How to Fix Frozen Cocktails That Turned Into Flavorless Slush Puddles

How to Fix Frozen Cocktails That Turned Into Flavorless Slush Puddles photo

Yes, everybody makes basic cooking mistakes. Like, say, something as simple as overcooking mushrooms or toasting grains and spices. Below, reader Drew confesses his flavorless frozen drinks to senior food editor Rick Martinez. Welcome to Effed it Up.

Dear Rick,

There I was, sittin’ by the pool, gettin’ my summer on, when I made the executive decision to serve signature frozen watermelon-vodka cocktails to the #squad. I poured a handle of vodka into a blender and added cubes from an entire watermelon along with some lime juice and ice. Great in theory. Terrible in execution. It tasted like a liquid puddle. Where did I go wrong?




This is a true summertime tragedy. Frozen drinks should be bold, refreshing, and most importantly, frozen. Let me show you how to finish the summer with your frozen cocktail-filled glass held high.

Go Bold
Number one rule to remember with frozen drinks: The colder your drink is, the harder it gets to taste the flavors in it. For example, if you made a delicious sweet and tart liquid lemonade, then froze it, it would probably seem one-note flat, not as sweet, and certainly not as bright and lemony as it was when it was liquid. That’s became it’s harder for your taste buds to register and process flavor when things are frozen. Ice cream and Popsicles are flavored aggressively to compensate for icy temperatures.

So, when you blend your next batch of frozen cocktails, add half an ounce to an ounce more simple syrup and lime juice than you think you need. The sweet and sour will punch up the flavor of the other ingredients. If it still seems flat or weak, try adding more of your desired dominant flavor. That is, if you’re making a frozen piña colada, add more pineapple; if you’re making a margarita, try more lime; and so on. Add ingredients in small amounts, blending until you are happy with the flavor. (Don’t forget to write it down so you don’t forget your recipe.)

As I rule, I don’t up the alcohol in a frozen drink because it affects the consistency of the final slush. Maintain whichever ratios you would use if you were building the same drink on rocks.

BA’s Best Piña Colada. Get on it. Photo: Alex Lau

For extra bold flavor, try throwing mint, tarragon leaves, chopped rosemary, or freshly grated ginger into the blender too. Alternatively, you could even top your drink with freshly grated cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves or with a few drops of your favorite bitters for color and flavor. In your watermelon-vodka creation, I might suggest adding mint leaves. And if you were making a margarita, I’d say go with a hit of sour orange marmalade. For a piña colada, I’d lean more grated cinnamon, the way they do it at some beach spots in Mexico.

It’s Called Frozen for a Reason
Finally, this should go without saying, but it bears repeating: Your drink should be frozen. As in, Polar Bear ICEE frozen—light, airy, cold, and irresistibly delicious. For you, that means you probably should’ve frozen your cubed watermelon for at least three hours before serving. One way to do this is to blend the drink, then freeze it directly in the blender for about 30 minutes to let the drink freeze over (and counteract the heat the initial mixing generated). Once frozen over, re-blend and serve. Your drink will be so thick and frozen, you’ll actually get that mounded look we love here in the Test Kitchen.


Have you met our frosé (frozen rosé) yet?

Stop committing these crimes against frozen cocktails

Or you could take it to the next level

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