpees, snow cones from the State Fair and frozen shakes. These treats are still popular, but there is a new generation of frozen drinks that can easily be made at home. They have significantly improved in sophistication through the use of seasonal, local produce and a variety of creative add-ins. The beverages are more refreshing and less sweet than drinks of past decades.
The first frozen, blended drinks were actually sold as “health” drinks in California health food stores in the 1930s. The refreshing fruit drinks of Mexico and Latin America inspired their creation.
The home version of the frozen drinks picked up speed with the popularization of the blender in the 1940s. And by the 1990s, the word smoothie was part of nearly everyone’s lexicon.
Cocktails took off in the post-prohibition era and frozen cocktails became part of the tiki culture of the 1930s. They first appeared in California Polynesian-style bars like Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s. Those kitschy, colorful paper umbrellas that first appeared in tiki drinks in a Honolulu bar are still popular with the ladies. Healthy, frozen blended smoothies are generally thought of as non-alcoholic, but they can also be higher-octane as in the Frozen Mocha Crème laced with coffee liqueur or the Madeira Fruit Smoothie.
Everything old becomes new again! In 17th century England, fruits, herbs and flowers were preserved in vinegar. The sweet-tangy infusions were mixed with spirits to create a variety of social and medicinal libations. The drink arrived on America’s shores with the colonists; rum shrubs became especially popular. The tangy vinegar syrups are trendy again with bar chefs as well as home cooks. Shrub vinegars add a modern twist of pizzazz both to creative cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. I even add a splash of the berry-flavored vinegar to an old-fashioned American treat — the vinegar pie.
Make your watermelon ice cubes at least one day ahead by puréeing watermelon pulp in a food processor or blender. Strain juice through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; discard pulp. Freeze juice in two ice cube trays. The use of 100 percent agave silver tequila is recommended, if available, use the juice of 7 or 8 yellow-ripe key limes. If not, substitute 4 juicy Persian limes. Chili-lace foods in hot tropical climates are known to be cooling. Why not beat the summer heat by choosing jalapeño-infused tequila?
1 rounded cup frozen, halved, fresh strawberries
3 tablespoons orange liqueur (Grand Mariner or Cointreau)
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons Simple Syrup (recipe included) or agave syrup, or to taste
1-1/2 cups watermelon juice, frozen in ice cube trays, plus extra juice, if necessary (using about 1/4 medium watermelon)
1/3 to 1/2 cup silver tequila, as desired
Fresh strawberries or watermelon wedges and fresh mint, to garnish
1 lime, cut in wedges
In a blender container, purée strawberries, orange liqueur, lime juice and syrup. Stop machine and add watermelon cubes, pushing them down into the mixture. Blend until thick and slushy. If too thick to blend, thin with extra watermelon juice. Add tequila; blend 5 seconds more. Moisten rims of 2 or 3 chilled glasses with lime juice, then dip in coarse salt. Pour in margarita drink; garnish with fruit and mint. Serve each drink with a wedge of lime. Serves 2 to 3.
Frozen Mocha Crème
This refreshing mocha drink isn’t overly sweet and will remind you of the luscious blended coffee drinks from your favorite coffee shop. The recipe conveniently starts with a popular ready-made latte beverage available at the grocery store. Special touches include a decorative drizzle of chocolate syrup inside the chilled glass and a chocolate cookie. Dip half of four chocolate hazelnut Pirouette Rolled Wafers (Pepperidge Farm®) in melted chocolate; allow them to set. At serving time, insert a cookie into each drink, chocolate-end-down.
2 cups Starbucks® Discoveries Mocha Latte Beverage, frozen in 2 ice cube trays
1 cup strong coffee, cooled
1/4 cup Godiva® chocolate liqueur or Kahlua® coffee liqueur
1/2 rounded cup coffee or vanilla ice cream
Drizzle of chocolate syrup
Put frozen ice cubes, coffee, liqueur and ice cream into a blender. Process until thick and slushy. Drizzle chocolate syrup inside each chilled glass; pour in mixture. Pipe whipped cream on top of each serving; drizzle lightly with chocolate syrup. Add a cookie, if desired. Serves 4.
Variation: Frozen Banana-Mocha Crème: Add 1 small, sliced, frozen banana to the blender with the other ingredients.
A Berry-Delicious Shrub
Make the full-flavored berry shrub vinegar below using your favorite fresh fruits, or purchase the ready-made vinegar-based syrup from a local specialty food store. Use it to enhance mineral water, sparkling water, champagne, wine, club soda, rum, ginger ale, frozen summer drinks and cocktails. Try 2 tablespoons of the syrup in 8 ounces of chilled liquid, or adjust the ratio to suit your taste. Add ice, garnish and serve.
2 heaping cups fresh berries (choose 1 or more kinds, like blackberries, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries)
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar (superfine sugar recommended)
1 cup quality vinegar (red or white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, champagne vinegar or white balsamic vinegar)
Start the recipe at least three days before the syrup is needed. In a medium bowl, combine slightly mashed fruit and sugar, stirring well. Cover and macerate fruit in the refrigerator 24 hours or until very syrupy. Add vinegar and keep refrigerated for another 24 to 36 hours. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Press down on the pulp with the back of a large spoon. Funnel vinegar into a clean bottle that has been thoroughly washed with hot, soapy water. Top with a lid and refrigerate. Shake bottle occasionally to dissolve any remaining sugar. Use as desired. The syrup’s flavor mellows with time; use within four months.
Gingery Pisco Sour
Pisco, the pride of Peru, is a type of clear grape brandy used for making Pisco Sours — the national cocktail. There are several Pisco grape varietals, including Mocatel from the Muscat grape family. This memorable drink has flavors ranging from tangy and sweet to salty. Egg white adds a characteristic froth to the top of the drink. To be safe, use a pasteurized egg white or pasteurized AllWhites® 100% Liquid Egg Whites. My first Pisco Sour at the Peruvian Embassy in Washington, D.C. was one of the best cocktails I have ever tasted, and I quickly realized the smooth drink is deceptively mild but packs quite a punch! Salud!
4 ounces (1/2 cup) Pisco, Brandy or Italian Grappa, (which is eau de vie made with grape must)
2 ounces (1/4 cup) Ginger Syrup (recipe included)
2 ounces (1/4 cup) fresh-squeezed key lime or Persian lime juice
10 ice cubes (about 1 cup)
1 small egg white, lightly beaten with a fork
One dash Angostura bitters, per drink or dash of cinnamon
Optional garnish: sliced, fresh tropical fruit
Combine Pisco, Ginger Syrup, lime juice and ice in a blender; process until slushy. Add egg white and blend a few seconds until frothy. Pour the drink into two chilled martini glasses or old-fashioned cocktail glasses. (The rims can be dipped in egg white or lime juice and sugar. Add a drop of bitters to each glass; swirl with a bar stirrer or straw. Serves 2.
What could be tastier than low-calorie, flavorful, frozen fruit bars blended into a frosty? Other complimentary ice bars you can substitute include the Coconut Waters with banana or Mango. A splash of rum or banana liqueur will kick up the drink’s flavor a notch or two. Experiment with the new fruit and vegetable ice bars like Tangerine Carrot with pumpkin purée and Apple & Greens with spinach and kale.
4 frozen, pineapple fruit bars, like Edy’s® Outshine fruit ice bars (available in local grocery stores)
1/2 banana, sliced and frozen
1 cup chilled, lite coconut milk
1 cup chilled orange juice, preferable fresh-squeezed
Fresh chilled pineapple sticks, to garnish
Fresh herb garnish
Cut up the fruit bars into small chunks, removing the sticks. Put the fruit bar pieces, the coconut milk and orange juice into the blender; process until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses. Garnish each glass with a pineapple stick and herbs. Serves 2 to 3.
Watermelon-Raspberry Aqua Fresca
This refreshing, light, fruit drink isn’t too sweet and can be made with any soft-pulp fruit you prefer. You can strain out the pulp by pouring the blended mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, but it is equally delicious with the pulp intact. Prevent flavor-dilution by serving the drink over watermelon or pomegranate juice ice cubes. The beverage can be used as a base for cocktails, if desired. It can also be partially frozen in containers and served when slushy.
1-1/2 packed cups chopped watermelon
1 packed cup raspberries or strawberries
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
3 tablespoons Simple Syrup or Mint Simple Syrup (recipes included)
3 cups ice-cold mineral water (like Fiji Water® or mountain spring water), cold coconut water or preferred water
Crushed ice or small ice cubes, as desired
In a food processor or blender, process watermelon, raspberries, lemon juice and sugar with 1 cup of the water until thoroughly puréed. Strain the mixture, pressing lightly with the back of a large spoon to extract juice. Discard pulp. Pour juice into a large pitcher with the remaining 2 cups water. Taste to adjust sweet/sour ratio, if desired. Serve immediately in chilled glasses over ice, or refrigerate without the ice to serve later. Serves 4.
Honeydew–Kiwi Agua Fresca
Add fizz to this refreshing Mexican drink with sparkling water. One seeded, chopped cucumber can also be included in the mixture. Cucumber aqua fresca with lime is quite popular in Mexico. Or whisk in 1 to 2 tablespoons diluted Japanese matcha (powdered green tea). The beverage can be used as a base for cocktails, if desired. It can also be partially frozen in containers and served when slushy.
4 rounded cups cubed honeydew melon
2 kiwis, peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons Simple Syrup or honey, or to taste
3 cups ice-cold sparkling water or mineral water (like Fiji Water® or mountain spring water), cold coconut water or preferred water
Fruit garnish or cucumber strips or fresh herbs, to garnish
In a food processor or blender, process honeydew melon, kiwis, lime juice and syrup until completely puréed. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Press the pulp lightly with the back of a large spoon to extract juice. Discard pulp. Pour juice into a large pitcher and stir in sparkling water. Taste to adjust sweet/sour ratio, if desired. Serve immediately in chilled glasses over ice, or refrigerate without the ice to serve later. Serves 5 to 6.
Mango-Orange Cooler with Rosemary
The fizzy drink isn’t overly sweet. The small amount of sweetener enhances the flavor of the fruit. Other fresh herbs to use include mint, basil and fresh marjoram.
1-1/2 cups frozen mango cubes
1 (12-ounce) can mango nectar, frozen into ice cubes
1 cup coconut water
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup (recipe included), honey or fine sugar
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary
3 cups chilled San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa sparkling orange beverage or a similar orange Italian soda
1 to 2 cups cracked ice
Fresh rosemary sprigs, to garnish
Put mango, mango nectar ice cubes, coconut water, lemon juice and syrup into a blender and purée until smooth. Scrape mixture into a large pitcher and stir in rosemary, sparkling orange beverage and ice, as desired. Serve in chilled tall glasses; garnish with rosemary sprigs. Serves 4 to 6.
Madeira Fruit Smoothie
The Victorians liked to macerate fresh berries in wine. A recipe in Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book of 1857 suggests using Madeira or Sherry. Miss Leslie advised her readers to top the spirited berries with whipped cream or ice cream. The flavor combination is still magical. In the spirit of that intrepid cook, embellish this berry-wine treat by blending in 1/2 to 3/4 cup Häagen-Dazs® strawberry sorbet or ice cream, wine-berry sorbet or nonfat plain Greek yogurt.
4 heaping cups frozen mixed berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries)
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice, to taste
2/3 cup chilled Malmsey (sweet) Madeira
Fresh mint leaves, to garnish
Put berries, lemon juice and Madeira into the blender; process until thick and slushy. The frosty treat can be served in small chilled wine glasses. For an extra special touch, blend in sorbet, ice cream or yogurt before serving. Garnish smoothies with mint. Serves 2 to 3.
Variation: Following the directions, substitute a fruity Cabernet for Madeira; add in Ciao Bella Blackberry Cabernet (available at local gourmet groceries).
Frosty Papaya-Carrot Sunset
Papaya, strawberries and beta carotene-rich carrot juice give this cold, slushy drink a brilliant hue that resembles a tropical sunset. For the best-tasting drink, freeze your own fruit. Look for papaya with a deep salmon-red flesh like the Hawaiian Sunset Solo or Caribbean Red. Papayas provide: potassium; vitamins C, A and E; and carotenoids like lycopene. The edible seeds have a pleasant taste similar to watercress; add to salads or crush for salad dressings. For a spirited drink, try adding some coconut rum, Grand Mariner or Alizé Red Passion Liqueur, to taste.
1 cup Suja-brand 24 Karat juice with carrot and orange (Whole Foods) or Naked-brand orange carrot juice (widely available), more if needed
1-1/2 cups small papaya cubes, frozen
1 cup small to medium strawberries, halved, frozen
1/2 cup guava nectar or pure watermelon juice (frozen into cubes, if desired)
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice, to taste
2 tablespoons Simple Syrup, honey or Splenda, to taste
1/4 teaspoon pure almond or vanilla extract
Lime slices or wedges
In the order listed, put all the ingredients into a blender except lime slices. Start blending on low, increasing the speed. Process just until thick and slushy. If necessary, stop machine completely, and push fruit down into the mixture. If too thick to blend easily, you can add a little more juice. When blended, you can adjust the flavor by adding more lime juice or syrup, if desired. Pour drink into small chilled glasses and garnish with lime slices. Serves 3 to 4.
Use fresh Carolina peaches when they are in season, otherwise fresh-frozen peaches are fine.
2 cups peeled, chopped fresh peaches, frozen
1 cup chilled almond milk
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup chilled orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed
3 tablespoons Ginger Simple Syrup, Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup or 2 tablespoons honey
2 scoops Häagen-Dazs®, Ciao Bella raspberry sorbet or gelato
Sliced, lightly toasted almonds
Fresh mint leaves
Put all the ingredients into a blender, except for the sorbet and sliced toasted almonds. Blend until slushy. Pour into 2 tall chilled glasses. Add a generous scoop of raspberry sorbet to the top of each glass; sprinkle with almonds. Garnish with mint. Serves 2.
This basic bar syrup doesn’t require dissolving in drinks like sugar does. The syrup thickens as it cooks, so do not overcook it. Simple Syrup can also be made with brown sugar; good in coffee or chocolate drinks.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
In a small, deep-sided saucepan, add sugar then water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then stir constantly 2 to 3 minutes with a long-handled wooden spoon or until the sugar dissolves. Remove pan from the heat; let mixture stand until completely cool. Store syrup in a clean, airtight bottle in the refrigerator; use within a month. Recipe can be doubled.
Ginger Simple Syrup
Basic Simple Syrup can be flavored by steeping it with additional ingredients like gingerroot, fresh herbs, whole spices, chili peppers, seasonings or citrus rind.
1 cup granulated sugar
2 inch piece of fresh gingerroot, peeled, thin-sliced, coarsely chopped
1 cup spring water
In a small, deep-sided saucepan, add sugar and gingerroot, then water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then stir constantly 2 to 3 minutes with a long-handled wooden spoon or until the sugar dissolves. Remove pan from the heat; let the mixture steep until completely cool. Pour syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Store syrup in a clean, airtight bottle in the refrigerator; use within two weeks. Candied ginger can be chopped for other uses. Recipe can be doubled.
Mint Simple Syrup
Omit ginger. Add one bunch of fresh, rinsed mint to the sugar-water mixture. Cook as directed, then steep mint until cool. Strain and refrigerate syrup. Reserve “candied” mint leaves to chop and add to drinks and other recipes.
Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup
Split 1 vanilla bean open lengthwise. Scrape seeds into the sugar-water mixture then add the vanilla bean. Cook as directed then steep vanilla bean until cool. Remove vanilla bean, rinse and air dry overnight for another use. Don’t strain syrup; refrigerate.