We’re living in unprecedented times, and if there’s any summer where we can all agree the social norms and fusty, arbitrary drinking rules of the past don’t apply, it’s this summer. That’s why it’s time we throw out the old notion that wine and ice don’t belong together, and begin to embrace how happily the two can coexist in any number of forms.
Highest Wine-to-Ice Ratio: An Ice Cube in Your Glass of Wine
A couple of clinking ice cubes in a glass of wine has long been a no-no among oenophiles, primarily because of how the frozen water interferes with taking in all the complexity the wine has to offer. Unlike a scotch, where water helps the drink’s flavor profile bloom and expand on the palate, ice quite literally waters down wine, blocking the subtler tasting notes — a grassy hit, a tobacco undercurrent—and freezing out the taste buds. This is, of course, a problem if you have a special vintage you’ve been holding onto for a celebration or have lucked upon a “unicorn” (aka rare) bottle that you’re itching to savor in all its high-price-tag glory.
But those scenarios don’t apply to 95 percent of the time when we’re just enjoying a bottle of wine — and the “no ice” rule shouldn’t either. Even the strictest wine nerds have started to loosen up at least a little bit, so as long as you’re not performing a reverse Biblical miracle and turning the wine back into water with too many ice cubes, do whatever is expedient in the situation — it’s hot out there.
“Keep all your wines slightly chilled and take them out in advance to warm up, depending on what temperature you need to reach,” writes Jon Bonné in 2017’s The New Wine Rules. “And if it gets too warm? Just put it back in the fridge or even toss in an ice cube if need be. (No judgement on that.)”
Companies are even beginning to take notice of the trend reversal, with Moët & Chandon launching the Champagne Ice Impérial Rosé: the first-ever rosé champagne designed specifically to be served over ice. And if you’re feeling a little fancy, freeze a few green grapes and plop them in your glass as makeshift, no-melt ice cubes.
For extra chill-atop-chill, popping a bottle of summertime-favorite white or rosé in the freezer for 20-30 minutes typically does the trick for getting the bottle to an ideal temperature for that ever-crucial first sip. (Any longer and the cold temperature might start to dilute some of its flavor.) On the flip side, don’t risk sticking a bottle of bubbly — champagne, prosecco, cava, any of those — in the freezer. It will explode if you forget about it (and who hasn’t done that?), leaving you with, at best, a sticky mess on your hands and, at worse, a dangerously pressure-packed cork waiting to erupt in your hands. No one wants to go into the night expecting a party and ending up with a trip to the ER.
If you need to get a bottle of bubbles chilled down posthaste, filling an ice bucket with half-ice, half-water and submerging the bottle up to the neck for roughly 20 minutes is the gold standard. Also, if you’re a big sparkling wine person, you really should consider investing in an ice bucket. They come in all different types of retro-chic styles (mine is silver with embossed penguins), will draw a ton of compliments and ensure your wine can stay chilled while traveling with you to a pool get-together or a front porch hangout. (There’s a reason the white buckets full of ice at Bacchanal in New Orleans have remained a staple in their courtyard all these years.)
Second-Highest Wine-to-Ice Ratio: The Infamous Frosé (aka Frozen Rosé)
For the past few summers, frosé — frozen rosé, for those who are not yet loyal devotees — has become a staple for the wine-loving masses looking for a playful way to stay cooled down while keeping it refreshingly low-key. After crashing onto the culinary scene in 2016 like the Kool-Aid Man through a wall, it wasn’t long before it was the sippable trend on everyone’s lips.
“This is the summer of frosé!” Bon Appétit declared in 2016. “Are you a relatively happy person who typically appreciates sunshine, other people’s grilling, and hammocks? Then yeah, you’re going to love frosé.”
Unlike flash-in-the-pan food darlings that cause a fervor, then fade away (looking at you, cronut), frosé has maintained its staying power because it’s so infinitely simple. In its purest form, frosé is a combination of rosé (ideally one with good depth of flavor, like a merlot rosé), a little bit of simple syrup and ice rolled around in a frozen drink machine until it reaches a Slurpee-like texture. (The much-adored version served at Willa Jean in New Orleans follows this recipe.) And while the drink is, of course, delicious, it’s also built on practicality: When the humidity is so thick your eyelashes are sweating, you need a boozy frozen drink ready to combat the weather.
This is also why frosé has become the go-to beverage for savvy day drinkers, who know that a mimosa just isn’t going to cut it in the late-morning heat, but any drink that’s really liquored up might lead to a nap by 4 p.m. Frankly, frosé is the only icy beverage that’s ever made me earnestly consider buying a frozen drink machine for my house (sorry, daiquiris), because when you’re too melted down to deal with measurements or tinkering, what could be better than hitting a switch and watching icy relief fill your cup?
Medium-Highest Wine-to-Ice Ratio: Granitas
While most of these wine-meets-ice creations on the list are proudly, definitely modern, granitas are quite ancient: around 4,000 years old, to be exact.
The granita traces its roots back to Mesopotamia, where couriers would trek hundreds of miles to mountaintops in an effort to retrieve ice and snow for cooling down royal drinks. Generations later, Sicilians took the practice of gathering snow for chilling purposes one step deliciously further by adding herbs, honey and fruit to the snow, then placing the mixture in a container called a pozzetto for storage. Eventually, blades were added to the pozzetto to keep the mixture in constant motion and prevent large hunks of the sweet ice treat from forming, leading to the unique, crystalline texture of the granitas we know and love today.
A completely dairy-free frozen treat that’s sometimes confused with its sorbet or gelato cousins, granitas are a natural at shape-shifting into an icy wine creation because their non-boozy natural state is so similar (sugar! fruit! herbs!), making them a prime candidate for a first foray into DIY frozen vino experimentation. Making it at home is as simple as combining your favorite wine that holds just a hint of sweetness — think riesling or a fruity chardonnay — with complimentary herbs, fruit juice and a little bit of simple syrup, then freezing it in a thin sheet on a baking tray. (Don’t improvise and use ice cube trays — they’ll leave the ice in too many sharp shards.) Three hours later, chip away at the semi-frozen, liquored-up ice mixture, scoop it into individual ice cream dishes for immediate enjoyment, and watch the “oohs” and ahhs” roll in. (If you’re feeling funky, you can also create granitas using beer — just make sure to steer clear of anything too hoppy, like an IPA.)
Granitas are also a prime way to incorporate a little bit more red wine into your summertime drinking. A fruity red wine, like a pinot noir, works to create a granita that’s a bright, alfresco-appropriate palate cleanser when paired with lemon zest and rosemary, while a bold shiraz — when coupled with the flavors of mulling spices like star anise and orange — can create a granita that serves as a delightful end to any late July, lingering-long-past-sunset meal.
Perhaps most important, wine granitas — with their glittering, almost diamond-like ice flecks and herbal notes that work like aromatherapy — are special for their ability to conjure up daydreams of Italian seaside villages and ocean spray on Mediterranean coasts: Think of it as an Italian vacation in a glass.
Average Wine-to-Ice Ratio: Wine Slushies
If you’re just beginning your at-home journey into frozen wine drinks, vino slushies are another perfect jumping-off point to boost your confidence while flexing your creativity. The main reason? They are infinitely versatile and forgiving.
One of the reasons for this is the texture of the ice. Wine slushies have more in common with Slush Puppies — small, granular pebbles of ice — than other frozen creations on this list and, lucky for you, that’s the texture that’s the easiest to achieve in your kitchen via the almighty blender. Simply pour a bottle of your favorite, inexpensive wine (or whatever you have on hand, honestly) into the blender alongside some complementary fruit (think berries for red wine and peaches or watermelon for white), chuck in some ice and give it all a whir. When it looks like a slushie (you don’t have to be very scientific here), pour it out into a glass and, congratulations: You’re a wine slushie whiz now.
Medium-Lowest Wine-to-Ice Ratio: Frozen Sangrias (Red or White — Take Your Pick)
You might be thinking, “How does frozen sangria — which often includes not only wine but a fortified wine, like brandy — rank so low on the wine-to-ice ratio list?” A valid question, but hear me out.
Frozen sangria is typically made like a wine slushie, only with a whole lot of extras added in. Not only is there typically a liquor or liqueur component (Cointreau and dark rum often find their way into the mix), but a rainbow of fruit juices and whole pieces of fruit hitching along for the ride. Frozen sangria doesn’t really let the iced-out wine take center stage and acts more like a member of the frozen cocktail family.
Is iced sangria delicious? Yes. Is it more frozen cocktail than frozen wine? I say yes, but that’s definitely one of those “Is a hot dog a sandwich?” deep thoughts you’ll have to decide for yourself (while you’re sipping a glass of it, of course).
Lowest Wine-to-Ice Ratio: Wine-Based Ice Cream
People love to debate over whether cake or pie is the superior dessert, but for me, reaching for a digestif is always far more satisfying after a meal. Clearly, others have also been searching for a way to have our after-dinner drink and eat it too, leading to the recent rise in wine-based ice cream. These concoctions — which can be up to five percent ABV, or alcohol by volume — are most often made using port wine, moscato or other sweet wines, and are do-it-in-your-sleep easy to make at home using an ice cream machine. Just keep in mind that sugar always exacerbates hangovers the next day, so don’t eat several bowls at once, no matter how tempting.
No Wine-to-Ice Ratio: Ice Wine
Don’t be fooled by the name! Ice wine has nothing to do with a frozen beverage. Instead, it’s a unique type of wine made with grapes that have been allowed to freeze on the vine before they’re picked, leading to a marmalade-sweet dessert wine that’s popular in Germany. Definitely not what you want to drink at a Fourth of July picnic.