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Fun twists on frigid cocktails
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Fun twists on frigid cocktails

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Aside from immersing oneself in a kiddie pool full of ice cubes, the next best thing for beating this stifling summer heat would be to chill out with an icy-cold adult beverage.

Those seeking spots that put distinctive tilts on daiquiris, margaritas, pina coladas, rum runners and other popular frozen libations are in luck, as options are abundant in coastal South Jersey. Here are a few ideas.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is offering a bevy of frozen beverages in tall 24-ounce, guitar-shaped souvenir glasses at its outdoor Beach Bar, partially as a toast to its second summer in Atlantic City. The A.C. memento is an exclusive offering among Hard Rock’s multitude of international properties.

“They’re fun. People love them and have been ordering a lot of them since we started doing it (on National Daiquiri Day earlier this summer),” Hard Rock VP of Food and Beverage Grace Chow says, adding that the Miami Vice is the most popular frozen beverage served in the guitar-shaped containers. The drink is a white and dark rum-based blend of a strawberry daiquiri and a pina colada, swirled into a colorful presentation.

“It’s the ultimate vacation drink,” Chow says.

An establishment that boasts three boardwalk locations in A.C. — Wet Willie’s at Tropicana, Caesars and Resorts — lays claim to concocting the world’s greatest daiquiris. Each of the three sites offers not only 15 varieties from a daiquiri menu, but also allows guests to customize their frozen beverages any way they want.

“There’s a bunch of different drink names that our bartenders are well trained to offer guests that might not be on the menu, and guests are encouraged to try samples of their daiquiris before they buy them, especially those big boys that have the grain alcohol in them,” says Mark Meakim, general manager of all three A.C. Wet Willie’s locations. “We want to make sure they know what they’re getting into before they pick their drink. We don’t want anybody literally walking away with a bad taste in their mouth.”

The “big boys” Meakim refers to include the Attitude Improvement, which has a tangy orange taste; the Call-A-Cab, which blends cherry and strawberry flavors; and the Shock Treatment, which includes lemonade and the citrusy liqueur Blue Curacao. All three are also infused with 190-proof grain alcohol.

“Those are the loaded daiquiris — we’re known for the strength of our daiquiris as well as, and primarily, our quality,” Meakim says. “We have a unique drink system that allows guests to mix and match their flavors however they want to create their own drink. We have one called the Bob Marley, which is sour apple, mango and strawberry swirled together to look like the color pattern that his reggae band (The Wailers) is known for. We also have a seasonal rotation — we do an eggnog daiquiri during the holidays — and offer a non-alcohol daiquiri called the Weak Willie that is blueberry and watermelon flavored.”

Just as Wet Willie’s is renowned for its daiquiris, Cuba Libre at Tropicana Atlantic City is king of the mojitos in A.C. The mojito is a traditional Cuban drink that gained worldwide popularity over the last two decades, blending white rum, sugar cane, lime juice, mint and a splash of soda over ice. The mix is shaken in a container of ice and strained into a highball glass of fresh ice.

“As far as our flavored mojitos, we do pineapple and watermelon mojitos where we grill the fruit in our wood-burning grill, and puree it into a syrup to give the drinks a really fresh flavor,” says Cuba Libre Beverage Manager Grecia Pineda. “We also grill jalapenos and add spice to it for our Paloma Ahumado, which is a chilled drink that also has elderflower liqueur and fresh grapefruit in it.

“Grilling (the fruits and peppers) helps give the drinks a different flavor profile,” Pineda says. “Having a wood-burning grill is an advantage because it adds a smoky, mesquite flavor and creates a nice balance to the cocktail. You definitely taste the difference.”

The establishment named after a Jimmy Buffet song that coined the term “frozen concoction,” Margaritaville, has nearly 20 icy-cold concoctions to choose from, as does its sister site at Resorts Atlantic City, LandShark Bar & Grill.

A drink that is a nod to famous British spy James Bond is called the License to Chill, which features tequila, Blue Curacao and a special margarita blend served either frozen or on the rocks. Another is a blend called the Banana Breeze that includes a floater of Myers dark rum topping the slushy mix.

“The Banana Breeze is one of our most popular orders because it comes with a coconut puree and a chocolate sauce,” says A.C. Margaritaville and LandShark General Manager Enrique Soto. “It kind of makes it taste like you’re drinking a dessert.”

The newest kid on the block, Rhythm & Spirits — part of the Tennessee Avenue renaissance in Atlantic City known as the Orange Loop — has a frozen drink on its menu called the Frose that has already begun to create a buzz among cocktail connoisseurs.

“Basically it’s frozen Provence rose wine mixed with St. Germain Elderflower (a floral liqueur from the French Alps), and finished with Aperol, which is a bitter orange-apple liquor,” says Lee Sanchez, consultant for Rhythm & Spirits and owner of STW Hospitality. “We add some local fresh berries into the mix too, to give it a cool flavor. All weekend long it was one of our most popular drinks in the brief time Rhythm & Spirits has been open.”

Down the Garden State Parkway in Cape May County, Buckets Margarita Bar & Cantina, an affiliate of The Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor, offers an extensive list of outstanding frozen beverages. Its signature margarita menu includes strawberry-jalapeno, cucumber-mint and watermelon-basil blends, and a hibiscus margarita.

“What sets our margaritas apart are two things — top-shelf tequila, and the fact that all our ingredients are crafted in house by our director of restaurants, Steve Mannino,” says Reeds Marketing Manager Emaleigh Kaithern. “For example, he infuses tequila with jalapeños, and crafts strawberry syrup using fresh strawberries, for the Strawberry-Jalapeño Margarita. He uses dried hibiscus flowers to create the syrup for the Hibiscus Margarita, and a basil-infused champagne vinegar and fresh watermelon juice for the Watermelon-Basil Margarita. They’re all delicious and extremely popular here.”

Frozen drinks dot HEROtini Challenge

Muriel Elliott’s idea to create a mocktail — a non-alcohol cocktail — as part of the HERO Campaign for Designated Driver’s 15th anniversary three summers ago has blossomed into a useful tool among several in the HERO Campaign’s ongoing mission to keep alcohol-impaired drivers off the roads.

The Great HEROtini Mocktail Challenge is now in its third summer.

The HERO Campaign is named after Muriel and Bill Elliott’s son, Ensign John R. Elliott, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver about two months after his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2000. While at the Academy, John Elliott was named Outstanding HERO — Human Education Resource Officer — of his class for his service to his fellow midshipmen.

As a tribute, his parents launched the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers in October 2000. Since its founding, the Campaign has raised roughly $150,000 for the cause through a series of annual fundraisers.

“Muriel’s idea for a mocktail gave rise to the idea of ‘why don’t we have a competition?’, and the pilot for that was in summer of 2017,” Bill Elliott says. “This year we decided to up our game to see if we could raise funds to provide free rides home through Uber over the six-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and give bars and taverns the opportunity to give patrons free rides home if they need one.”

Online votes cast for the HEROtini winning mocktails — many of which are of the frozen summer variety such as St. George’s Pub’s “Meh-Hull” and Bocca Coal Fired Grill’s “The Bocca Bulldozer” — are conducted through donations that support the Holiday Heroes Rideshare Program. Through late July, the HERO Campaign had already collected nearly $10,000 toward this cause.

“So we’ve converted the HEROtini Challenge into a donate-to-vote contest, the results of which will yield very tangible results for area residents and visitors alike,” Bill Elliott says. “Along with supporting the Rideshare Program, it also helps spotlight the more than 30 establishments who came up with many unique and creative mocktails.”

This summer, along with the HEROtini Cup bestowed to the establishment whose mocktail garners the most online votes, there will be a taste testing in August, at Linwood Country Club at the HEROtini Challenge’s season-ending banquet. The judges include Atlantic City Weekly Pamela Dollak, health reporter Robin Stoloff, celebrated chef Nicole Gaffney, nutritionist Nancy Adler, and Taylor Amerman of the Kentucky-based Brown-Forman wine and spirits company.

The HEROtini Cup and taste-test winners will be crowned at the HEROtini Happening 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29, at the Linwood Country Club. Tickets are $40 per person and $75 per couple. Go to HeroCampaign.org/Herotini for more.

Sources:

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

1000 Boardwalk, A.C.

HardRockHotels.com/ Atlantic-City

Wet Willie’s

Tropicana Atlantic City

2801 Pacific Ave., A.C.

Caesars Atlantic City

The Playground at Caesars, 1 Atlantic Ocean, A.C.

Resorts Casino Hotel

1133 Boardwalk, A.C.

WetWillies.com

Cuba Libre Tropicana Atlantic City

2801 Pacific Ave., A.C.

CubaLibreRestaurant.com

Margaritaville

1133 Boardwalk, A.C.

MargaritavilleAtlanticCity.com

Rhythm & Spirits

129 S. Tennessee Avenue, A.C.

RhythmAndSpiritsAC.com

Buckets Margarita Bar & Cantina

9631 Third Avenue, Stone Harbor

BucketsStoneHarbor.com

HERO Campaign

HeroCampaign.org/Herotini

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