at the bar
Summer Creations from Behind the Bar
By Robert Plotkin
The heat is on! So it is the perfect time to blend your customers’ favorite summertime drink fixings into something spectacular—especially since blended or frozen bebidas are some of the most advantageous drinks you can serve. They’re bigger than most drinks, and have a high perceived value.
Frozen drinks can be made with myriad flavorful ingredients (think fresh fruit, ice cream and liqueurs), and the glassware in which they’re served enhances their appearance. They typically have a lower alcohol content than most other mixed drinks, too, which can positively impact your bar’s bottom line.
How can you tell if a blended drink has been prepared well? A slushy, smooth consistency in which all ice is crushed into tiny pieces and all ingredients (including chunks of fresh fruit) are thoroughly blended is key. Using a high-quality blender is important so the ingredients won’t separate. Separating is common occurrence where the crushed ice rises to the top of the drink and the other ingredients sink to the bottom.
The ratio of liquid ingredients to the amount of ice used will impact consistency. A rule of thumb is to use approximately equal amounts of liquid and ice. Too much ice will make the drink too thick, too little will make it watery and thin. Be sure to use the same amount of ice each time, specifying the amount of ice in scoops and ounces.
Great Options for Summertime Drinks
There are several ways to “summerize” drink menus with blended libations:
*Blended Espresso Shakes and Frozen Cappuccinos. The opportunity to use espresso in blended drinks is an opportunity too rich to pass up. Build a signature drink that starts with frozen cappuccino or Mexican coffee. Try adding a few shots of espresso to your next vanilla milkshake, or blended Brandy Alexander.
*Ice Cream Drinks. Even in this age of health awareness, chefs prepare tempting desserts and customers order them! Spike ice cream with liqueurs and distilled spirits for a drinkable dessert. Vanilla ice cream is frequently used because it provides a neutral base upon which a wide array of flavors can be added. But you can also try frozen yogurt, sherbet and sorbet, then add fresh fruit; chocolate, caramel, and butterscotch syrup; peanut butter; iced coffee or espresso; and crushed cookies and candy bars are other sweet options. The backbar is rich with possibilities including Kahlúa and Tia Maria, or Midori (marvelous when paired with fresh kiwis and lime sherbet, or with papayas and lemon sorbet). Consider pairing coconut rum with chocolate ice cream and Mandarin oranges, or making a specialty float using Malibu, cola and ice cream.
*Adult Smoothies. If smoothies can be customized with nutritious additives, why can’t you doctor them with Kahlúa, Midori or Maker’s Mark? Add chocolate or caramel sauce, coffee, agave nectar, espresso coffee, Reese’s peanut butter cups, candy bars, walnuts, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, grenadine, chai tea, coconut cream, coconut milk, peanut butter, raspberry or strawberry preserves, honey, malted milk powder, maple syrup, cookies, unsweetened coconut and brown sugar to sweeten the cocktail.
*Blended Classics Cocktails. While blended Margaritas, Daiquiris and Piña Coladas get most of the attention, innovators are promoting blended/frozen versions of Long Island Iced Tea, Rum Runners, Mai Tais, Zombies Scorpions and Sangrias. For an effervescent twist, add a splash of Champagne.
*Swirls. Swirling involves preparing two different drinks simultaneously in two different blenders, then pouring them together in the same specialty glass. The key to a great swirl is marrying together two different colored drinks with complementary tastes.
*Frozen Lemonade. Bourbon and frozen lemonade makes an interesting variation on a whiskey sour. Consider blending lemonade with tequila, light or dark rum, Midori or Amaretto.