The love of frosty treats begins in childhood with slushees and snowcones, the harbingers of summertime, amusement parks. As adults, it’s hardly a leap to blend one’s booze with ice, creating a frothy spiked version of childhood treats. This summer, Los Angeles bartenders are turning away from the suburban piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris of yore by taking classic cocktail recipes and adding a refreshing slushie component. The result? Cool summer sophistication with a knowing wink at one’s youth.
Block Party Highland Park — Frozen Margarita
Who isn’t familiar with the standard chain restaurant margarita — oversized, blended and syrupy sweet. Block Party owner Jason Eisner (also of Gracias Madre) has gentrified the suburban margarita, but kept it fun, serving it out of nonstop slushie machines. “Nothing is more refreshing than a classic margarita,” he said. “We've stripped these cocktails of all the phony, funny business and made them delicious, artisan margaritas. The machines churn out granita, so each sip is packed with flavor." Move over 7-Eleven. 5052 York Blvd., Highland Park, (323) 741-2747, www.blockpartyhlp.com.
Lola’s — Frozen Cucumber Mojito
The mojito is a go-to summer sipper with its sweet-tart blend of rum, sugar and mint. Lola’s has modernized the recipe by adding cucumber and elderflower liqueur. Chef/owner Luis Navarro found inspiration on many levels: “We imagined enjoying a mojito with a twist on a hot summer night. Taking a classic cocktail inspiration, the vintage feel of 4th Street, Long Beach, plus summer gives you the frozen cucumber mojito.” 4140 Atlantic Blvd., (562) 349-0100 and 2030 E. 4th Street, (562) 343-5506, Long Beach, www.lolasmexicancuisine.com.
Salt’s Cure — Hurricane
The hurricane is one of the most maligned drinks in the cocktail kingdom. Once part of the tiki repertoire, it gradually became a sickeningly sweet concoction of rum and whatever fruit juice was on hand. Salt’s Cure bar manager Joe Swifka uses a simple combination of dark rum and a passion fruit shrub, whose vinegar element replaces the tartness of the usual citrus in the recipe. Of the drink, Swifka notes, “Our hurricane differs from most in that it's based on a very stripped-down recipe published by Beachbum Berry. Whether this is the original Pat O'Brien's recipe or an approximation by Berry is unclear. What is clear is that it tastes great and there are no bells or whistles. Going back to basics is a bit of a theme at Salt's Cure, so this was an easy choice." Jeff “Beachbum” Berry is the author of multiple books on vintage tiki drinks and cuisine. Pat O’Brien’s is a cocktail bar in New Orleans, where the Hurricane became popular in the 1940s. 1155 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, 323-465-7258, www.saltscure.com.
Toscana — Monte Bianco
If you’ve never tried a Sgroppino, a traditional Italian dessert-style cocktail that blends lemon sorbet, vodka and Prosecco, you’ve been missing out. As with Lola’s addition of cucumber to freshen up its mojito recipe, Bar Toscana’s bar manager William Perbellini has brought a surprising but wholly Italian take to his drink. “My twist on it has fresh and floral notes,” he says. “The coffee on top contests the sweetness of the lemon sorbet and elderflower liqueur, and adds a pleasant, roasted coffee note on the nose.”11633 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 820-2448, www.toscanabrentwood.com.
Vaca — Vaca Tonic
The Vaca Tonic is so popular that it comprises 4% of Vaca’s total sales. The gin-and-tonic cocktail is one of the simplest expressions of bartending excellence or failure. Choosing the right gin, the proper tonic and the ideal proportions are all essential to success. “We pour an icy mix of Brooklyn gin and fresh lime over Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic,” says bar consultant Gabrielle Dion, who advised on Vaca’s bar program, “and garnish it with these fragrant basil blossoms that freeze in the slush and pleasantly disintegrate in your mouth.” 695 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, (714) 463-6060, www.vacagroup.com.
Viviane at the Avalon Hotel — Negreezi
Bar director Ryan Wainwright calls his frozen Negroni “a thing of lore, a drink that has followed me to many places and was made in conjunction with just having fun and friends. The balancing act came in utilizing a drink with so much gravitas, but still keeping it playful.” The drink is made with Bombay Dry gin, Campari, Cinzano 1757 vermouth and fresh orange juice. This recipe was updated for the Viviane poolside setting and Wainwright thinks it’s “the best version of the fabled drink yet.” The vibrant orange hue is as close as you will get to sunshine in a glass. 9400 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 407-7791, www.vivianerestaurant.com.
Upstairs at the Ace Hotel DTLA — Summer Wren
“I wanted to add an herbal taste to a classic gin drink — in this case a Bee's Knees,” said bartender Owen Gallagher. The original version created last season, the Winter Wren, was in the same thematic zone as the Penicillin or the Hot Toddy. For summer, it was lightened up and given the slushie treatment. “It's a cocktail that gives the impression of being restorative and therapeutic,” said Gallagher. “Chamomile paired with honey creates something both familiar and calming. It's the anti-vodka with Red Bull.” 929 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 623-3233, www.acehotel.com/losangeles/upstairs.