Freeze Frame: Chill Out with Three Frozen Drinks This Summer

By / Photography By Michael Fornataro | May 19, 2016
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Gone are the days of frozen beverages made from mystery mixers housed in plastic bottles. Bartenders working the blenders at local restaurants today are forging a fresher path, creating frosty drinks, alcohol-heavy and virgin alike, that utilize natural, high-quality ingredients. Top-shelf liquors and fresh-squeezed fruit juices unify to make for an incredibly refreshing and addicting way to cool off this summer. We’ll be posted up sipping on icy libations every chance we get. Discover the welcome difference in taste at three of our favorite places serving up drinks chilled to perfection, here:



Bar manager Erika Clark keeps a rotating selection of two frozen weekly drink specials on täkō’s menu, typically one mixed with tequila and one with rum, and both made with the same attention and creativity she puts into making all of the restaurant’s craft cocktails. “There is a stigma attached to these [frozen drink dispensers],” she says. “That they’re the bottom of the totem pole. I want people to be excited for a really good cocktail in slushie form. They’re super fun, but they’re also super high-quality.” The proof lies in one of her recent inventions, a frozen Blood Orange Negroni, pictured here, which may be the most drinkable Negroni ever. To keep the focus on the fruitier flavors, she skips the Campari and instead combines Aperol with Tanqueray, orange bitters, and fresh blood orange juice. For the month of June, täkō will feature “red-colored” frozen drinks in support of EAT (RED) DRINK (RED) SAVE LIVES, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting The Global Fund to Fight AIDS. Clark says to look forward to two frozen favorites making an appearance on the menu during this time: a strawberry lemonade and a raspberry lemon margarita, ideal for sipping in the sunshine at one of this hot spot’s sidewalk tables.

täkō, 214 6th St., Downtown. 412.471.8256. 

Square Café

Breaking from the boozy drinks, we found refreshment in the new spring and summer menu at Square Café, where Front of the House Manager Ben Fine is switching up the restaurant’s drink selections with fun, lighter, fruitier flavors, all while incorporating as many local ingredients as possible. The Matcha Watermelon Chillatte, pictured here, immediately caught our eye and the flavors blend together harmoniously, giving a cool, creamy, yet bright effect. “This drink appeals to the more adventurous diner and complements the summer weather,” says owner Sherree Goldstein. We couldn’t agree more. And, just like all of the coffee drinks they brew, the Square Chillattes are made with Kiva Han Coffee. Also on the cooler side, Square Café’s smoothies and shakes range from rejuvenating, like the Matcha Peacha, comprised of spinach, peaches, honey, green yogurt, and matcha, to decadent, like the S’mOreo, which combines two treats — Oreos and s’mores — and is topped with torched marshmallows. All of the smoothies contain About Time vegan vanilla protein powder and can be customized with skim, whole, soy, or almond milk, while the shakes use Dave and Andy's homemade ice cream. Goldstein says they go through 15-20 gallons of ice cream per week, illustrating just how hot these chilled drinks are!

Square Café, 1137 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square. 412.244.8002.

Hidden Harbor

Hidden Harbor’s sweet and tangy frozen banana daiquiri demonstrates the contemporary take on classic tiki cocktails that co-owner and cocktail director Adam Henry aims for at the tropical Squirrel Hill haven, newly opened in January. There’s an element of throwback and an element of theatrics — they use dry ice to freeze the drink, giving a light carbonation effect. Looking to Tony Conigliaro, widely regarded as one of the fathers of modern mixology, Bartender Wes Shonk created the drink for their “Weird Science Wednesdays,” which features a menu of “science-forward reinterpretations.” “Tiki drinks are penetrating the cocktail scene,” says Henry. “The tradition started in the 1930s, but we’re looking at what contemporary tiki means. We didn’t want to be serving all of the same drinks, so we use more than just rum, and we use a lot more clear glasses, which pushes us to produce a prettier color, since tiki drinks are often brown due to the number of ingredients mixed together. They’re very material intensive and many of the ingredients like mango, guava, and passion fruit are out of season. So, it takes a lot of skill.” With a staff that comes from some of the most well-established bar programs in the city, we would argue it takes a lot of passion, too. Fresh ingredients are especially important to their formula — Henry says they go through 600 limes a week and much of the juice used in the cocktails is made from their own juicer in the basement. Though the drinks in the frozen machines are pre-made out of sight, Henry notes that they put in the same care that goes into all of their cocktails. One sip from their newest frozen libation, the Oka Kope Kooler, blended with Boyd and Blair Stonewall Rum, Kona coffee-infused Jamaican rum, lime, banana, cinnamon, green cardamom, and bitters, lets us know that it’s all worth it.

Hidden Harbor, 1708 Shady Ave., Squirrel Hill. 412.422.5040. 

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