Go ahead and add ice to the wine.
Slushies have advanced from a kitschy craft cocktail fad to full-on summertime staple status as bartenders are now adding bottles of wine to the mix.
“Wine slushies are extremely versatile and have tons of flavor,” says Cat Seger, bar manager at urban winery The Infinite Monkey Theorem in Austin, Texas. “It’s a great summer drink and a nice, refreshing way to drink wine.”
Rose, a varietal that has been riding the summertime trend circuit for the past few years, was the obvious first pick for many, creating its own buzz dubbed “frose.” Last summer, Chef-partner Kelly Fields added frose to the menu at her New Orleans restaurant Willa Jean after a friend sent a Snapchat of her frozen rose. The slushie, called Frose Y’all, was an instant hit.
“I was on a serious rose kick,” says Fields. “I had rose in the (slushie) machine within the hour.” Although lighter summer wines like rose, prosecco and fruit wines made from summer fruits like peaches and blackberries are the staples of wine slushies; bolder wines can also be turned into frozen favorites. At The Infinite Monkey Theorem, Seger serves up slushies made with merlot and muscat.
Seger experimented with different ratios of wine and simple syrup for the right flavor and consistency to avoid a watery and overly sweet drink. He prefers simple syrup over ice because it dilutes the flavor of the wine less than ice. Her go-to ratio is three to four ounces of simple syrup in a three-liter pitcher of wine.
When it comes to wine, balance quality and budget-friendly with percentage of product cost and the pricing that your customers will tolerate. “You don’t want high-end rose for this, but you don’t want the cheap stuff either. The beauty of this drink is its simplicity,” Fields says.
Don’t feel limited to wine and simple syrup to make a solid mix. Sangria or other ingredients like soda, fresh fruit, herbs and liqueurs can create an excellent summertime slush. Glassware is also an important consideration. Colorful frozen drinks served in traditional or stem-less wine glasses, champagne glasses and even mason jars are guaranteed to turn heads and more than the ones you’d think.
The wine slushies became so popular that Seger often refills the machine multiple times in a single shift to keep wine slushies flowing. A single batch makes 30 to 40 slushies, taking up to 20 minutes for the machine to turn the wine and simple syrup mixture into a slushie. With drinks ranging between $8 at The Infinite Monkey Theorem and $11 at Willa Jean, it stacks up to solid profits.
Still, reaping the benefits of high-turnover isn’t without a few pitfalls. Space becomes an issue for housing large slushie machines, which is why The Infinite Monkey Theorem rents a margarita machine to make its wine slushies.
The cost to purchase a slushie machine ranges from $800 to upwards of $4,100. Rentals range from $45 to $400 per month. To keep up with demand and offer multiple flavors, Seger is considering renting a second machine this summer for a drier, spicier or heavier wine for a different flavor profile.
Before you go all in, remember that you don’t need a slushie maker or margarita machine to create wine slushies. A blender works; it’s just not as fast. But if customers are hooked, you might find them coming in year-round like Seger and Fields.
“Customers start asking in February when we’re bringing them back,” Seger says.
Recipe by Chef-partner Kelly Fields
Willa Jean, New Orleans,
¾ cup chilled rose
4 cups ice
¼ cup simple syrup
Combine ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. Pour into a wine glass and serve with a straw. Makes 1 serving.
Jodi Helmer is a North Carolina-based journalist and beekeeper. She would never eat (or sell) fake honey.