Now that it’s officially warm out in places where it’s not always warm out, and everyone is happy and golden-tanned and sated with cool beverages on sidewalk patios with liberal dog policies, I have some very pressing news to share: frozen cocktails are bad. Like, objectively bad, but subjectively bad, too—so, in other words, just plain bad bad. They are a red slushie stain on the fluttering white tablecloth that is al fresco drinking. They are a sad melting pile of whatever in a glass. They are an insult to alcohol, an affront to bartenders, a cheap pagan to Instagram. They are a scourge on polite society. They must be stopped.
Here’s the thing: you may think you like frozen cocktails. You may even define yourself by that preference, as a badge of your summertime chillness: Oh, yeah, me? Frozen drinks? Love ‘em. Also: wanna play bags? You may trick yourself into believing you should order one at a bar, because everyone’s doing it, and it’s summer, and it looks cool, and it sounds refreshing—conceptually, it seems nice, like jumping into the lake on a scorching hot day is nice—and isn’t it fun? Isn’t all of this just so fun? Aren’t we just the spitting image—the doctored Instagram post—of summer?
But then the drink comes and there it sits, limp, just a lump of food coloring and sugar and ice in your otherwise elegant cocktail glass. Maybe if you’re lucky, there’s actually a decent amount of booze in there somewhere. But more likely than not, there’s less alcohol in there than in a standard cocktail. Yet the frozen libation can get away with it. Why? Because it’s frozen. And that means we hold it to the standards of, say, a boozy milkshake, rather than an actual cocktail. Let me ask you a question: would you hold, say, a president of the United States to lower standards just because he’s a charlatanic reality TV blowhard? (Please don’t answer that question.)
After you’ve taken the requisite photo of your frozen drink—befitting its status as a novelty item versus a legitimate beverage—you begin inspecting the glass, peering at it from all sides and angles, wondering, with a mixture of horror and glee and desperation, how best to get it into your mouth. It dawns on you that, shit, you just really don't fucking know. Maybe you use a straw, in which case, you’re probably just sucking up the already-liquid part at the bottom of the glass, in which case, you’re not really getting an optimal sip—you’re simply getting a part, not the whole, and you paid for the whole, dammit (do not recite the previous sentence aloud in a public space). Should you decide to go the sipping route, good fucking luck. Such are the regretful physics of the frozen drink that when you tip the glass, the entire mass of the drink moves with it, increasing the likelihood that one sip turns into an avalanche of surplus flavored ice, overflowing down the side of the glass or—worse—onto your shirt; thus the endeavor of merely drinking the frozen drink becomes a delicate challenge, demanding a level of finesse and engagement woefully incommensurate with the result. Also, you may end up looking like an idiot. A drink designed to make you look cool has betrayed you: it has made you appear dreadfully, irrevocably gauche. How dare this thing.
But hey, at least it tastes good, right? Well, does it? I’m asking you. Really think about it. Replay the tape in your head of the last time you (ostensibly) enjoyed a frozen drink; press pause at the moment the drink hits your lips. Ask thyself: Does. It. Taste. Good. (Question mark.) I think you think it tastes good. I think you’re willing to fool yourself into thinking it tastes good, because it’s less conventional than the kind of drink you normally have, because of the texture, because it’s special. (Don’t pretend that one of the reasons sushi tastes so good is that it looks cool as hell to eat; we’re easily beguiled creatures.) And yet the very nature of the frozen drink—i.e., the “frozen” part—suggests that it will not taste as good as its non-frozen, simply “chilled” counterpart, given that ice is integral to its conception, and over-dilution a common byproduct; to compensate, maybe they've added more sugar or syrup. Either way, frozen drinks are by their very nature not as naturally flavorful as other libations. It’s no wonder—can you really expect anything different from a drink that comes spiraling out of a convenience store machine?
So next time you’re faced with a decision between a frozen daiquiri or a normal daiquiri, a frozen margarita or a normal margarita, a frozen Old Fashioned (yuck) or a normal Old Fashioned, remember that you have a choice. Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean you have to get the quote-unquote colder option. It’s not that refreshing. And it will always, always disappoint. There’s a reason restaurants serve ice water instead of, I don’t know, snow: water is something you drink, snow is something you eat. You don’t eat a cocktail.
Don’t even get me started on frosé...
This article originally ran on May 30, 2017.