Two years ago, wine suddenly went chill. The frosé—frozen rosé wine blended with strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice—was the hottest thing to hit Instagram since the man bun.
Now it’s beer’s turn for some ice-cold creativity. Bars and restaurants around the country are enticing adventurous drinkers with boozy, icy offerings ranging from floats to popsicles, with a sense of whimsy and novelty that help establishments differentiate in crowded markets.
Los Angeles’s Diablo Restaurant + Cantina offers a line of Diablo Pops on the menu in flavors like tomato lime and yuzu jalapeño, which drinkers can dip into beer to create a michelada, a Mexican beer cocktail flavored with lime juice, sauces, spices, and peppers.
Richard Brent, president and CEO of Urban Cantina Group, which runs Diablo, says the popsicles distinguish the cantina in the crowded Southern California michelada market. “Patrons love the pops and they continue to be a top add-on for beer and cider orders,” he says. “It’s a fun and great option to build the average ticket.”
Another establishment using unique ice pops to attract drinkers is Dayton, Ohio’s Fifth Street Brewpub, which created two flavors from its own beer: Mint Cookie Stout and Saison 484 (with orange juice). “The [ice pops] are something fun we wanted to test out for the summer patio months,” says Tanya Brock, Fifth Street’s general manager. “They were an item we could make with little investment in material and labor. They also were something unique and quirky we could provide our patrons.” She describes customers’ reaction as “wowed and surprised,” noting that many said they’d never heard of a beer ice pop before.
Serving beer pops requires an accessible freezer and a thoughtful serving method. Diablo Pops are meant to be drowned in a pint of beer, infusing the glass with flavor as they melt. Fifth Street serves its pops propped in chilled pint glasses, which keeps them cool and allows customers to put them down between bites. And one logistical consideration Brock at Fifth Street suggests is the need to stress that the treats, which contain the full complement of alcohol, are only available to patrons 21 years of age and older.
Frozen beer drinks can also help establishments offer a new twist on a product that already serves as a differentiation. Miami’s 1-800-Lucky, the city’s first Asian food hall and one of the few in the U.S. with an extensive bar program, creates a unique and authentic atmosphere by including offerings that Americans don’t usually see. The food hall already served Kirin, a Japanese beer that is essential to any Asian-oriented bar. Then its owners discovered frozen Kirin while on a trip to Japan and immediately incorporated it into the menu.
“Our frozen Kirin starts with one pint of non-frozen Kirin, which we meticulously pour so as to not have a head,” says Harrison Ramhofer, floor manager at 1-800-Lucky. “It is then topped with frozen Kirin meant to mimic the foam head of a regular beer. The beer is light and refreshing, and the frozen beer adds an extra kick and will keep your beer cold even on the hottest days.”
Kirin provided 1-800-Lucky with a machine to get the frozen head to the right temperature and consistency, which Ramhofer compares to “a thick slushy.” Within a month, Kirin had sent another machine to keep up with demand.
For the last three years, Pinstripes Bistro, Bowling, and Bocce—a restaurant with branches in eight states—has heralded St. Patrick’s Day with Guinness floats. Pinstripes’ management wanted to steer clear of the green beer drinks typical of the holiday, instead opting for something befitting the upscale venue.
Creamy, house-made vanilla gelato created from top-notch ingredients is added to an ice-cold pint of Guinness stout for a surprising twist on a traditional float. “It’s sweet, and a little bit salty, a little bit hoppy of course,” says Chris Soukup, Pinstripes’ COO. “It’s a fun combination, and we’ve had a great response.”
After a couple of years, people have even started requesting the drink off-menu at times other than St. Patrick’s Day. “We do it for the people who are begging for it,” Soukup says.
For those interested in livening up a beverage menu, Soukup highly recommends a beer float. “Absolutely. I think it’s a blast,” he says—a blast of ice-cold, patron-pleasing refreshment.