Hailed as one of the most influential bartenders on the international bar scene Alex Kratena discusses the controversial slushy machine and changing perceptions.

When we first introduced our slushy machine at Artesian, people called us crazy but just a few years later, the concept of slushy drinks has exploded in popularity.

Some of you might think this is hard to believe, but the concept of slushy drinks is transforming the cocktail making landscape. These revolutionary cocktails are relevant for any bar so it’s time to get to grips with this new technique.

Frozen vs Slushy

It’s not about what these slushy cocktails actually are but rather it’s what you put into them that makes all the difference!

The slushy machine has always had a bad reputation and if you ask anyone about slushy drinks most will describe them as artificially coloured, unbalanced and poorly made. To a huge extent this is correct, unless you are willing to give them a second chance.

If you take the frozen and slushy cocktails separately it will help to conceptualise the difference.

For frozen drinks, the biggest difficulty with them is controlling the amount of ice you are putting into the blender. Uncontrolled amounts of ice lead to inconsistent drinks which are every bartend’s nightmare.

The slushy, on the other hand, will only freeze what you put inside. You will gain exact control of all the elements of a given cocktail - everything from the texture to the temperature and anything else in between.

These are all variables you want to be in charge of and as long as you put amazing ingredients in and correctly set it up, the slushy maker will always deliver great tasting drinks.

Investing in Your Future

If you thinking of investing in a slushy machine you have to consider the following pieces of advice before you buy:

Durability: Go for heavy duty models since they are made to last and provide great service for many years.

Local servicing: Choosing a manufacturer who services your local market is essential to help keep your standards, as well as your cleanliness, high.

Spare parts: It’s vital to keep basic spare parts in stock so your team don’t find themselves in a situation where they are forced to cancel some drinks on your menu.

Maintaining your Slushy Machine

Once you’ve invested it’s important to look after your machine - after all such an investment will be worth a lot of money over the coming months and years. I have two top tips on keeping your cocktail maker happy and in business:

1. It is important to vacuum the filters regularly. If you don’t clean the air filters bi-weekly, they will get blocked with dust which will lead to overheating and can result in the cylinders not chilling properly.

2. It’s also important to oil the cylinders and change sealing rubbers quarterly. Double check everything is aligned properly and tightly sealed to prevent losing an entire batch of ingredients.

The Secret Recipe

Now that you’re up to speed on which machine to buy and how to look after it, all you need now are the recipes to get your machine up and running.

It is important to note that the slushy machine recipe is a completely different animal to what you might be used to in your bar. In most cases, it is impossible to place the ingredients for a regular cocktail serve in the machine and end up with great tasting drinks.

You really need to develop your slushy machine recipes from scratch. Take note, the one and only ingredient that freezes in the process is water. The faster you freeze your liquid, the smaller the water crystals will become - this is something to keep in mind when creating your perfect serve.

To reduce the time it takes to make cocktails at Artesian, we pre-chill all the ingredients, freezing the non-alcoholic ingredients first. Once a ‘slushy-like’ texture forms we add the chilled alcohol.

The key thing to remember when embarking on the slushy machine journey is to maintain the consistency of the ingredients in your serves. Good quality machines will allow you to set the exact temperature you want or at least different temperature levels so you can choose whatever suits you and your bar.

You don’t have to worry about drinks going off either…simply forecast your sales like you would normally do and go from there. All machines operate in 3 modes - chilling, storage and off completely. Storage mode refrigerates the liquid, preventing it from going off, so you can easily keep the drinks you’ve made for two consecutive days. This will save time behind the bar and gives your bartenders the opportunity to take time perfecting their serves - a win, win situation.

Down to Business

Now that you’re up to scratch on all things slushy it’s time to put it to the test.

Your loyal customers will be the people best placed at advising you on these new ‘slushy additions’ to your cocktail bar. If they give it the thumbs up (which I’m confident they will) then you can embark on your journey through the wonderful world of the slushy making.

So to help get you started I’ve pulled together some of my favourite Artesian slushy recipes… enjoy!

ARTESIAN COLADA

25ml Light Rum

25ml Coconut rum

30ml Pineapple pure

80ml Coconut water

15ml Lime juice

10ml Sugar

5ml Cinnamon liqueur

1pcs Dehydrated pineapple

1pinch Cinnamon

1pcs Cherry

1pcs Cocktail umbrella

DEHYDRATED PINEAPPLE GARNISH: Clean the pineapple and slice into thin pieces. Spray each slice with rum & sugar solution on both sides and place on dehydrator tray. Dehydrate at 56 degrees celsius for 12 hours.

RUM & SUGAR SOLUTION

400ml Sugar syrup

100ml Aged rum

3g Ascorbic acid

Blend 400ml of sugar syrup with 100ml of aged rum and 3g of ascorbic acid.

Method:Place all ingredients (apart from the garnish) into slushy machine. Freeze until slushy texture has been created. Garnish with float of cinnamon liqueur, dehydrated pineapple, cherry and umbrella.

(1.6 standard drinks* - 1.7 units per serve)

HOW DO YOU SAY BANANA DAIQUIRI?

25ml Spiced rum

80ml Banana juice

15ml Lime juice

10ml Sugar syrup

5ml Crème de banana

1pcs Banana chip

1g Caviar

1pcs small straw

BANANA CHIPS GARNISH: Slice one banana into thin pieces leaving the skin on. Brush slices with sugar & rum solution and place on dehydrator sheets. Dehydrate at 56 degrees celsius for 14 hours. Keep in airtight container with silica gel.

RUM & SUGAR SOLUTION

400ml Sugar syrup

100ml Aged rum

5g Absorbic acid

Blend 400ml of sugar syrup with 100ml of aged rum and 3g of ascorbic acid.

Method: Place all ingredients (apart from banana chip & caviar) into slushy machine and freeze until granite-like texture is created. Pour into a chilled flute and place banana with caviar on the top of the glass. Assemble a straw.

(1 standard drinks* - 1 units per serve)

(*One standard drink contains 8 grams of alcohol)

Alex Kratena is widely credited with reinventing the modern hotel bar, Artesian, which was recognised as No. 1, for the third consecutive year, in the World’s 50 Best Bar Awards.To learn more about Artesian’s cocktails follow Alex on Instagram @koko_aleko & Twitter @Alex_Kratena