Happy hour just got a whole lot cooler.

By Mary Tomlinson
April 04, 2018
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 Photo: Greg DuPree; Styling: Margaret Monroe Dickey

Pineapple-packed piña coladas, milkshake-like Bushwackers, and daiquiris in every fruity hue—nothing cools down a steamy beach day quite like a frozen cocktail. A trusty blender gets the job done when mixing up these boozy treats, but the secret to the smoothest frozen cocktails comes from an oft-neglected kitchen tool: the ice cream machine.

Yes, remember that contraption you bought, used once, and then promptly tucked behind the Magic Bullet and that dusty George Foreman grill? Well, time to excavate it and give its rightful spot at the bar, says Karen Rankin, Coastal Living Test Kitchen recipe developer.

“When you’re making a cocktail in a blender, you’re adding the ice to make it cold, and you have to be careful not to water it down,” says Rankin. “In an ice cream machine, the consistency is smoother and more uniform, making it reminiscent of an ICEE.”

Whoa, a make-your-own boozy ICEE? *Cue frantically searching through closets for the ice cream machine*

Related: How to Make Frosé 

The key distinction between a blender and an ice cream machine is ice keeps the blended cocktails chilled, whereas an ice cream machine actually freezes the ingredients. This means recipes for the two aren’t immediately interchangeable. Lucky for you, we wrote a Frozen Margarita recipe specifically for that context.

Photo: Johnny Miller; Styling: Erin Swift; Recipe: Julia Rutland

For home bartenders, we recommend a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. Anticipate it taking 30 to 40 minutes to make a batch—admittedly longer than in a traditional blender, but worth it for the supremely sippable results.

Once you’ve mastered the Frozen Margarita, graduate onto wine slushies (like this Mango F’rosé, which Rankin attests works well in an ice cream machine), our Spiked Vietnamese Coffee Frappe, and come holiday season, Coconut Eggnog.