Hell yeah popsicles.
No matter what you called them as a kid – ice cubes, Flav-R-Ice, paletas, popsicles – we’re going to DIY some frozen fun. Popsicles, only better. Because ours are going to contain alcohol. And caffeine. And sweets. Popsicles for adults.
The Science of Popsicles
Frontend developer, previously at Container Solutions and Gatsby, now in charge of Distributed SQL at Cockroach Labs. I like games, my dog and food. Co-author of ‘Cloud Native Transformation: Practical Patterns for Innovation’ from O’Reilly Media.
Making popsicles at home is what summer is all about. They’re cheap, endlessly customizable, and the ultimate stealth snack: you can stroll down the street or in the park, lounge on the grass at an outdoor concert or movie, enjoy of your delicious high-octane treats and no one will as much as look your way.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as pouring your favorite adult beverage into popsicle molds. This will give you a gooey mess rather than something solid enough to eat. This is because water freezes at 32°F, while 100% pure ethanol freezes around -173°F. The freezing point of your favorite liquor will fall somewhere within this range, according to its evidence. That’s why I can keep a bottle of vodka (90 proof, or 45% alcohol) in the freezer with no problem but when I put a nice bottle of rosé (11% alcohol) in it to speed up the cooling before dinner and then forget about it, well, I don’t use that part of the freezer anymore.
The reason your favorite cocktail freezes to a mush is that during the freezing process, the non-alcoholic liquid in the drink freezes first and separates from the alcohol in the process, causing that grainy Slurpee texture. (That in and of itself is also nice, and if you want to go down that route, you can just stop reading here and go grab a juicy booze from the freezer. It’s going to take a lot longer to freeze, though – 24 hours versus three to four).
If, however, you want your alcoholic beverage to freeze into a solid, suckable shekel, you should adjust the alcohol by volume (abv) of your concoction up to that sweet spot where the other liquids freeze and solidify the alcohol with them. . in the process, ending up in a smooth and seamless state.
The magic report
Generally, the best path to successful alcoholic popsicles (let’s call them poptails, a suitcase of popsicle + cocktail) calls for a final ABV of 5-10% in your alcohol mix. This guide assumes your alcohol is in the 80-90 proof range (40-45% abv), meaning you’ll need a 1:5 ratio of alcohol to everything else non-alcoholic. The ‘1’ part of the ratio is a constant, but the ‘5’ part can be any variable you want to assign: fruit juice, cream, coffee, energy drinks – really anything goes.
This translates to 1 ounce of alcohol to 5 ounces of non-alcoholic liquid in a single 6 ounce, say, vodka-lemonade. Then simply multiply that by the number of popsicle molds you want to fill multiplied by their volume.
Beware: Popsicles with a higher alcohol content may still freeze, but they will also melt much faster because the temperature at which they convert back to liquid is lower. For example, a 20% abv frozen poptail will turn into a molten mess when the temperature only increases 9 degrees. However, a 5% abv poptail will generally hold its shape until the temperature increases to 26 degrees, giving you much longer to eat it.
Thus, the tl; dr is that you are free to try and raise the alcohol level for popsicles with a higher alcohol hit, but you probably shouldn’t be wearing your favorite shirt when eating them.
How to make drizzled popsicles
Making popsicles is very simple: choose the alcohol and mixers of your choice, measure in the correct ratio, mix, pour into popsicle molds to freeze, wait a bit, enjoy.
In fact, you can DIY the mold thoroughly. There are only two components: the container, to hold and shape the mixture while it freezes, and the stick to hold it while you sip. The classic kindergarten craft activity of filling Dixie paper cups with juice, stretching plastic wrap over them, and sticking a toothpick through the wrapper in the center of each cup – totally valid. Surely you have cups somewhere, and a drawer full of never-used disposable chopsticks for Asian takeout, and some tin foil or saran wrap.
The easiest way, however, is to purchase popsicle molds. I used to buy the cheapest ones at the grocery store for a buck or two, but recently switched to Ozera Premium Popsicle Molds ($9.95 USD for a set of six). Non-stick polypropylene molds have a classic popsicle shape and allow ice cubes to slide easily, but frozen treats stick well to the ridged reusable sticks (which are concave to catch drips as you eat). The Ozera molds hold 96ml each, which means that per popsicle you would want 16ml of alcohol and 80ml of mixers.
My new obsession, however, is Frozips ($12.95 USD for 125). Think big, skinny ziploc freezer bags because, well, that’s what they are. Essentially, FroZips lets you create your own adult ice pops. The advantage is portability; since they are sealed until consumed, you can toss them in a cooler and not worry about them leaking or falling out. FroZips contain 100 milliliters (3.4 ounces) of liquid, so a ratio of 17ml of alcohol to 83ml of mixers gets you that sweet spot of 5:1.
And now, the long-awaited moment: the recipes!
Popsicles for programmers
The number of possible poptail flavors is virtually endless, but the assembly and freezing process is the same no matter what crazy combo you come up with.
UNIVERSAL POPSICLE INSTRUCTIONS
- To mix together: Choose your recipe. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, preferably with a spout.
- To fill: Fill your popsicle molds or freezer zip bags to the fill line – don’t overfill, as liquids expand when they freeze and your mold will overflow. FroZips come with a nifty little funnel to make this easier.
- Freeze: Be sure to freeze popsicles upright. Most molds come with a stand. You should place the freezer zips vertically in a jar or plastic cup until they are completely frozen, then you can store them flat.
If popsicles were programming languages, this is what they would contain. Quantities are per single popsicle or freezer pop; multiply to get the desired number of servings.
JAVA: This lemonade + vodka popsicle is a solid workhorse. Basic, not fancy or exciting, maybe not even your first choice, but it still gets the job done.
- Lemonade:5 cups / 20 fl oz / 500 ml lemonade of your choice (I really like Trader Joe’s Frozen Lemonade Concentrate because it’s made with sugar instead of corn syrup. Just thaw and toss with slightly less water than the instructions on the can.
- Vodka:5 cups/4 fluid ounces/125 ml of your favorite vodka. Remember, you want something in the neighborhood of 80-90 proof.
THE PYTHON: Load a bunch of different libraries ingredients and call it done. Or a daisy. Your choice.
- 1 ounce of tequila
- 1 oz fresh lime juice (do NOT use this battery acid in the plastic lime)
- 1 oz orange juice
- 1 oz frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
- 2 ounces of water
- 1 can of Red Bull (8.4 oz). Pour into the glass and let sit until it becomes flat.
- Meanwhile, soak a handful of gummy bears in some kind of alcohol. It doesn’t matter what gender. Whatever you have.
- Drop a few gummy bears into each popsicle mold. Mix flattened Red Bull with 2 oz of gummy bear dipping liquor. Pour into molds over the gummy bears. Let’s hope it works.
THE WASM: Binary and portable.
- 1 oz bourbon (I wouldn’t use the right stuff here, but you do)
- 4 oz Mexican Coca Cola (open, pour into a glass, let sit until there are no more fizzy bubbles)
THE GREEN LIGHT: Highly efficient and persistent.
- 6 oz cold brew coffee concentrate
- 3 ounces of cold water
- 2 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- 2 oz Kahlua, Bailey’s or other coffee flavored liqueur (these are lower abv’s so you can use a higher ratio)
Let’s go on! I need your help, though: Rust programmers. Lispers. Where my C/C# folks. Erlang. Ruby. PHP. If you were a watered down popsicle, what would you taste like?
A monthly column, “Snack Stack”, will explore the world of culinary delights from the software developer’s perspective. Each month, Michelle Gienow will dive into the intersection between software culture and foodie culture, with stories and quirks, recommendations, recipes and other goodies.
Disclosure: The author of this post is an employee of Cockroach Labs, which received funding from Insight Partners, the parent company of The New Stack.
Featured photo by Snapshot of Albany on Unsplash.