Tapping into that unselfconscious glee is exactly what Kelly Fields hoped to achieve when she installed a slushy machine at Willa Jean, the bakery/restaurant/bar she and baker Lisa White opened in New Orleans last August under the umbrella of the John Besh Group. After two decades as a pastry chef on the fine dining side, Fields was ready to get "anti-fancy" and insisted that frozen drinks be the hallmark of their new bar program.
Most people don't tend to think of spiked slushies as especially pinky-up drinking (see our bourbon slush recipe). Fields herself recalls a few youthful occasions ending at daiquiri shacks or a prominent Southern chain serving frozen drinks made with 190 proof grain alcohol ("It was a bad night if you ended up there . . . "), and is determined to elevate the experience, without squelching the essential fun. "Coffee culture evolved, and so did cocktails, so why can't this?" Fields reasons.
And that's how frosé came to be. Fields, herself, is a dedicated Negroni drinker (more on those later) but found herself in the minority at her restaurant. The staff does, however, share her obsession with puns and cheered her on as she sent a case of rosé wine and a quart of simple syrup through the machine in early March. One Instagram post later and an obsession was born.
Within a couple of weeks, the pink concoction showed up on Top Chef judge Gail Simmons's feed with the caption "Frosé all day y'all," and nearby office crews began showing up for Frosé Fridays. She's in the process of copyrighting the term and has heard from at least one other drink pro asking for permission to put a "Fields Frosé" on his menu.
While she jokes about a potential follow-up, "Pinot Freezio," she has since added a Beyoncé-themed frozen lemonade, spiked with Cathead honeysuckle vodka, to Willa Jean's regular rotation (a mix of the two drinks is called a frosémonade).
Should Fields peel away from the bar for a hot second, she could happily get her frozen Negroni fix at Chicago's Parson's Chicken & Fish, courtesy of principal bartender Charlie Schott and a slushy machine bought on eBay. He wasn't sure how to make one, but cobbling together a formula, Schott poured the ingredients (Letherbee gin, Luxardo Bitter, sweet vermouth and citrus juice, if you're keeping score) into the machine and crossed his fingers.
"The thing with these frozen drink machines is that they're pretty big. I thought, 'Either this is going to work, or it'll cost $200 in ingredients.' We got it on the first try," Schott says. Since that day in 2013, the restaurant has sold around 100,000 frozen Negronis, Dark and Stormys and a rotating cast of seasonal drinks, and has seen the influence of their high-quality slushies on menus across the country--so much so that the restaurant has appended "The Original" to the name of their Negroni.
Schott attributes the massive success of the frozen drinks to a few factors, one of which is a fondness frozen in time--feeling like a kid again.
"It gives you an opportunity to take the pretense out of cocktails. You can really stand on whether or not it tastes good as opposed to 'Is it authentic?' We are making a high-quality drink that's very accessible. No one is intimidated by a slushy."
If Schott were so inclined to induce his own brain freeze, the culprit would likely be the Mellencamp, a blend of watermelon juice, aquavit and tarragon, which he would love to put on the Parson's menu save for a few prohibitive factors: "Breaking down 20 watermelons, and blending and straining them to get that juice is labor intensive. I would love to see that be on our summer menu if I could find someone to dedicate 12 hours a day to breaking down watermelons."
But doesn't that sound like the coolest job ever?
A few of our favorite boozy slushies:
Frosé at Willa Jean--New Orleans, LA
Frozen French 75 at Superior Seafood--New Orleans, LA
Frozen Negroni and Frozen Purple Drink at Parson's Chicken & Fish--Chicago, IL
Rocket Booster at Satellite Bar--Birmingham, AL
Spicy Lychee Soju Slushy at Momofuku Noodle Bar--NYC
Matty's Disco Lemonade Slush at Pork Slope--Brooklyn, NY (Note: The base of this is made by Kelvin Natural Slush Co., which supplies slush mix for bars and restaurants around the country.)
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