Though I remain a staunch critic of margaritas — particularly frozen margaritas — that doesn’t mean I hate all frozen drinks. In fact, a restaurant just moved into my neighborhood that makes a mean frozen negroni, and I’ve been thinking about buying a blender just so I can recreate it at home.
However, it seems silly to make a frozen cocktail in the same bullet blender I use to make smoothies and salad dressing. So what should I look for when buying a blender specifically for frozen drinks?
“Frozen drinks are fun, but they can be hell on the wrong equipment,” says Chris Bidmead, a 15-year veteran of the cocktail industry and founder of Bar Methods. “First and foremost, you need a reliable motor — breaking up ice and blending ingredients puts a lot of strain on a motor. You need a blender that offers variable speeds, too, since slower speeds are great for mixing, where middle speeds are perfect for breaking up ice and high speeds give everything a smooth consistent texture.”
Don’t neglect the blender container shape and size either. “Wider and larger containers require more ingredients to work efficiently,” Bidmead explains, “where smaller narrower containers are great for smaller servings.”
With that in mind, what’s the best blender for frozen drinks? Here’s what a few veteran bartenders and professional chefs had to say…
If you’re looking for a blender exclusively to make frozen cocktails, and only frozen cocktails, then Shawn Zipay, mixologist and purveyor of Cocktails with Class, recommends the Margaritaville Key West Concoction Mixer. “Although you can use most regular blenders for making your daiquiris and frozen margaritas, the only blender I personally use is the Margaritaville Key West Concoction Mixer,” he says. “This workhorse blender is perfect for mixing all types of cocktails and is powerful enough to quickly pump out drink after drink for parties and large crowds.”
More specifically, he continues, “Unlike other blenders, this one is better about helping you measure out one to three drinks in one go depending on the settings you choose, and the new version has a spout so you can pour directly into your glass from the pitcher easily without removing the lid.”
“I’ve personally tested dozens of blenders over the years. In my opinion, when it comes to frozen drinks, you need a blender with a powerful motor and a good tamper,” says Peter Lipson, founder of culinary equipment review website Kitchenda. “Lots of frozen fruit can strain weaker motors and very thick frozen drinks tend to form air pockets around the blades, but a good tamper can disturb the flow enough to prevent this from happening.”
Therefore, Lipson recommends the Vitamix A2300: “It’s everything you want in a blender without all the unnecessary bells and whistles.”
Taking into consideration motor strength, pitcher size and blending speeds, Bidmead also recommends the Vitamix E310. “It’s my go-to blender, and the one I use every day,” he says. “It has the strength and durability to last and the controls to make perfect drinks every time.”
“Having the right blender is so important for frozen drinks because without the proper tools, it’s difficult to replicate that smooth and icy blended consistency that people know and love,” says Mike Podlogar of Boardroom Spirits. “Thus, for bigger batches for restaurants or bars, I recommend the Vitamix Commercial Drink Machine Advance Blender because it has a strong pulse that can handle drinks ranging from smoothies to thick milkshakes.”
For a more budget-friendly but high-quality blender, Podlogar recommends the Breville Fresh & Furious Blender from William Sonoma. “It’s very user-friendly, but it still has the blades to create that frozen drink texture that’s desired.”
“There are a lot of blenders out there with more buttons, features and infomercial airtime, but after working in professional kitchens for over a decade, the Vitamix 5200 is the only blender I ever actually found in a kitchen or behind the bar,” says chef William Mack. “And it’s everything you want for your frozen cocktail needs.”
“The square pitcher creates a more efficient vortex compared to round ones so that everything gets blended evenly, and you can get a blade specifically made for ice,” he explains. “If the motor can stand up to hours of use in a restaurant kitchen, it can handle drinks for a quiet get-together or a backyard rager. Plus, if you somehow manage to break it, just about every part is replaceable.”