While most of the country is easing into autumn, temperatures are still reaching over 90 degrees in Austin, Texas, where September can often prove to be on par with August in terms of heat. Luckily, there is cold comfort to be found around town in the form of delicious frozen drinks that elevate blended ice and alcohol to a new level.
El Monumento, located just north of Austin in Georgetown, serves upscale, interior Mexican cuisine with a focus on fresh, high-quality ingredients. The place also takes margaritas so seriously that their bar features a teal, hand-cranked Japanese shaved ice machine used to create a mound of soft snow from a large block of ice. Bartenders then add 100-percent blue agave blanco tequila, all-natural triple sec and freshly squeezed lime juice, creating a citrus-infused, salt-rimmed adult snow cone.
“The machine allows us to vary the coarseness of the shaved ice from an almost snow-like consistency to a chunkier, scraped ice texture,” say Jeremy Corn, El Monumento’s beverage director. “Often, frozen drinks that come out of the traditional slushee machines you see in other restaurants are over-diluted, making watered-down drinks. Because we make all our frozen drinks by hand and to order, we can be sure that each is iced to the perfect amount.”
Though no one else boasts that kind of mechanical ingenuity, there are still plenty of other establishments around town where you can enjoy a classy and creative icy cocktail. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best:
The watering hole inside this rustic-chic old house opened in 2009, becoming the first business of its kind on Rainey Street. The area has since grown into an all-out entertainment district. “The bar that started it all” offers a frozen Orange Crush that’s simply made with local Dripping Springs vodka and fresh-squeezed orange juice — no added sugar. Bar manager Chet Flowers created this fruity treat after being inspired by a trip to the Virgin Islands.
This May-opened, high-end Tex-Mex restaurant on West Sixth Street uses only the freshest fruit juices and highest quality wines and liquors in their drinks. For example, the Sangarita is made with Cinco vodka, which starts from water that is naturally filtered through Cordova Cream limestone beneath San Antonio.
Diners flock to South Congress for natural fried chicken and grilled Gulf oysters at Lucy’s — though a bigger second location opened on Burnet Road in early September — and nothing washes down those treats better than their popular Juicy Lucy, a satisfying frozen watermelon margarita that has become synonymous with this chicken joint.
While known for its daily brunch specials such as crab cakes Benedict and carrot cake French toast, this modest SoCo establishment prides itself on its drinks, too. And since alcoholic beverages go hand-in-hand with brunch, that gives you every right to order one of the raved-about frozen blackberry mojitos as well as something to eat.
A bar appropriately situated in one of the revamped houses on the aforementioned Rainey Street, Bungalow adds a bit of flavor to the area with its Ruby Red Frozens, a beloved concoction made with locally distilled Deep Eddy ruby red grapefruit vodka and Blue Nectar silver tequila.
The Iron Whip drink (orange and vanilla vodka and orange juice) was so popular at the former Iron Gate bar that when the Social Club took over the space, they decided to keep the machine Iron Gate used to produce the dessert-like tipple. This frozen Creamsicle gets even tastier when you top it with a whipped cream vodka floater.
There’s a reason El Alma’s Margarita Chilanga has won awards both locally (Austin Chronicle, Austin Examiner) and nationally (Food & Wine, Serious Eats). Their blend of special house-made margarita mix, orange juice and Tabasco sauce is rimmed with smoky house-made chili powder, making for a perfect balance of sweet and spicy.
This is the only place in Austin to find Tex-Mex with a Polynesian twist, complete with tiki torches and a grass-thatched palapa bar right along the water. There’s also no better place to watch the sunset over Lake Austin, especially after you order the Halea Kalada, their fruity, creamy take on a classic piña colada.
Located in Austin’s Red River district, this stop is one of the best mid-sized venues in town for seeing live music. It boasts both indoor and outdoor stages, as well as two levels of rooftop balconies. They’ve also been offering rotating flavors of well-balanced frozen drinks the past few months, such as a refreshing Southern peach tea (Deep Eddy sweet tea vodka and peach and orange juice) and a perfectly strong hurricane (rum, orange liqueur, passion fruit and pineapple juice) — hopefully, the only kind we’ll see in Texas this season.
Photos Courtesy of Reagan Hackleman, Lucy’s Fried Chicken and El Alma