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Spiked slushies: Beer, hard seltzer and spirits take center stage in summer's coolest drink trend

Alcoholic slushies provide one way to chill out amid a socially distanced summer. They can be made at home, typically requiring little more than a boozy base, mixer, ice and a blender. In the midst of a year that's a whole bunch of dreadful, they're something new and refreshing.

Now, drinkers – both at-home and at restaurants – are moving beyond margaritas and frose and adding beer, hard seltzer and other booze to their alcoholic slushie repertoire.

Chef Cat Cora shared a recipe for a White Claw slushie (made using a lime, frozen mangos, a White Claw and ice) in May, in line with a rising interest for a "hard seltzer slushie" on the internet. According to Google Trends, intrigue on the search engine hit a dramatic spike the week of April 12, with the most number of searches occurring the week of July 12.

Pinterest searches for slushies increased dramatically compared to last year, with pineapple rum slush (up 700%) and moscato slushie (up 250%) leading the way. Searches for a vodka lemonade slushies, whisky slush and candy-topped alcoholic slushies have also risen in popularity, according to Pinterest rep Erika Berg. 

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Businesses are also adopting new boozy bases to get in on the slushie trend.

Eric Schmidt, owner of Orange & Brew Bottle Shop and Tap Room in Downers Grove, Ill. (about a half-hour outside of Chicago), brought a slushie machine into his establishment in late June to offset "the COVID craziness." He hoped the machine would help differentiate his business and allow Orange & Brew to "recoup some of the money that everybody’s been losing and just have some fun." 

Schmidt says his business didn't have to actually close amid the outbreak, because it has a retail component, but profit margins decreased. Schmidt says slushies also appealed to him since, in June, people were not permitted to drink inside. He says his village blocked off outdoors space, where he was able to put out tables.

"You’ve got patio weather, you’ve got slushies," he says. "Everything really worked together for that."

Orange & Brew has created a Frappuccino-like drink with Pabst Blue Ribbon's Hard Coffee and, in another concoction, combined a cucumber cider with a mojito syrup. But the clear front-runner that has earned a permanent spot in their machine is a slushie made with Natural Light's Naturdays, a strawberry lemonade light lager.

"That was the first thing that we put in there, and I think we sold about 150 in the first two days," Schmidt says. "We’re not a big space so that’s a big deal for us." 

He says sales are "steady" and customers have come in looking for the drink, attracting a wider audience than their typical craft beer drinker. Schmidt says slushie sales are a "significant" part of business and he doesn't see the appeal wearing off.

"It doesn’t seem to be a novelty where people are, like, 'Oh, that’s cool. I’m never gonna do it again,'" he says.

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Nima Hadian, owner of Shangy's which boasts of its assortment of more than 4,000 beers, also has reason to cheers. Hadian introduced a slushie parlor marketed as “The Slushee King” to his Emmaus, Pa. store in May that offers a menu of 20 rotating slushies made with malt-based or sugar-based alcohol.

Hadian hails sales as "tremendous," adding he's considering adding more machines to meet the high demand. 

The Slushee King operates similar to an ice cream shop, where a customer tells an employee which slushie they want and in what size cup (10-, 16- or 24-ounce). Slushies are to-go, in a cup with a seal and can not be consumed at Shangy's. 

Like Orange & Brew, Slushee King has seen success with a beer slushie. Hadian says his current top-seller is a slushie made with Delirium Red, a Belgian fruit ale from Huyghe Brewery. 

"We thought the strong cherry flavor with the sweetness and sourness that it has, would be a very good compliment to slushies," he says. "We were 1,000% right."

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