It’s the middle of a very hot summer in London. Britain’s capital just got over a heat wave and another one looms, with temperatures forecast to hit a scorching 35 degrees celsius, in a town where air-conditioning is not a norm in most houses and flats.
As it happens, London is also in the midst of a veritable frozen drink revolution, with several notable bars taking control of slushie machines to make fun summer drinks for grown-ups. The trend gained traction during the pandemic, when enterprising bar owners saw this as a way to increase to-go drink sales.
“We created the frosé paloma during the lockdown, when we couldn’t have people in the bar, and it was a great takeaway option,” says Sergio Leanza, who serves the drink at his Peckham bar Funkidory. Back then, he borrowed a friend’s slushie machine; now he has his own. “We have definitely seen a huge increase in sales since the hot weather began," he says.
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At Hacha, a frozen version of the Mexican rice drink horchata spiked with mezcal is extremely popular right now, according to owner Deano Moncreiffe. And at Tayer Elementary, No. 2 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, yuzu margaritas beat the heat. “At the moment, we do around 250 liters a week, so it’s safe to say it’s extra popular when it’s hot outside,” says co-owner Monica Berg.
Today, when an icy cold martini can’t cool you enough, the following eight cocktails are among the best frozen drinks in London.
Yuzu Frozen Margarita, Tayer Elementary
There’s a pair of frozen drink machines behind the counter at Elementary, the casual half of the brilliant dual bar concept from Berg and Alex Kratena. One of the machines is dedicated to rum-and-coconut spiked frozen coffee. The other one turns out seasonal drinks, usually the drink of the summer: a slushy margarita, with tequila, a gentle bump of sake, and sweet, fragrant citrus yuzu.
Frozen Garibaldi, Silver Lining
The surprise specialty at this popular skin-contact wine bar and bottle shop that opened in Hackney at the start of the pandemic is the frozen Garibaldi. The eye-catching, coral-colored drink is a mix of bittersweet Campari and fresh orange juice and available to go for prime people watching at nearby London Fields. Also on offer to drink in-house or take away: frozen strawberry daiquiris.
Mojito Sgroppino, Coupette
The long, narrow, atmospheric bar in Bethnal Green has become a destination for the Champagne Pina Colada, a vacation in a glass made with agricole rhum and a couple scoops of coconut sorbet. Even better is the mojito sgroppino made by bar manager Andrei Marcu; it’s a brilliant combination of the iconic Cuban and Italian cocktails.
Prosecco Slushie With Lemon and Grappa, Pastaio
Central London’s favorite pasta spot, Pastaio, has introduced the hot weather-friendly Soho Slushie Series, with rotating flavors and the occasional collaboration. The latest installment features a mashup with coffee specialists Climpson & Sons. There are two choices: a boozy, tangy lemon, prosecco, and grappa concoction, and a take on the ubiquitous espresso martini, with the added bonus of an amaro shot.
Frosé Palomas, Funkidory
At South London hotspot Funkidory, the Frosé Paloma is made with homemade pink grapefruit cordial, agave blanco tequila, and a natural rosé wine to achieve an unlikely edge. Unlike places that turn on the frozen drink machine only in summertime, this Peckham joint serves the sublime slushie all year, but it’s in greatest demand in hot weather.
Frozen Margarita, the Red Lion and Sun
This North London pub started serving its classic frozen margarita from a big-wheeled green cart during the first lockdown in 2020; owner Heath Ball says they have been a “runaway success.” The Red Lion and Sun has since become the UK’s biggest account for Tequila Ocho. The margaritas are generously poured, with the ideal ratio of lime to tequila. Get one of the drinks to take away, and saunter down to nearby Hampstead Heath to soak up the sunshine, while it’s still here.
Aperol Spritz Slushie, Double Standard
If there’s anything better than an Aperol Spritz on a sunny day, it’s an Aperol Spritz slushie with a spectacular view. The rooftop bar of the Standard in Kings Cross offers a panoramic vista of London’s skyline to accompany the bar’s take on the classic Northern Italian summer drink in slushie form for £12, and it’s also available at Double Standard, the hotel’s stellar bar and terrace. If you’ve already had enough spritzes this summer, try a sparkling wine-infused colada or the Porn Star slushie, with vodka and passionfruit.
Horchata Colada, Hacha Bar
The agave specialists at the bright, plant-lined Hacha, in Dalston, have a noteworthy addition to accompany their list of award-winning margaritas: frozen house horchata, turned into a colada by adding pineapple and coconut, along with a generous splash of mezcal. It’s an icy twist on a cocktail that owner Moncrieffe made when the place opened in 2019. “I took it off the menu—then I had to bring it back, by customer demand,” he says.