Frozen cocktails are everywhere in NYC this summer. In addition to the restaurants and bars that have been spouting them off for decades, we’ve seen plenty of new varieties, both at recently opened operations and longtime favorites where it previously seemed like slushie machines has a snowball’s chance in hell of earning space among their craft cocktails, microbrews and refined wine programs.
The leading reason for the frozen’s new ubiquity, according to many bartenders we’ve spoken with, is the city’s ongoing Open Restaurants program, which enables sunny outdoor seating areas where none existed before. A close second is new attitudes about the official drink of summer. And that enthusiasm is making equipment a little harder to come by in NYC.
Tiki Chick was ahead of this season's boom when it opened on the Upper West Side at the end of 2019. By last summer, lines for the frozen cocktails at its to-go window wrapped around the block, says Selina Ardan, beverage director at Pickle Hospitality, which includes Maison Pickle, Jacob’s Pickles and Tiki Chick.
That frenzy for frozens made it obvious that Tiki Chick would bring them to its new digs on the fifth floor of Time Out Market New York, but the logistics got a little tricky once the restaurant was poised to move in this spring.
“It was difficult in the sense that everybody in New York is doing frozens, it seems, so getting a hold of machines became extremely difficult,” Ardan says.
“I think I got an inkling when we were talking about bringing a frozen drink onto Maison and Jacob’s, and the people that I was working with to get a machine there were telling me it’s gonna be at least three or four weeks, and if you don’t pull the trigger now you could be looking at two months or not at all, because everybody was on that train,” Ardan says.
“I was like, ok, mental note, these machines don’t just grow in trees.”
Having been early to the party, the Tiki team was able to bring two of its machines from the Upper West Side to the market, and supplement those with two more Ardan managed to wrangle online. This specific equipment is key to the ideal frozen drink, and a large part of the reason blender drinks don’t quite measure up at home.
“Frozen machines, you kind of have to think of it as more like its an ice cream machine, in a sense. You’re not ever adding ice. You’re putting in water, which, mixed with other ingredients, slowly churns and freezes, which gives it a much creamier texture than if you’re just blending ice,” Ardan says
The ingredients are also clutch, and Tiki Chick’s piña colada and hurricane follow meticulous recipes that help dispel old fashioned notions about frozen drinks.
“I think why frozens haven’t been more popular in the past was because there was always like a bad reputation for a lot of frozen drinks, that they were just like these sugar bombs, that people put in a pre-made mix and lesser quality alcohol,” Ardan says. “To be completely honest, putting together the frozen cocktails on the Upper West Side is probably the hardest thing I have ever done in this company; trying to get the chemistry right between the sugar, the measurements and the alcohol by volume and the amount of water and all of these things that all have to kind of work together so you get the right texture, you get something that doesn’t over or under freeze and it also tastes good.”
Once all that science comes together in your palm tree cup at Time Out Market, the frosty mix still gets spiked with a “Tiki Topper”: A blend of coconut and white rum for the piña colada and an aged and white rum mix for the hurricane.
“It makes perfect sense, because we’re upstairs, we’re on the rooftop, we’re looking out at this beautiful terrace view that Time Out Market has where people can come and they can hang out outside and take pictures of the view and all these things that kind of add to the vibe, and things are a little bit lighter and brighter upstairs, and that’s more of what we’re about,” Ardan says.
“It’s just not the same without the beverage side of it. You can’t have a hot honey chicken sandwich without a piña colada,” she says.