Wine Slushies: A True Renaissance Treat

As late summer transforms into early fall and unseasonably warm days leave you parched for a refreshing treat, keep this in mind: you have a mathematician to thank for the best new drink you’ll try this season.

Allow me to explain.

Back in Renaissance Italy, code-maker, playwright and camera obscura enthusiast Giambattista della Porta wanted to figure out how to freeze liquids.  This is long before refrigeration, so prolonging the useful life of ice hauled down from the Alps would have greatly benefitted the fancy people in the courts of the day.  Signor della Porta observed that adding a thickening agent called saltpeter (aka potassium nitrate, which sounds way less appetizing) to a bottle of liquid suspended in snow would freeze the liquid.  This setup was the precursor to your grandmother’s old-fashioned ice cream maker.

I don’t know what the qualifications for sainthood are, but if you discover the modern process for making ice cream, you at least deserve your own national holiday.

Della Porta, being the visionary that he was, immediately applied this innovation to alcohol consumption.  Wine won’t freeze solid at moderately low temperatures due to its alcohol content. Thus, the wine slushy was born!  This refreshing, boozy slush became a huge hit at Renaissance banquets for years before inexplicably being forgotten in the annals of epicurean history.

Resurrecting the Wine Slushy

If you want to go all-in on a true Renaissance-Faire drink this season, pour a bottle of moderately priced wine (preferably a white or rosé) in your ice cream maker and see what happens.  You might like it, especially if you scoff at sugary cocktails.

If you’re looking for a more festive twist to share with guests on a sultry night, it’s easy to turn your wine slushies into an alcoholic fruit smoothie. Here are three, easy mini-recipes to get you inspired:

White Sparklers: Fill your blender with one part frozen white peaches or nectarines, with the skin removed. Add an equal amount of very cold sparkling white wine such as moscato spumante or prosecco. Blend until smooth-ish.

Rosé-Colored Glasses: Think pink by changing the ingredients above to frozen strawberries or watermelon and a sweet rosé. This one’s so eye-catching that you might forget that it’s for adults only!

Red, Red Berry: Use frozen mixed berries — raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are the classic combo — and a rich red wine. If you can’t find a sweet red, add some sugary fizz with a cup or two of ginger ale to taste. (Amazing photo above from Baking a moment - check them out for a detailed recipe!)

There’s no right or wrong way to make your wine slushy. After all, where would we be if Giambattista della Porta hadn’t strayed from the conventions of his contemporaries?  We’d possibly be living in a world without ice cream, a scenario so terrifying that I am going to skip dinner tonight in lieu of two pints of Ben & Jerry’s.  So, if your interest is sufficiently piqued, join the Renaissance and create your own wine slushy today!

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