Frozen drinks are, more than anything, fun. But that doesn’t mean they have to be cloyingly sweet and super strong. Like all good cocktails, the best are well-balanced and made with fresh juices and good booze. The best also come from proper slushie machines, instead of blenders. Even when a bar has a fancy, Vitamix-style blender, the drinks don’t tend to be as smooth or well-mixed. Also: We’re not sure why bars offer frozens from a blender, if the bartender is salty every time about making them. (New York has fewer offenders about this than you might think, really, but the grumps are out there.) Frozens may take a lot of time to batch initially, but pouring them from a slushie machine takes about ten seconds, so nobody’s upset when you order these cool cocktails. Here, the absolute best frozen drinks in New York.
2. Sally Roots’ Sundowner
195 Wyckoff Ave., nr. Harman St., Bushwick; 347-425-0888
Frozen drinks feel perfect for Sally Roots — they complement the restaurant’s joyful spirit. (You’d be hard-pressed to find a more fun restaurant in New York right now. When we walked in recently, we were greeted with a baby shot of rum; the staff was dancing to the Ludacris and Missy Elliott songs that played over the speakers, while serving up plates of Caribbean food; and bartenders were handing out logo’ed casino visors.) There are two great options, poured from an Omega Freeze machine into Hurricane glasses. Our favorite was the Sundowner, which uses coconut cream, lime, a blend of rums, and pineapple, orange, and guava. It’s creamy; it’s smooth; it’s juicy; it’s especially, and delightfully, coconutty. You can easily drink … a lot, since it’s not too sweet or expensive ($9), and you will want to.
3. Bed Vyne’s Good Boy
305 Halsey St., nr. Throop Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant; 347-787-4860
The drink poured from the slushie machine here changes often, but it’s usually great. A recent one we loved was the Good Boy, which used rum and rosebud syrup — making it sweet and gentle, less acidic-tasting than frozens filled with fruit juice. Order some ribs next door, then grab this cocktail at the bar and head to the backyard. Bonus: It’s only $8.
4. Fuku’s Lychee Soju Slushie
163 First Ave., nr. 10th St.; no phone
Virtues of this drink: The great, tangy-floral lychee flavor, which is something you don’t see a lot in frozen drinks, is super prominent; it’s smoother than any other frozen we tasted; it comes in a little tumbler with a domed lid that’s small enough to be cheap ($6.50) and totally manageable, refreshing without being overwhelming. Also, another rarity in New York, Fuku has a booze-free option, a strawberry-lemonade slushie.
5. Suffolk Arms’ Grasshopper
269 E. Houston St., at Suffolk St.; 212-475-0400
A frozen cocktail that tastes like a Thin Mint. As the menu will tell you, it’s the invention of Jeffrey Morgenthaler (the bar manager at Portland’s Clyde Common). It uses vanilla ice cream as its base — plus mint, chocolate, and Fernet — and it’s blended to order. It’s delicious, and — controversial opinion — it’s one of very few cocktails we’ve ever tried whose taste was improved by a metal straw (this one is extra-wide). More bars should serve their frozens with them, because the drink runs smoothly, never getting stuck as you suck it up, and there’s never the problem of a tiny hole or break in the straw that makes the cocktail impossible to drink. $15.
Bungalow Bar’s Frozens
377 Beach 92nd St., Rockaway Beach; 718-945-2100
The slushies change, but the frozen lemonade ($7) from the bar on the deck, which overlooks Jamaica Bay, is usually available: It’s sweet and tangy, and coupled with post-sunbathing dehydration, it will have you buzzed and A-train ready after just one or two.
27 Broadway, at Dunham Pl., Williamsburg; 646-568-6622
The idea is a sort of piña colada with Branca Menta, so you’ve got lots of the ingredients you’d expect to see in frozens — Appleton rum, pineapple, coconut cream — and then that minty digestif, which is less expected, but makes this drink ($12) unmissable in the city’s slushie-scape.
Skinny Dennis’s Willie’s Frozen Coffee
152 Metropolitan Ave., at Berry St., Williamsburg; 212-555-1212
Skinny Dennis calls its popular coffee-liqueur-and-bourbon frozen “that coffee thing,” and serves it in an old-school diner coffee cup ($7). So: This bar doesn’t take itself too seriously. But the drink is seriously good! (Sorry.) It’s creamy from dairy, and sweet but not syrupy — about “two sugars” level, maybe. The coffee flavor is excellent, doubled down with a sprinkle of grounds on top. It tastes a lot like the most famous version of this drink, the one on offer at Erin Rose in New Orleans.