Photograph by Martha Williams
Some wines are born great, some achieve greatness, and some are thrust into slushie machines and emerge as frosé. Public opinion is still fiercely divided on the wine slushie, which became a national phenomenon in 2016 after an enterprising New York City bartender introduced frosé as a seasonal novelty, accidentally unleashing summer’s frostiest grown-up treat. These days, we know warm weather is nigh when frosé arrives on cocktail menus. The season reaches full swing when wine purists start publishing their annual jeremiads, reminding us that freezing wine destroys its aromas, flavors, and dignity.
And yet it endures. Wine slushies may be a sacrilege to the refined oenophile, but to the rest of us plebeians, they’re damned delicious. Usually made with rosé—hence the clever portmanteau, paired nicely with infinitely rhymable slogans like Frosé all day—wine slushies can be made from any wine, really, and blended with, well, anything: When you lost the critics before you began, you can afford to get creative. Vermouth, Campari, vodka, and prosecco can all be churned in, along with strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, watermelon, lemon, and whatever else. Honestly, if it sounds tasty in sorbet, it’ll work just fine in frosé, which is precisely how we got frosé sorbet, a delicious innovation now available from Jeni’s Ice Cream (nonalcoholic, in case your kids want to know what all the fuss is about).
Wine slushies are now a mainstay on the Atlanta cocktail scene: You’ll find it seasonally at spots like Bar Mercado and Little Spirit, or year-round, like at Whiskey Bird in Morningside, where a sign above the takeout window cheekily advertises “frosé this way.” At a recent happy hour, my best friend and I celebrated her relocation to Atlanta over Whiskey Bird’s signature version, blended blushingly pink with guava and served in short-stemmed wine glasses that arrived frosty as beer steins. They went down cool and not too sweet, the iciness tempered perfectly by the creamy notes of guava.
Given purists’ low opinion of the recent slushification of wine—frosé outre, if you will—it feels fitting that wine slushies found early success in the tasting rooms of North Georgia, a bit of aspirational wine country that is still winning over critics. Habersham Winery introduced wine slushies in 2015, a year before the craze began in Manhattan, looking for something sweet and cold to offer during hot Georgia summers. At their tasting room near Helen, a row of spinning slushie machines offers jewel-toned frozen wine any day of the year, made from Habersham’s own wines. Oenophiles, shield your eyes: Here, you’ll find merlot blended to a candy pink with strawberries and margarita mix, or a bellini slushie in creamsicle orange, made from peach wine. You can even layer them, stacking muscadine on pinot noir, as if Bordeaux had ventured into soft-serve.
Served in plastic cups with magenta straws, they pair perfectly with a visit to Helen, an Alpine town devoid of both actual Alpine heritage and shame for the lack of it. Tudor roofs are for everyone, and so is wine. Rosé or frosé, as they say, your way.
This article appears in our November 2022 issue.