There’s much more to making frozen cocktails than just throwing a few ingredients into a blender—frozen drinks are somewhat of an art form, one that combines texture, flavor, and the logistics behind keeping the drink frozen for longer than just a few minutes. The latter is an important detail to consider, especially given the typical scenario for enjoying frozen drinks (in the summer months, ideally). As with most cocktails in general, every ingredient and tool contributes in some way to the overall experience, and blenders are no exception.
The best blenders for frozen cocktails can be divided into two categories: commercial and residential, although there is some crossover at times depending on the volume and offerings of a bar or restaurant or the nature of a blender’s use at home. Either way, achieving a smooth consistency in your frozen drink is key, and that comes with using a quality machine with sharp and efficient blades and sufficient power. Here are our top blender picks of the year, including pro recommendations from the experts.
Best Overall: Vitamix Vita-Prep 3
Highly effective blade and motor
Better for multiple servings versus single servings
“I have a Vitamix Vita-Prep at home and absolutely love it,” says Haley Forest, US Brand Ambassador for ITALICUS Rosolio di Bergamotto, a cult-favorite Italian bergamot liqueur. “Many blenders these days have specific setting buttons, but this baby has a manual dial, so you can get very specific on the speed. Plus there is an extra power toggle for when you really need the extra power. It also comes with a tamper tool which is designed to push ingredients down to the blades for a more even blend while keeping the lid on. This is perfect for blended drinks—it creates texture consistency so you don’t end up with a mixture of slush and large ice cubes.”
The Vitamix Vita-Prep 3 weighs approximately 14 pounds and holds 64 liquid ounces.
Best Budget: NutriBullet Pro 13-Piece Set
Easy to use
Widely available parts and accessories
Less powerful motor than larger blenders
A NutriBullet blender should be a staple in any kitchen—this easy-to-use buildable system is a versatile workhorse and is perfect for everyday use (think protein shakes, hot soups, frozen cocktails, and everything in between).
This 13-piece set comes with all you’ll need to get started: the 900-watt NutriBullet Pro, one stainless steel high-performance extractor blade, two 32-ounce blender cups, two to-go lids, one lip ring, a second lip ring with a handle for easy drinking, and last but not least, a recipe book for inspiration. Each of the attachment pieces can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher, and if you find yourself wanting to expand your collection, you can easily purchase additional attachments and accessories, such as blender cups in a variety of sizes as well as flip-top drinking lids, replacement parts, and more.
Best Splurge: Thermomix TM5 Commercial All-In-One Blender and Cookery
Full-color touchscreen display
“The main difference between commercial and ‘residential’ [blenders] is how much use it’s built for,” says Forest. “Something to keep in mind when a blender talks about horsepower is that a good portion of that power is actually being used to keep the motors cool and hopefully not overheat.”
The Thermomix TM5 Commercial All-In-One Blender and Cookery is built for endurance and can be used not only for frozen cocktails (and other cold drinks or dishes) but for hot soups and more. This system offers over 20 functions, including grinding, emulsifying, whipping, steaming, mixing, stirring, blending, chopping, kneading, heating, weighing, and more, making it worth every penny.
Best for High Volume: Vitamix E310 Professional-Grade Explorian Blender with 48 oz. Container
Highly adjustable speed
Thermal protective system
While he’s had positive experiences with commercial brand Taylor in a work setting, Death & Co Los Angeles head bartender Matthew Belanger prefers Vitamix’s professional-grade E310 model, complete with a ten-speed dial, a pulse feature, and 3-inch diameter stainless steel blades for consistent blending.
“At home, I opt for frozen drinks in a blender, [and] having a knob to control the blending speed versus a bunch of presets can make the difference in getting the right texture out of your frozen drink. Make sure to use big ice cubes and to blend the crap out of it! Like, eight ounces of ice per cocktail.”
Best Design: Smeg Retro Countertop Blender
Can match other Smeg appliances
For those who prefer aesthetics above all, Smeg brand appliances are both charmingly retro and highly functional, ticking all of the boxes for a curated kitchen or bar space. This countertop blender is no exception—with four speeds and three pre-set programs for smoothies, crushing ice, and the like, Smeg’s smartly-designed appliance includes a dishwasher-safe BPA-free pitcher and detachable stainless steel dual blades (also dishwashable) for easy cleanup.
“This will sound totally counterintuitive,” says Forest, “but having a plastic jug versus glass is also really important. If you’re making blended cocktails, you need something that can withstand the ice banging around in there—glass has a chance of shattering and the thought of having to clean that mess gives me nightmares.”
Best for Juicing: Nutri Ninja Personal Blender with 1000-Watt Auto-iQ Base
Designed for optimal nutrient extraction
Smaller than standard countertop blenders
Thanks to Nutri Ninja, you can save yourself the hassle of owning both a blender and a juicer with this 1000-watt powerhouse device. Complete with Ninja’s proprietary Auto-iQ base, which allows for one-touch use of a variety of settings, including various smoothie (read: cocktail) blending patterns and an Ultra-Blend setting, which renders a more juice-like texture than the others.
When you purchase this blender, you’re not only investing in the base and Pro-Extractor blades but a whole host of accessories, including two blender cups (18 and 24 ounces), two cup lids, and a book of 30 recipes for inspiration.
Best Multipurpose: Ninja 400-Watt Blender and Food Processor
Includes just one manual blend setting
If you’re looking to save kitchen space with an all-in-one appliance, Ninja’s 400-watt blender and food processor is for you—using a compact “powerhead” versus the traditional blender or food processor base, this tool works in tandem with its included 48-ounce pitcher and 16-ounce chopper bowl to blend, chop, dice, and purée a wide variety of foods and ingredients.
Consistently safe and easy use is another great feature of Ninja’s 400-watt blender and food processor hybrid, thanks to its anti-spill splash guard, flip-top pour spout, and non-slip base. This cost-efficient and highly functional blender is bound to become a staple on your kitchen counter.
Each of these blenders is unique in its own way, and while there’s some overlap in key features across the board, some are more ideal than others for specific uses and needs. If you’re looking for the perfect personal or compact blender, you can never go wrong with a trusty NutriBullet (view at Amazon), although if you’re a fan of having a variety of settings to choose from, you’ll want to go for the Nutri Ninja (view at Amazon). If you make a lot of frozen cocktails (either at home or while working), a more industrial- or professional-grade blender, like the Vitamix E310 (view at Amazon), offers both the power to withstand constant use without overheating and the size to accommodate larger volumes. Lastly, if you want to make your investment count beyond blending, models like the Thermomix TM5 All-In-One (view at Amazon) and the Ninja 400-watt blender and food processor (view at Amazon) are an excellent way to get the most bang for your buck.
What to Look For in a Blender
Blenders operate on the same general idea—creating liquid texture or smaller pieces out of various ingredients—but can come in many different forms. Regardless of the type of blender you’re shopping for, you’ll want to make sure that the wattage is appropriate for the intended use. Quality personal blenders should be 300 watts or higher, while full-size blenders should be around 700 watts and above; professional-grade blenders will generally be above 900 watts.
A great blender will exist to blend, at minimum, but some models come equipped with additional functions, which come in handy for saving space, time, and/or money. The Ninja 400-watt blender and food processor is an excellent example of a multipurpose tool at an approachable price, combining two kitchen appliances into one at a lower cost than purchasing both a blender and a food processor separately. Blender hybrids like the Thermomix TM5 All-In-One Blender and Cookery are designed for cooks who really like to geek out in the kitchen and don’t mind investing serious money into professional-grade appliances—again, this highly advanced tool offers a staggeringly long list of capabilities along with a database of over 20,000 recipes for inspiration.
Maintenance and upkeep
Regardless of which blender you own or purchase, always make sure to take care of your appliance as best you can in order to ensure its functionality and longevity. As a general guideline, blenders should be cleaned only as instructed, and when in use, be careful not to let the motor overheat as this can cause mechanical issues.
What's the difference between a blender and a juicer?
Some blenders, such as the Nutri Ninja, are powerful enough to liquefy whole fruit and vegetable pieces into a juice-like consistency, however the term “juicer” generally refers to a device or appliance that extracts the juice from fruits and vegetables by separating juice from fiber versus blending whole pieces into liquid form. Blenders are powered electrically, while juicers can be either electric or hand-powered.
How long should a quality blender last?
A blender’s frequency of use will determine its longevity, as will its care. In general, blenders should last at least a few years (longer depending on size, power, construction, and quality), but in order to make yours last as long as possible, be sure to avoid letting the motor overheat if using often, and to clean the blender’s parts only as instructed. Also, as Forest mentioned, purchasing a blender with a plastic pitcher versus a glass pitcher will greatly reduce the possibility of pitcher breakage. Lastly, look out for warranties when shopping for the perfect blender for frozen cocktails—this will help you to understand how long any given product is meant to last at minimum and how long you’ll be covered in the event of any malfunctions.
Do you have to take a blender apart to clean?
This depends on the model of your blender—for example, blenders like the NutriBullet feature a detachable blade, which unscrews from the cup, and each piece is meant to be washed separately. Many blenders come with the blade attached to the bottom of the pitcher itself, in which case you’ll want to wash as instructed (and as carefully as possible). Self-cleaning functions like that of the Vitamix E310 are also very handy and are certainly worth considering when shopping around for the perfect blender.
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Céline Bossart is a longtime wine and spirits writer who has, over the years, developed a serious appreciation for great blenders. At home, she primarily uses a NutriBullet for everyday smoothie blending, but when hosting, she’s partial to making batches of frozen cocktails in a Vitamix.