Rye on the Rocks
By Ron Fisher
The mixology world tends to look askance at frozen drinks. After all, how much craft and art can go into a drink that is blended in a machine? Be that as it may, these concoctions are pleasing to look at, tasty and refreshing to drink, easy to make, and incredibly popular, so to avoid a blender for aesthetic reasons is a bit presumptuous. Even cocktail connoisseur Charles Baker (“The Gentleman’s Companion – Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask”, 1939) appreciated a frozen tipple. He wrote, “Of course, most cold drinks may be mixed or shaken by hand. Underground tunnels may be dug by hand, but modern machinery saves hours of wasted time and effort.” He concluded by saying that some drinks “simply cannot be shaped by hand at all.” Touché – a frozen cocktail is a different class of drink, and is worthy of as much attention as any other.
Surprisingly, there is some interesting history to frozen cocktails. In 1936, an inventor approached Fred Waring, who with his swing orchestra, the Pennsylvanians, was a very popular entertainer of that era, hoping that he would provide financial backing for a new electric mixer that would “revolutionize people’s eating habits.” Waring agreed to back the product, and even provided some engineering expertise when the prototype failed to work (Waring had studied engineering at Penn State). In 1937, Waring introduced the Miracle Mixer at the National Restaurant Show and renamed the product The Waring Blender in 1938.
Originally Waring wanted to use the mixer to make health drinks, but found fairly quickly that preparing cocktails offered a much better sales proposition. He promoted his Blender on the radio and while touring, and pretty soon the machine became a fixture in restaurants and bars. Sales took off in the 1950s, as the Blender developed into a consumer appliance. Reportedly, Jonas Salk used a Waring machine while working on the polio vaccine in 1954. One can still buy a Waring Blender, but for our purposes, any good-quality machine will do.
There are two things to keep in mind while preparing a frozen drink. In a cocktail that is served on the rocks, there will typically be ice left in the glass after the drink has been consumed. Not so with a blended drink, which means that dilution is a big concern. Thus, the proportions of the ingredients should be a bit greater than called for in a drink on the rocks.
The other consideration is the ice. The drink should have a uniform, smooth texture, with the appropriate thickness – not so thin that it sloshes around, not so thick that it won’t pour easily. You can’t throw in big ice cubes and expect the cocktail to come out smooth. Crushed ice, cracked cubes, or small chunks work best. And, you want to put the ice in last.
How much ice to use? Roughly ¾ to 1 cup per drink, although there is a certain amount of feel, either by sight and sound. Put in all of the ingredients and add ice until you see the contents flow smoothly around the blender with an open central vortex. Audibly, you want to go from <whir, clunk> to <whoosh, swirl>. If you get to <gluppeta, gluppeta>, and it’s a semi-frozen blob, you’ll have to thin it out a bit (a splash or two of the liquor should get the job done).
The Frozen Daiquiri
2 oz. light rum
1½ oz. lime juice
¾ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. Cointreau or Curaçao
¾-1 cup of crushed or cracked ice
½ cup of a fruit of choice, if desired, preferably frozen.
Put all ingredients into the blender, then add ice and blend until smooth, as discussed above. Almost any fruit can be combined with this recipe, but a classic daiquiri, without any additional flavors, has a tantalizing flavor. Freezing your fruit addition means you’ll need that much less ice.
For a frozen Margarita, substitute tequila for rum.