The Best Summer Cocktails Come From The Ice Cream Maker

Welcome to Turn Off The Oven Week, featuring creative ways to beat the heat and stay far away from your stovetop.

If you believe that the best drinks arrive garnished with paper umbrellas and that God intended they should be sipped while you drift in a pool floatie, then you're probably on very close terms with your blender these days. But this summer may be a good time to give the poor old blender a rest and get out the ice cream maker instead.

Yes, that ice cream maker, the one that's probably sitting in a closet, feeling a little left out every time it hears the blender whir. It's a proven fact that ice cream maker drinks are 312.6% better than anything made in a blender. Undiluted by the addition of ice cubes and churned slowly to creamy perfection, they combine the buzz of a brain freeze with the boozy jolt of a well-made adult beverage. If you're really interested in super-sippable frozen drinks, your ice cream maker is your new best bartending friend.

How to get started

We're not going to lie to you: There's some advance planning required because the ice cream maker must be super-cold before you can begin—like, overnight-in-the-freezer cold.

"I keep my ice cream maker's can in the freezer all the time, so I'm always ready to go," says Shelagh Mullen, chef and blogger at SheCooks.Design. "And if you find you're using it a lot, you can always invest in a second one as backup. Plus, it makes a great pre-chilled wine cooler in a pinch." Mullen suggests you make sure all your ingredients are as cold as possible. Even the alcohol can benefit from a night in the freezer.


This summer, she's been enjoying the Strawberry Bang, made with berries, rum, and pomegranate molasses. "It's like a Wisconsin supper club in a glass," she says. The ice-creaminess just adds to the appeal: "It's a grown-up way to catch a little buzz after dinner."

Put the ice on ice

Making a world-class frozen drink is more than a matter of just transferring ingredients from blender to ice cream maker, says Robin Asbell, a chef and author of 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix. "Remember that ice goes in the blender, but not the ice cream maker," she says. "Swap out the ice in your favorite blender recipe and instead add a little less of that equivalent in water (or juice) to the ice cream maker bowl, along with other ingredients." Just remember, if your blender recipe asks for one cup of ice, use a little less than one cup of cold water for the mixture you want to churn in the ice cream machine.


Asbell has created a summertime quencher with a citrusy, herby kick: the Lemon-Thyme Slushy, made with vodka, Limoncello, and fresh thyme. The recipe was inspired by a youthful trip to New Orleans, where Asbell was intrigued by the ubiquity of rotating slushy drums in bars and restaurants.

"The basic idea here is that you make a delicious drink, and the alcohol keeps it from freezing solid," she says. "Just think about store-bought slushies. They're always velvety smooth, and the flavors are intense. That's because churning makes smaller particles in the mix, instead of what the blender can do by grinding up ice cubes."


The ice cream maker is the appliance of choice for Leslie Kiszka, blogger at Stress Baking, especially in the summer. "You can just let it churn while you're fixing some tacos, or lying face-down on the cool kitchen floor because it's too hot to be alive," she says. She created her recipe for Frozen Gin and Tonics so that all the ingredients can be added at once.


Pro tip from Kiszka: "Let a whole batch churn up, then scoop out just what you need for round one and leave the rest in the ice cream maker. When it's time for round two, just let it churn again for a couple minutes and you're ready to go."

She's gotten positive feedback about her recipe. "People really like that 'set it and forget it' aspect of putting it in the maker and letting it go for 20 minutes or so. And I've had a number of people say it's so much easier to clean an ice cream maker bowl than a blender."

We need this more than ever

If you're wondering if it's worth the effort to dig out your ice cream maker just for a cold drink or five, we can assure you that it will be a cheap, fun treat, something not many of us are enjoying these days. "Ice cream maker cocktails are a way to get the beach bar experience at home," says Francine Cohen, editor of Inside F&B, a trade magazine and strategic marketing firm for the hospitality industry.


"Frozen drinks are meant to make you happy," Cohen continues. "Think of it—they're generally something you enjoy when you're in a good place with good people. It's a fun and fabulous use of an appliance you may not be using very much otherwise. And I think it's an especially good idea for this summer in particular. It's a totally new time in our world, and unexpected times call for unexpected spirits."

Her own favorite unexpected spirit is the Pisco Punch. "When you're bored with frozen margs and daiquiris, it's time for a Pisco Punch," she says. "It's made with white cognac, which is the national spirit of Peru, and it was popularized in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. So even when you're stuck at home this summer, with this drink, you can still have a bit of history and feel as though you're traveling the world in a glass."


Francine Cohen’s Frozen Pisco Punch (for a crowd) 

  • 1 bottle Caravedo Pisco
  • 9.375 oz. pineapple juice
  • 9.375 oz. simple syrup
  • 6.25 oz. lemon juice
  • 3-5 cups ice water
  • Follow the manufacturer's directions for chilling the bowl of your ice cream machine. In a mixing bowl, combine pisco, simple syrup, lemon juice, and 3 to 4 cups of ice water. Add mixture to the ice cream maker and turn on the machine. Churn until the punch reaches your desired consistency. If it becomes too thick, thin it out with additional ice water.