Those of us who love cocktails spend a lot of time thinking about how to drink more of them, often in ways that are more imaginative than just ordering the same drink at the same bar all the time. We love brunch at good restaurants because of the fried chicken and waffles, sure, but also because it’s an excuse to drink before noon. We love working our way through Prohibition-era bartenders’ guides because it’s entertaining, in a Ken Burns kind of way. We love the recent invention of bar omakase because the bartender is deciding how many drinks we can have. And when it’s hot out, as it’s been a lot lately, sometimes we put our cocktails in the freezer.
We’re not talking about shoving a bottle of vodka next to the ice maker, or stowing that Manhattan by the gelato to keep cold.
Think boozy popsicles. Because who doesn’t want to put a cocktail on a stick? Combine liquor with something to sweeten and flavor, add a garnish or two, put it in the freezer — and in a few hours you’ve got a mash-up of your favorite drink and those Otter pops you still secretly love.
Though any cocktail will work for inspiration, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when you experiment — namely sugar and alcohol content. If you’ve ever made a sorbet, you know that the percentage of sugar affects the structure of the final product — the higher the sugar content, the lower the freezing point. It’s the same with alcohol. Ever wonder why that bottle of vodka never actually freezes? The more alcohol you add, and the higher its proof, the lower the freezing point.
Experiment some. (You really need an excuse to play with your drinks?) Because wine is typically lower in alcohol, a sangria popsicle is simple: Blend fresh fruit with a little wine and some sugar, pour the mixture into popsicle trays, add bits of fresh fruit and freeze.
Higher-proof liquors — tequila, rum, bourbon — will also work. Simply go a little lighter on the alcohol and emphasize the other flavors. A traditional Manhattan won’t freeze on its own. But if you focus on the cherry flavoring as the popsicle base — with just enough bourbon and sweet vermouth for flavor — pretty soon you’ll have your favorite cocktail in popsicle form, no problem. Just don’t forget to add the maraschino cherries before freezing.
You could also try soaking fruit in booze for a riff on the idea. A Negroni — equal parts Campari, gin and sweet vermouth — won’t freeze by itself. But if you soak thick orange slices in that cocktail and freeze the slices, you’ll get a fun boozy fruit pop. (Don’t forget to save the orange-infused Negroni base to make a leftover aperitif.)
Think of it as happy hour for the next heat wave.