How to Make the Best Freezer Cocktails, According to Experts
The brilliance of the pre-batched cocktail lies in both its efficiency and consistency. Prepared and frozen ahead of time, the next day’s ready-to-pour cocktail yields a richer mouthfeel than one stirred à la minute, all while effortlessly achieving that coveted ice-cold temperature—without any ice.
Bypassing any stirring, shaking or straining, this plan-ahead approach can be applied to just about any spirit-forward recipe. Once nestled in the freezer overnight, the cocktails are on standby and ready to be poured at a moment’s notice. As demonstrated in Dukes’ world-renowned Martini and Le Rock’s obsession-worthy Alaska, a cocktail’s time in the freezer not only frees up the drink-maker from staffing the home bar, but also transforms the drink’s texture into something more lush and creamy, muting the harsher characteristics of high-proof spirits such as gin or vodka.
Bottling your cocktail allows another less-expected outcome as well—making room for subtle infusions that are otherwise impossible in single-serving drinks. Even a few dashes of rose water or spicy bitters can add floral notes or a hint of heat. Armed with a proper bottling setup (no more than a freezer-safe bottle and an airtight cap), the possibilities are endless.
Vodka infused with manzanilla olives and pickled green peppercorns form the base of this dirty Martini.
Generally, spirit-forward, stirred cocktails are most conducive to pre-batching and freezing since their higher alcohol content prevents the drink from simply turning into an icy, slushy mixture. Of the usual suspects, the Martini is an obvious choice, and its riffs are likewise fair game—the herbal-leaning Alaska, or the sherry-accented Tuxedo, for example, as well as Amor y Amargo’s lightly bitter River Tam. Gin’s cooling botanical nature fares well in a freezer-friendly Negroni, too. Other classics that call for aged spirits (like an Old-Fashioned, Sazerac or Manhattan) are also prime for a pre-batch and freeze. In short, if it’s boozy and shelf-stable, throw it in the freezer.
Since batching and freezing skips the stirring step altogether, it’s essential to calculate water dilution as part of the recipe. William Elliott, bar director of Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere and the now-shuttered Sauvage, recommends one and a quarter ounce of water per serving in his bar’s pre-batched Martini and Stinger, though only three-quarters of an ounce for each Negroni serving, which has a lower alcohol content thanks to the Campari and vermouth components. A good rule of thumb, according to bartender Iain McPherson, who has dedicated many hours to harnessing the power of the freezer in his cocktail techniques, is to plan on adding somewhere between 20 percent to 25 percent of the total volume as dilution, aiming for the upper end of that range for drinks with a higher ABV.
But the most important factor, he notes, goes beyond dilution. “The thing most people usually overlook is simply adjusting the freezer temperature,” he explains, citing an ideal range somewhere between 10 and 14 degrees Fahrenheit. (If your freezer only has a dial with imprecise settings, try measuring the temperature using a bulb-style thermometer for at least 12 hours before taking a reading.) “This means you can pre-dilute and still have a super cold Martini without it turning to slush or freezing solid.”
To keep your bottled drinks airtight, you’ll need crown caps or pop tops. Crown caps are best suited for bottles designed for fewer servings since they do not reseal, whereas pop tops (aka swing tops) can easily be resealed and stuck back in the freezer for a later date. If you’re going the crown cap route, don’t forget the bottle capper.