Frozen drinks: Beyond shakes and margaritas

Frozen drinks can be hot sellers, especially if you think beyond thick shakes and margaritas. This chilly category covers both alcoholic and non, and includes daiquiris, mudslides and piña coladas, as well as smoothies, granitas and slushies, frosty cappuccinos and even frozen tea.

Perhaps the fastest way to get the freeze is with shaved ice concoctions. Just mound flaked ice right from your ice maker into a cup and top with flavored syrup. Ice crushers or shavers can speed up the process if volume warrants.

When it comes to frozen drinks—virgin or spiked—most operators first turn to the trusty blender. Toss in ice (or ice cream), add fresh or IQF fruit, flavorings such as syrups (or even nutraceutical add-ins), liquor if you like and give it a whirl. The downside is that this method involves skilled staffers portioning ingredients and judging how long to blend the drink.

If you’re committed to offering icy treats, it may pay to invest in a frozen drink machine. “When you use mix formulated for slush machines, it turns out consistent drinks every time you pull the handle,” says Marla Sanderson, owner of Frozen Drink Madness of Tennessee, which sells and leases machines. “All the bartender has to do is put it in a glass.”

There are two categories of frozen drink makers: high-volume and visual machines. The latter have clear barrels and as guests watch the colorful liquid being frozen, sales can jump as much as 20 to 30 percent, Sanderson claims. Both types are basically small freezers with condensers and evaporators that turn mix and water into pourable slush. Just add alcohol for a frosty cocktail. Many operators run the machines “virgin” to appeal to a wide audience; bartenders may then add alcohol to each glass before topping with the slush. Restaurants can create their own signatures, suggests Sanderson, by mixing two concentrate flavors together before freezing or layering two separate flavors from two machines.

Frozen drink base mixes come in powder or liquid concentrates packaged in a variety of containers, including bag-in-box, gable top cartons, pouches, jugs and pails. Stored in a cool, dry place, base mix has a fairly long shelf life—so take advantage of volume discounts. (Some bases are sold frozen, but require freezer storage.) Sanderson recommends liquid concentrates; powdered mixes require feed pumps and plumbed water lines.

Do the Dew

A newcomer to this season’s frozen drink scene is Cold Stone Creamery’s Dew Iced. Launched in June, the frozen smoothie was given a co-branded promotional boost by PepsiCo, whose Mountain Dew is the main ingredient. “It’s a great marriage of Pepsi’s concentrate and our proprietary, sorbet-like smoothie base,” says Cold Stone’s tastemaster Ray Karam.

Karam developed the base as a component of Cold Stone’s smoothie line introduced last summer. The result, he says, is a smoother frozen drink with less crunch than you’d get by simply blending ingredients with ice. The in-house secret process is the chain’s point of differentiation for its smoothies. Last year, the ice cream chain signed an exclusive deal with PepsiCo, simplifying purchasing logistics for Dew Iced. All Cold Stone’s shakes and smoothies are offered in a 12-oz. “Like It” size and a 20-oz. “Love It” portion.

Cool Collection: A frozen drinks sampler

Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Wichita, Kansas

Texas Tornado
Frozen margarita with Cuervo Gold tequila, Bacardi rum and peach schnapps; $4.99 and $6.99

Very Berry Daiquiri
Captain Morgan spiced rum, Chambord, Island Oasis strawberry, raspberry; $5.95

Mango Mai Tai
Bacardi O, Grand Marnier and Island Oasis Mango mix; $6.25

Captain Al’s Waterfront Grill & Bar, Tampa Bay, Florida

Blue Voodoo
Rum, pina colada mix, blue curacao and ice cream; $5.95

Key Lime Pie
Margarita mix, ice cream, citron vodka; $5.95

Banana Cabana
Banana, dark rum and banana liqueur; $5.95

Hearth ’n Kettle, Hyannis, Massachusetts

Mud Slide
Kahlua, Irish cream liqueur, vodka; $6.50

Vanilla vodka, Irish cream liqueur, Buttershots, ice cream and caramel; $6.50

Bluestem Wine Lounge, Kansas City, Missouri

Orange Creamezcal
Two scoops vanilla ice cream, Mezcal, orange soda; $12

The Signature B
Ice wine, Grey Goose Le Citron, Moscato d’Asti, blueberry ice; $12

River’s Inn, Gloucester Point, Virginia

Krazy Krab Kids Frozen Berry Freeze
Island Oasis strawberry and banana and ice cream; $3.50


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