Frozen Drinks Go Top Shelf

The convenience-store Icee machine is now behind dozens of America’s best bars, helping mixologists create a new breed of cocktail—the sophisticated frozen drink.


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Photo by Megan Baggott

To wrap your head around how the low-brow slushie machine is fast becoming a fixture in America’s high-brow drinking dens you need to understand one of the key bars fueling this frozen-treat trend—the ever-paradoxical Mother’s Ruin in New York City.

It’s a dive bar—raucous, open until 4 am, and thick with the musty smell of stale beer. Yet it sits in the heart of Nolita, one of Manhattan’s quietest and most stylish neighborhoods. Its main beer is canned, el cheapo Tecate, but ­everything else it serves up, from the cocktails and bar bites to the music it blasts, is ­often several steps ahead of the trends.

So it’s fitting, perfect perhaps, that at the end of this dichotomous bar sits a 7-Eleven-style Slurpee machine swirling icy, top-shelf concoctions of ­mixology wonderment.

Necessity was the, ahem, mother of Mother’s Ruin’s invention. In 2011, T.J. Lynch,  co-owner, wanted  to put a frozen Paloma—with five-chili molasses—on the brunch menu.

“But we didn’t have a blender, and we didn’t want one blowing up on the bar. Too loud,” Lynch says. “We don’t like having any rules, really. Too much of the drink game is uptight these days. So, we decided on a slushie machine.”

Since then, Mother’s, as regulars call it, has batched more than 230 different slushies, offering a new high-end brain freeze every week. Two past hits include the Paloma and a Banana’s Foster slushie, made with two different rums, lime juice, bananas, white Creme de Cacao, dry Curaçao and burnt-sugar syrup.

Now, bars across the country are following suit, buying into the very simple idea of using quality ingredients to create complex, boozed-up Slurpees.  

Frozen Solids

Brave the brain freeze here...

Mother’s Ruin | New York City
The order: Whatever they’re slushing up that week

The Knock Back | Portland, Oregon
The order:  Olmeca Altos ­Paloma, with reposado Tequila, a red grapefruit-lime cordial and morita chipotle pepper salt

The Gibson | Washington, D.C.
The order:  George’s Vacation, with Bourbon, mango, sage, Thai chili and lemon

Artusi | Seattle
The order: 20th Century Queen, with gin, Cocchi Americano, Cocchi Rosa, pineapple, lime, lemon and cacao nibs

Drumbar | Chicago
The order: Horchata slushie, with Cognac, rum, vanilla, rice, cinnamon and milk 

Nights & Weekends | Brooklyn, New York
The order:  The Slushie Del Dia (frozen drink of the day)

Check out other boozy frozen treats from around the country >>>

Make your own Negroni-inspired slushie at home >>>

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