Play with your food: 4th of July Popsicles

By Nick Wuest,
ICC Pastry Arts student
(read more about Nick)

Summer is awesome. America is awesome. Popsicles are awesome. Everything is awesome!

For real, who doesn’t love popsicles? When offered they may tell you “oh no, I don’t like grape” (it’s awful) or “eh, I don’t like cherry” (door’s over there) but “I don’t like popsicles?” I’ve never heard it.

They’re perfect on a summer day and easy. So easy I couldn’t resist making them difficult. And what better way to do that than to feature an ingredient that doesn’t freeze? Cocktails, like popsicles, don’t leave a lot of room for ingredients – you only have a small amount of space to create a story of flavors. A well-crafted cocktail is the product of much experimentation and a deep understanding of how different flavors interact.

So you make a list. Break it down into liquor type, sweeteners, and additives. I like the visual guide of drawing a line from left to right to form a drink/pop. You don’t have to do it this way but with so many possibilities an outline helps.

Popsicle cocktail Outline

Here’s how this particular entry is going to work: there isn’t really any actual cooking involved with making most cocktails or popsicles. Each flavor will list the ingredients and a description of how those flavors come together. Each one uses a good amount of simple syrup as its base and primary sweetener. Freezing diminishes sweetness so what may taste unbearably sweet as a liquid will become much more balanced when frozen. Strong, assertive liqueurs work best since there is only a small amount in each batch.

Finally, the most important and finite ingredient for making any sort of frozen dessert is time. You simply can’t have enough of it. You have to freeze the liquid in the molds, then remove them and allow them to set in their packaging, then let them set again before serving. There are methods and equipment to do all of this much faster (industrial freezers, liquid nitrogen, etc), resulting in a much more consistent product, but those are not all that accessible for home cooking. So for my purposes and yours I’ll keep it old school and do it the hard way.

As far as credit where it’s due, a great deal of my knowledge and appreciation for mixing drinks comes from Death & Co. The bar and the book are master classes in building a drink from its ingredients to its name.

Special Equipment

  • Citrus Juicer –I use the KitchenAid attachment
  • Popsicle Molds – I like the Norpro 3oz molds
  • Time – hope you’ve got a lot of it
  • Simple Syrup – bring 1:1 sugar and water to boil (don’t stir) to dissolve sugar, cool

Margarita cocktail popsicle


This is more or less a classic margarita with an extra boost of citrus from some fresh squeezed orange juice. It was one of the easier recipes to develop since tequila is so assertive and retains so much flavor after mixing and freezing that I didn’t need to worry much over the mix being too alcoholic to freeze solid. The name is homage to Roger the Alien (from American Dad) and one of his more nefarious alter egos.

Yield – about 500mL

  • 177mL simple syrup
  • 118mL water
  • 118mL lime juice
  • 59mL fresh orange juice
  • 22mL tequila blanco
  • 1 ½ tsp agave nectar

Stir all to combine. Fill molds and freeze overnight.

Coconut Peach liqueur popsicle


The Jecht Shot is one of the first drinks my friends and I came up with years ago using what ingredients we had on hand that day. In this embarrassing case those ingredients were Peach Snapple and coconut rum, and its name comes from a video game! That’s a hella lame drink so I gave it the 2.0 treatment. White tea is less bitter when frozen so I like it more than black. Massenez is a brand of brilliantly crafted liqueurs that retain nearly their entire flavor when frozen and are so strong a tiny bit will do the job.

Yield – about 562mL

  • 296mL white tea
  • 177mL simple syrup
  • 30mL Massenez Crème de Peche (peach liqueur)
  • 60mL lemon juice
  • 15mL coconut rum

Stir all to combine. Fill molds and freeze overnight.

Gin Basil Popsicle


When a friend (the “Liz” in “Gin Lizzy”) asked me to create a gin drink she’d like I was lost for a little while because I hated gin. That is until I learned how to use it. In this case less is definitely more. Lots of herbal notes from the gin, boosted just a tiny bit by some basil syrup, and balanced out by lots of lemon and simple syrup make for a pretty interesting popsicle.

Yield – about 500mL

  • 177mL simple syrup
  • 118mL water
  • 118mL lemon juice
  • 59mL basil syrup (simple syrup cooked with fresh – washed – basil leaves)
  • 22mL gin

Stir all to combine. Fill molds and freeze overnight.

Wine Mint Blackberry Popsicle


Gypsy is the product of two years of work. Since I only make a new batch of flavors once a year for the 4th of July I try to create a popsicle using wine and it seems the third time is a charm. If it’s not an issue of imbalanced flavor the popsicle doesn’t freeze or the mixture separates. It’s always something and as of now I don’t know enough about the chemistry of wine to approach the problems the way I would a broken cake. This time it worked and I’m certainly not going to fight it.

The result is an interesting journey of flavors starting off very sweet and finishing with a dry and refreshing hint of mint. As for the name, it came from a focus group (a bunch of friends destroying a batch of pops and their cocktail inspiration). It’s from Pacific Rim, a great movie in its own right, but we picked it mostly because it sounded cool. Given the verbiage you can probably tell this is my favorite result this year. I mean check out how cool it looks! It’s even brighter and more marbled in person.

Yield – about 500mL

  • 133mL simple syrup
  • 133mL mint syrup (simple syrup boiled with mint leaves)
  • 177mL water
  • 44mL dry white wine
  • 22mL Massenez Crème de Mure (blackberry liqueur)
  • dash of vanilla extract

Stir all to combine. Fill molds and freeze overnight.

I give you the 4th of July Class of 2015 Popsicles. As I’m writing this I have twenty pops in my freezer at home to finish for a party that’s one day away and twenty more in a freezer at the ICC to hand out to my class.

I really hope you enjoyed reading this. This annual project and the excitement of everyone getting to try the results mean the world to me given the time and work that go into it. Make them for yourself and please, please play with the recipes. Make your list of components and build your own. It’s as easy (or difficult) as you make it.

Stay hungry.

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