THE DECADE-LONG CULINARY game of rejigging the comfort foods of youth to better reflect adult tastes is now so well entrenched that it can be divided into periods and subtrends. First came gentrification (think hamburger and seared foie gras getting together in the same bun). Then there was vulgarization ($2,500 pizza scattered with gold leaf). And now hard times have returned some good sense to the picture in the form of alcoholization–and specifically, as it applies to that venerable childhood favourite, the ice cream truck.
So far as I can tell we have fun-loving Miami to thank for this one. For it was there, last year, that after losing her marketing job, Felecia Hatcher decided to have a go at the ultra-popular gourmet food truckbusiness that was overtaking Los Angeles and New York. But instead of serving hot savoury food, she went with cold and sweet. “Our newschool twist on the childhood ice cream truck allows you to experience ice cream like never before!” she promised on her website, back when she launched her company, Feverish Ice Cream.
If she was guilty of overpromising at the time, let it be said that this spring, Feverish delivered. Order up one of her rum raisin popsicles nowadays and it means the usualspiked with a frozen shot of Wray & Nephew “100 proof.” Other booze-sicle flavours run to strawberry mojito, cosmo, peach bourbon, salted margarita and mai tai. And better yet, Feverish is not alone. “Lately I’ve seen a lot of my competitors starting to experiment with booze. It’s fun-and at the same time, it’s tricky,” Hatcher explained from Miami.
Naturally, I was keen to know what she meant, so I ran off and went out to buy a nice array of vibrantly coloured, freshly squeezed juices, lots of liquor, and one Zoku Quick Pop Maker.
You could of course get by with a dollar-store ice cube tray and some toothpicks. But if you are hosting a lakeside or pool party and not a frat party, the Zoku will help provide some finesse in shape and uniformity. It also contributes speed-for the cocktails poured into its moulds will freeze solid in five minutes flat, and then you can pop them out and get on with the next uniform batch.
Actually, the box says “juice,” not cocktail, and my first attempt at freezing the latter confirmed that this was no accident. As Hatcher was obviously alluding to when she referenced booze-sicle manufacture being tricky, alcohol is reluctant to freeze-unless you get the ratio right. For example, as appealing as the notion may be of a hot sunny afternoon, a poolside deck chair and an ice-cold licking-martini frozen solid on a stick, anyone who keeps a bottle of vodka in the freezer knows that this is a pipe dream. But then, everyone who has ever had a winechilling emergency and then forgotten the bottle in the freezer can tell you that something with only 15 per cent alcohol will freeze solid all too eagerly.
So, after cleaning out my first failed batch of strong and stubbornly liquid tequila-and-blood-orange-juice popsicles, I weakened the mix and everything began working out beautifully. With a 1:4 booze-to-mix ratio, vodka and orange and greyhounds work brilliantly. Gaining confidence, I next concocted a triple-layered seasonal freezie for Canada, wherein two red layers (tequila-blood orange and vodka-cranberry) were separated by a white layer of gin and tonic. Cheered by the result, I did a July 4 American number with some white rum and blueberry in place of the vodka-cranberry. On which note, if you try this at home and get carried away, for the next day I recommend my frozen twist on a Bloody Mary, made with clear tomato water.
The possibilities are fabulously unlimited. Which brings us sadly to the story of the recent convergence of vulgarization and alcoholization and the popsicle as it played out this spring at the Marquis Los Cabos hotel in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where they began offering a popsicle made from Clase Azul Ultra tequila, soda, sugar, and gold flakes for, er, $1,000 a pop. Strangely, no one has yet bought one.