Knowing how to blend cocktails correctly is a must for the home bartender. Blended cocktails have gone from being something of a gimmick within the drinks industry to a genuine and viable technique for creating premium cocktails.
Blending allows bartenders (professional or at-home cocktail enthusiasts) to create different textures and flavour combinations but it’s not as simple as just throwing the ingredients into a blender and pressing the ‘on’ button.
There’s a certain level of skill required to create a great blended cocktail; the type of blender, blending duration, ice used, and ingredients used will all be key considerations. Sure, Pina Colada and Margarita are timeless classics but only when made with a sound base of knowledge.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through the method for creating a blended cocktail including equipment needed, measures used, and a few expert tips we’ve picked up over years from our own research, trial and error.
How to Blend Cocktails: What You Need
The most important thing when it comes to blending a cocktail is getting the correct equipment and ingredients beforehand.
You can make a smoothie or slush with ease in any old blender but with cocktails, the ingredients need to blend seamlessly for taste, there can be no separation with the liquid used, and accurate measures for ingredients are crucial.
There are therefore some essential items you need to have before experimenting with blended cocktails:
1. A Good Blender
Ice is the primary ingredient when it comes to blended cocktails so you need a blender that is powerful enough to break the ice with ease.
A professional kitchen blender is ideal. It doesn’t need to be the most expensive one on the market but if you’re trying to make a blended cocktail with a Nutri-bullet, you’re going to get some disappointing results.
Something we would strongly recommend though is getting a blender with variable speed settings. A motor that can run the blade at various speeds will allow you to create different textures for your cocktails.
You can blitz cocktails for a thicker consistency, use a continuous speed for a thinner consistency or even semi-blitz the liquid to create a frothy texture similar to a shaken cocktail.
These techniques are only possible if you have a blender with multiple functionalities so as mentioned, you don’t need to look for the most expensive blender but definitely try to get the most functional one.
2. The Correct Ice
The key ingredient for a blended cocktail is ice. A blender is obviously the most essential piece of equipment but ice is often the most overlooked ingredient with a blended cocktail. The type of ice you use will have three important effects:
- Effect on the blade and motor – larger cubes of ice will quickly wear down the blades on your blender and will also force the motor to work to its full capacity.
- Consistency of the drink – crushed ice blends quickly and therefore liquidises quickly increases the liquid volume of the end product. Cubed or chipped/cracked ice will create a thicker consistency.
- The volume of the drink – crushed ice will break down quicker in the blender and add more liquid volume so note the required quantities of ice in relation to the quantities of other ingredients you are using.
You’re free to experiment with your choice of ice, just keep in mind that larger cubes of ice are more hard-wearing on the blade/motor and that the quantity of ice used is also key (typically use twice as much ice as all other ingredients as a general rule of thumb).
3. Fresh Ingredients
Finally, the choice of ingredients you use is just as important as what you’d be using for a regular cocktail. Therefore, opt for good quality ingredients and also try to use fresh ingredients. With fruit & berries, there’s a temptation to also use frozen pieces but there’s a two-part issue with that approach:
- Frozen ingredients alongside ice are going to quickly wear down the blender’s motor and blades.
- You’ll have issues with “freezer burn” on these ingredients meaning the end product won’t have the desired taste or consistency.
There is a flip side to this though and that is you’ll get a better consistency for your drink when using frozen fruit.
Therefore, the compromise is to buy fresh, high-quality ingredients and freeze them yourself whilst accepting that there will be some additional wear and tear to your blender (which is again why we recommend a more industrial blender).
How To Blend Cocktails
The process for blending cocktails is relatively straightforward but attention to detail is required for correct consistency. As mentioned earlier, you can’t just throw all of the ingredients into a blender, switch it on and assume the drink will come together perfectly before your eyes.
To blend a cocktail, add your ingredients and ice (at a ratio of 1:2 with roughly twice as much ice as liquid ingredients) to a blender.
Depending on the ingredients used, you should then either pulse the ingredients for 5 – 10 seconds or start at a slow constant speed. Once the ingredients and ice are broken down you should then set the blender to the highest speed in order to blend to a consistent texture.
Once you’ve finished blending, pour into your glass of choice and finish with a garnish.
The blending process can take 30 – 120 seconds depending on the ingredients used, blending technique (more on this shortly), and desired consistency.
If you’re unsure of consistency, we’d recommend blending it for longer as it’s better to over blend than it is to have chunks or small bits in your finished drink!
A good indicator you can use in order to create a personalised texture is the size of the hole that forms in the liquid while blending. The smaller the hole, the thicker the drink’s consistency will be and the larger the hole, the thinner the consistency will be.
To modify this while blending, you can either add more ice to create a thicker consistency or add more liquid ingredients to make a thinner consistency. It’s also worth noting that the type of ice used will affect consistency.
Crushed ice will blend rapidly and quickly liquidise whereas cubed ice will take longer the break down and will create a thicker consistency (unless blended for a longer period of time).
Cocktail Blending Techniques
When it comes to blending, there are a number of different techniques you can use once you’ve got the basics covered. When we say basics, we mean an understanding of different consistencies when running the blender at one single speed.
The main thing to keep an eye on for beginners is the circle that forms in the middle of the liquid (like a whirlpool) as you are blending. If
The techniques you can add once you’ve mastered the basics include:
This is the basic technique and unless pulsing is required (more on that shortly), all cocktails should be blended at a high speed. This breaks down the ice and other ingredients evenly whilst also providing a consistent texture for the cocktail.
You should start on a low setting to build up speed, as starting on a high speed can form an air vortex whereby nothing gets blended properly but to finish a standard blended cocktail, you should always run it on the highest speed to finish.
This is useful for breaking up large ingredients. Pulsing the ingredients involves 3-5 second stop/start movements to break down the large ingredients before blending at a consistent speed until you get your desired consistency.
Pulsing can be a great way to control the thickness of your cocktail but just keep in mind that you’ll still want to remove all chunks and finish with a smooth consistency, regardless of how thick the mix is.
To flash blend you’ll typically use less ice (roughly 1-1.5 times the amount of ingredients) and pulse blend it just enough to mix and aerate the ingredients.
This is often used as an alternative to cocktails that require shaking and is typically done by those that don’t have a Boston shaker to hand or just want to really experiment with their cocktails.
We’d say this is definitely a more advanced technique though and one you’d need to work up to in order to get an eye for the correct quantities and consistencies.
When creating a blended cocktail, something that always gets neglected is the garnish. As with any cocktail, the garnish not only creates the finishing touch from a visual perspective but it adds aroma and overall quality to your cocktail.
Therefore, when creating a blended cocktail you should still finish with a garnish as you would any other drink. The benefit to garnishing a blended cocktail is that you have a more stable surface to float or position a garnish.