Slushie is Just Another Word for Alcohol-Infused Goodness

While the adult slushie may be a bit elusive today in the Bay Area, bartenders say it’s a moneymaker that pleases the masses and may become a mainstay.


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Photo by Lance Yamamoto

They’re not as ubiquitous as you might imagine in this age of craft cocktails and signature drinks. Despite being popular, affordable, and delicious, the elusive and exceptional adult slushie is not front and center at every bar across the East Bay. Instead, patrons will most likely come across it by happenstance. Frozen, blended beverages are plentiful and worthwhile in their own regard, but to enjoy a vodka-cherry lemonade churned from an old-school, legitimate slushie machine is a pleasure in its own class.

Telegraph Beer Garden’s general manager Jason Lujick asserted that slushies are special because of their unique texture. “Slushie machines are gently tossing the liquid,” he said. “The center is the cooling unit; it gently turns the ingredients into the slushie.” This results in a perfectly frosty drink that will maintain its composition unlike frozen cocktails. “The slushie,” Luljick explained, “won’t separate.”

At Emeryville’s Rotten City Pizza, manager Douglas Childers noted that the popularity of slushies is due to their exclusivity. Since they’re not widely available, slushies are “a bit of a novelty.”

“It’s just sophisticated enough to give the appearance of extravagance. And it has a pretty good price point: a double shot for $8,” he said.

The slushie machine is an initial expense for bars and restaurants, but it is one that brings a hefty payback. Luljick explained that Telegraph started with one machine after the owner got hooked on frozen beers during a trip to Thailand. Upon returning home, he saw the profitability that the slushie could bring and insisted his bartenders learn to perfect the trade. Now, four years later, his places boasts rotating flavors, including a Cape Cod (cranberry and raspberry juices) and the Moscow Mule (ginger beer and lime) among others.

“We started with the Greyhound. Just grapefruit and vodka. No corn syrup,” he said. “We use several different products like a mango puree, very basic things. I think that’s what makes them so good.”

Slushies are sending profits sky high at The Athletic Club Oakland where they’ve been tantalizing customers since early this summer. “We have 10 signature drinks on our menu,” said manager Tyler Sinclair, “And the slushie is the No. 1 seller.” Using purées, juices, and house-made syrups like pineapple and ginger, Sinclair said the slushies are a hit.

“You don’t see them everywhere. They’re kind of new and novel. And they’re so easy to drink,” he said.

The Athletic Club introduced slushies almost immediately upon opening, and while Sinclair noted the machines come with a high price tag and take up a lot of space, the payoff is well worth it. “We are a high-volume bar. We accommodate 300 people and the slushies are great for our bartenders to get drinks out.” 

Childers agreed that keeping drinks simple and easy is at the heart of the slushie game. “They’re designed to be as simple as possible,” he said. “We have too high of a food volume to make blended drinks. Slushies are a good middle ground. We started off using usual syrups, and it made it a bit gimmicky.” Rotten City has now expanded to more experimental combinations, such as the top-selling lemon-peach-whiskey offering. Rotten City was lucky enough to be gifted a slushie machine by a vendor, and for over a year, it’s been serving up a slew of flavors with slices of premium pie.

Along with a real-deal slushie machine and a focus on basic ingredients, slushie aficionados know the final detail — maybe the key to ultimate slushie success — is balance. “There’s a magic ratio to the ice-sugar-alcohol mix,” said Luljick. “I’m not gonna tell you what that is, ’cause that’s my secret. But you can Google it. It has to be the proper ratio or it will be gritty and the ice crystals will be too large.” To achieve that perfect texture and taste takes practice.

You can purchase an at-home slushie machine and give it a try on your own; just search online for endless recipes and reviews. They’ll no doubt be a slam-dunk with friends, and as Childers noted, “People love sugar and alcohol.” Or if you’d prefer to leave it to the pros, hit up one of the few places that has only to pull a lever to fill your glass full of icy, alcohol-infused goodness. These guys have already mastered the technique, and they know that while the slushie may be elusive today, it’s a moneymaker that pleases the masses and is bound to become a mainstay.

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