Foodie hipsters are urging us to set aside childish fluorescent e-numbered ice-lollies and move on to adult gourmet versions made with fresh ingredients, no additives and minimal sugar. Artisan ‘popsicles’ are big news in the States, and now British companies such London’s Ice Kitchen are popping up at trendy street-food markets peddling this increasingly popular frozen accessory.
Naturally, my curiosity was piqued by the alcoholic popsicle sub-genre known as ‘poptails’ (popsicles + cocktails) because, as we all know, alcohol doesn’t freeze. Wine- and beer-based poptails, relatively low in alcohol, freeze quite happily, but how to graft a Screwdriver (vodka and orange juice) onto a stick without risking lolly collapse?
Summer party drink ideas
There are two distinctly different approaches put forward by London-based food stylist Laura Fyfe and American food blogger Erin Nichols. In Poptails: Over 40 Alcohol-Infused Popsicles, Ices and Slushes (Spruce, £8.99), Fyfe says all will be well if you do not exceed a booze:juice ratio of 1:4. ‘They taste more alcoholic than they actually are,’ she says, ‘as freezing dulls the fruit taste more than it does the alcohol.’ She insists, however, that you use wooden lolly sticks, as opposed to plastic, as they provide essential traction at the pivotal moment of lolly retrieval.
Nichols, meanwhile, in her tome Poptails: 60 Boozy Treats Served on a Stick (PGW, £12.62), prefers the nuclear option of boiling away most of the alcohol from spirits then allowing it to cool before freezing. About two minutes’ vigorous bubbling should do the trick. Her rule of thumb is that one cup of spirits yields about three-quarters of a cup of ‘prepared’ spirit. Neither version will give you a hangover.
I tested both methods on one of Fyfe’s recipes, Gin Zing (see below), adjusting booze levels for the Nichols formula, and can happily report that both produce serviceable poptails, which is quite exciting in itself. Nichols’ poptails, made with ‘prepared’ gin, had a firmer icier texture; Fyfe’s version, made with ‘proper’ gin, had a looser, more sorbet-like texture, which melted more quickly but with, perhaps, a little more evidence of gin. Both popsicles had floral, grapey, summery flavours without cloying sugariness, with elderflower to the fore. Sadly, neither tasted very alcoholic.
Stand aside Lolly Gobble Choc Bomb; make way for sophistication on a stick.
Try this recipe for elderflower gin
Tips for making your own alcoholic ice lollies
- If you can drink it, you can freeze it. Create your own poptails or google “endless poptails” and “delish poptails” for recipe suggestions like Watermelon Mojito and Dirty Pirate (rum, coke and Kahlua)
- Leave a little space in molds to allow for expansion from freezing
- Place molds in warm water to facilitate popsicle retrieval
- Leave fizzy drinks (lemonade, sparkling wine, etc) to go flat overnight before using
- 37.5% spirits are more freezer-friendly than 40% spirits
- Try using plastic cups instead of molds
Gin Zing recipe
Makes 6 gin lollies
- 2½ cups (375g) chopped cucumber
- 1 cup (250ml) elderflower cordial
- ½ cup (120ml) gin / or ¾ (180ml) cup of ‘prepared’ gin
Blitz the cucumber and elderflower cordial until smooth and fine-strain it into a bowl.
Stir half of the pulp back into the mixture, then mix in the gin and pour into molds.
If you’re using wooden sticks, as Fyfe recommends, let them set in the freezer for three hours then give them a stir before inserting sticks.
Leave in the freezer overnight.