In the age of mixology, blenders are easily the most maligned piece of bar gear—and for good reason. Reason number one: The noise. Nothing disrupts a sedate cocktail lounge more than the high-pitched wailing of a commercial blender as it chews through large ice cubes. Reason number two: Over the last 30 years blended drinks have become synonymous with the Slurpees of booze—overly sweetened concoctions full of artificially flavored syrups.
It doesn't have to be this way. Some of the best cocktails ever—e.g., a proper Piña Colada with fresh pineapple juice and coconut cream—require a blender to prepare. So instead of shunning whirring blades, embrace them. Especially if they belong to any of the blenders below.
For the Occasional, Yet Stylish, Barkeep
Bandleader and radio star Fred Waring pioneered the first commercially popular blender in 1937. The Waring Blendor (it was purposefully misspelled) became an iconic bar tool thanks in part to the frappe-style Daiquiris served in Cuba and Florida. Its chrome "beehive" base and glass beaker is still what many of us think of when we imagine Hemingway sipping Daiquiris at El Floridita in Havana.
Working versions of that original Waring Blendor are still out there for less than 50 bucks—i.e., I picked one up on eBay for next to nothing more than a decade ago. It's a beautiful accessory for any kitchen counter. But be forewarned: Its vintage nature doesn't allow for enough power to put out perfectly smooth drinks or heavy daily use.
For the Hardcore Host
The blender bartenders like me use most is the Vitamix. It's big. It's loud. It's powerful. It's sturdy. And it will turn just about any combination of ingredients into a silky, smooth cocktail or creamy soup in seconds. You can blame its founder, "Papa" Barnard, for creating the world's first infomercial. But his creation is so good—the Vitamix boasts more than two horsepower—you'd never find someone who'd hold it against him. I use one every day at the bar to make short work of pureeing tough, fibrous ingredients such as whole ginger and rhubarb.
For the Apartment Dweller with A Tiny Kitchen
An alternative to the big, loud, noisy options is the handheld Bamix Immersion Blender. At my bar, we use the Bamix in conjunction with a small plastic container to mix up single servings of blended drinks with little noise. Admittedly, it's no Vitamix in terms of power. So don't expect it to tear through large cubes of ice. But it makes for a much more comfortable guest experience in our tiny space and is perfectly capable of obliterating pre-crushed ice.
Photo by David L. Reamer