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Blend a Better Brain Freeze: Tame the Summer Heat With These Homemade Frozen Drinks 

click to enlarge The Frozen Negroni puts a brain-freezing spin on the Italian classic. - RON BECHTOL
  • Ron Bechtol
  • The Frozen Negroni puts a brain-freezing spin on the Italian classic.
A wise person once opined that many of the best things in life are frozen. That person was probably imagining ice cream, gelato, paletas or even Dreamsicles. Definitely not slushy drinks made with sugary, pre-packaged margarita mix.

Here’s a late-breaking news flash for you: there’s a way to a better brain freeze.

Several ways, for that matter. But most of them start with one simple rule: the colder your non-ice ingredients are, the better. Beyond that, the colder they are, the less diluted your drink will be. Yes, this means thinking ahead at least four hours so the base can go in the freezer or refrigerator. But what else do you have to occupy your time these days?

In the interest of keeping aspiring home bartenders busy and beating back a scorching summer, here are three frozen drinks I experimented with on a couple of otherwise listless afternoons. Knowing — as you soon will — that the taste buds perceive sweetness and bitterness less with a cold drink, feel free to adjust any of them accordingly.

As I dabbled, I realized I’d need to make some adjustments right off the bat. Case in point: I adapted the following Ultra Tropical Piña Colada recipe from Serious Eats, a site known for its rigorous testing. But their advice to “transfer to freezer until frozen” for the sans-rum base mix resulted in a solidly frozen block that needed to be partly defrosted to work in my blender.

So, I’d suggest leaving the mix it in the freezer until just beginning to firm up. Do put the rum in the freezer, though. The recipe makes one large drink, but it can be scaled up depending on the size of your blender.

Ultra Tropical Piña Colada

1¾ cup very ripe cored and peeled pineapple, cut into cubes, or frozen cubed pineapple
1¾ oz. unsweetened coconut cream, shaken — not Coco Lopez
1 oz. simple syrup made with equal parts sugar and water
1 oz. fresh lime juice (Start with ¾ oz. and taste)
2½ oz. white rum, freezer cold
4 oz. ice cubes by weight
Paper umbrellas or your preferred tropical garnish

Put first four ingredients in air-tight container and chill in freezer at least one hour. Place in blender with rum and ice and blend until just slushy. Taste, add more lime juice if desired, blend briefly and add your tropical garnish. This was a beautiful drink when it finally came together.

Serious Eats also supplied the base recipe for the Frozen Negroni, a drink I have enjoyed frequently in its stirred-with-ice form. Typically, I break from the standard 1:1:1 ratio of gin to Campari to Carpano Antica vermouth. Serious Eats strays even more than I do in the gin direction, but I followed the recipe just to see what happened. I also split the Campari half-and-half with another amaro, Ramazzotti, but you could use any number of modifiers such as Averna. Play around here.

Frozen Negroni

4½ oz. gin
2½ oz. Campari
2½ oz. Carpano Antica
3 cups cracked ice

Chill first three ingredients in freezer — don’t worry, the mix won’t freeze solid. Add to blender with ice. Blend at high speed until slushy, taste for sweetness, and add simple syrup to your taste. Pout into rocks or small wine glass.

As done, I found this drink in need of a little sweetener to balance the gin and bitter Campari, so added 1 oz. simple syrup. If you agree, you might want to start with ½ oz.

Our next drink comes from the New York Times. I reduced the quantity to serve three or four, as below, but otherwise wouldn’t change a thing.

Frozen Tom Collins

4 oz. gin
3 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 oz. simple syrup, made with equal parts sugar and water
2 ½ or 3 cups cracked ice

Chill the first three ingredients overnight or freeze them for a couple of hours. Put in blender with the cracked ice, blend at high speed. Serve with lime wedge, lemon wheel or your garnish of choice. A straw might be helpful.

For the record, the drink with the highest potential for brain freeze? The Frozen Negroni. No Idea why. Perhaps more experimentation is in order.

So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest San Antonio dining news with our Flavor Friday Newsletter.

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