Slurps up!: Lily’s guide to the best hard slushies in Santa Cruz County

Stockwell Cellars added Wine-arita, White Sangria and Red Sangria slushies to its menu in May.
(Via Stockwell Cellars)

Here are a dozen places to celebrate the summer with a cold buzz (beware of the brain freeze!) — and leave 7-Eleven Slurpee machine memories far in the rearview mirror.

Alcoholic slushies guide

You’re 12. It’s the middle of summer break and your parents have agreed to take you and your friends to the beach for the afternoon.

On the way there, your dad says, “Pit stop!” and pulls into the parking lot of a 7-Eleven. You and your friends race inside to the Slurpee machine and fill tall cups with a cold, intensely sweet concoction that dyes everyone’s tongues cherry red or dark blue.

Everyone has a blast sticking them out at each other on the way to the beach. One friend gets a brain freeze and you all laugh at his twisted facial expressions. It’s summer, you are a kid with a slushie and life is good.

During hard times, humans turn to familiar comforts. So it makes sense that in the summer of 2022, when the world seems to be experiencing a decade’s worth of bad stuff in the span of a few months, that boozy versions of slushies would be the hot trend in Santa Cruz County.

The sugary, brightly colored, frozen treat popularized by 7-Eleven is getting an upgrade at bars and restaurants throughout the county and each is putting a unique spin on this retro drink.

Don’t confuse a slushie with a blended cocktail. A slushie often has more sugar in the form of fruit juice or simple syrup, which creates a smooth, slushy texture — hence the name. All of the slushies listed below are made using a special slushie machine. But what sets the slushie apart from other frozen drinks, more than anything, is the vibe.

The slushie is the epitome of a mental vacation. Even bars and restaurants with serious cocktail programs loosen their ties and undo their top buttons when it comes to slushies. You can’t help it.

They’re the perfect drink for the season, when the carefree, pre-pandemic, “Hot Girl Summer” of 2019 feels very far away. This year, the hit summer single is Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul,” a dance hall anthem that reflects the deterioration of our collective mental state and our perseverance through these troubled times. While an infectious beat thumps in the background, rapper Big Freedia chants, “Release your anger. Release your mind. Release the stress. Release it all. Forget the rest.”

Just for fun, in the spirit of nostalgia and of the carefree days of the “Before,” here’s a list of more than a dozen slushies to enjoy in Santa Cruz County this summer. Slurps up!

Mentone restaurant's slushie take on an Aperol spritz is so popular it inspired its own T-shirt.
(Via Mentone)

Frozen Bubbly Spritz slushie at Mentone Restaurant, Aptos

Italians love to start the evening with an Aperol spritz, so of course this Riviera-themed restaurant would have one on its menu. Mentone’s slushified, tangerine-colored version is extra fruity due to additions of peach-flavored Ketel One vodka, orange blossom, orange juice and fresh, fruity trebbiano wine and garnished with an orange slice and a striped paper straw. $15 for 12 ounces or $25 for 24 ounces. 174 Aptos Village Way, Aptos.

Hard Cider slushie at Santa Cruz Cider Co.

Co-owner Natalie Henze changes the hard cider slushie recipe at Santa Cruz Cider Co.’s tasting room on Hangar Way in Watsonville every week, depending on what local fruit is available. She creates a syrup using local, organic fruit and adds it to the company’s cider. Recent combinations include strawberry cider and strawberries, hopped apple cider with peaches and Wooden Tooth cider with plums. $9 for 12 ounces. 65 Hangar Way, Watsonville.

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Frozen John Daly at Suda, Santa Cruz

The Frozen John Daly made with vodka, iced tea and lemonade is one of the most popular cocktails at Suda. And if you order it to go, it comes in a sealed plastic bag with a straw that might feel familiar. “It’s like an adult Capri Sun,” says bar manager Max Marinovich. Suda also offers a seasonal flavor that changes frequently, like the current mai tai slushie with rum, orgeat, orange curacao, lime and a dark rum float. Watch for a coffee-flavored slushie cocktail using cold brew from Cat & Cloud Coffee down the street. $10 for 12 ounces. 3910 Portola Dr., Santa Cruz.

Frozen Paloma Libre at Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen

At Westside distillery Venus Spirits, they take their cocktails seriously, but they also know how to have fun. The pink Frozen Paloma Libre is made with Venus Spirits’ El Ladrón Blanco agave spirit, pamplemousse liqueur, Aperol, riesling, lime and grapefruit juice and comes garnished with a salt rim, a round slice of pink grapefruit and a sprig of mint. $14 for 12 ounces. 200 High Rd., Santa Cruz.

At Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, the frosé is made with rosé wine from Alfaro Family Vineyards.
At Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, the frosé is made with rosé wine from Alfaro Family Vineyards.
(Via Facebook)

Tiki Champagne slushie and frosé at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

In addition to a sizable tap list of organic beer, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing offers two slushies. The Tiki Champagne slushie is made with sparkling wine, guava and pineapple juices and Apérol. The frosé is made with rosé wine from Corralitos-based Alfaro Vineyards, Campari and lemonade. Both are garnished with lemon or lime. $9 for 16 ounces. 402 Ingalls St. #27, Santa Cruz.

Cocktail slushies at Brady’s Yacht Club

The cocktail slushies at Brady’s change every month or so. Currently, the popular frosé is made with rosé, vodka, grapefruit and strawberry juice, and the Fader-ade is a blended mix of passionfruit Gatorade, vodka, raspberry and peach. Fans could see the return of the mango margarita in the coming weeks. Since they are made on-site, guests can take them to go as long as they order food. $10 for 12 ounces. 413 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz.

Wine slushies at Stockwell Cellars

Stockwell Cellars launched three flavors of slushies made with its wines in May, and they’re a hit with both beer and wine drinkers, says owner Suzanne Zeber-Stockwell. The Winerita is a riff on a margarita made with Stockwell’s sauvignon blanc; the white sangria is blended with chardonnay while a Red Sangria is made with Stockwell’s “California Quarantine,” a blend of barbera, petite sirah and merlot. All the drinks come garnished with a dehydrated, glazed orange slice. $12 for 6 ounces. 1100 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz.

Beer and Cider slushies at Humble Sea Brewing Co.

At this nautical-themed brewery’s Westside tasting room, guests can enjoy a rotating menu of slushies. A cider slushie made with So-Cal cidery Reefpoint’s pear cider is regularly on tap, as is a blend of Humble Sea’s latest milkshake-style IPA mixed with Dole Whip or coconut cream. The team also uses a soft-serve ice cream maker to offer soft, swirled “ice cream” made from fruity beers like the watermelon and guava-flavored drink called Super Pops! Party Mermaid. $10 for 12 ounces. 820 Swift St., Santa Cruz.

Piña Colada slushie and frosé at Pono Kitchen & Tap

At Pono, choose from a banana-yellow piña colada slushie or a cheerful, pink frozen rosé. Both come garnished with a maraschino cherry and a slice of orange to amp up the island vibes. $9 for 12 ounces of frosé; $10 for 12 ounces of piña colada. 3744 Capitola Rd., Capitola.