Late last year, my husband and I joined the ranks of the mortgage-bound. With our purchase of a house, we traded our status as lackadaisical renters for that of homeowners, regarding the invasive shoots of bamboo at the back fence with a gimlet eye, believing each one an existential threat. For decades a committed tree-hugger, I’m now forced to admit that Cersei Lannister greets her royal children’s fiancees with more warmth than I greet these graceful stalks of green.
It’s just one of the many changes that accompany this “adulting” business, a project I view with much skepticism. It has struck me over the years that the old “with age comes wisdom” cliche may well be just something we tell each other to make ourselves feel better about the fact that our backs hurt and we wake up at 4 a.m. for no discernible reason.
Our new house overlooks the gentle slope of a park and a playground, and on an evening in mid-June, I was sitting on the couch working (a verb that seems to be synonymous with “adulting”) when I caught a flash of movement out the window. I turned to watch a group of kids – well, they were in that strange twilight age between childhood and misdemeanor – sprinting pell-mell down our street, racing each other to the Good Humor truck near the playground. They were young, they were fast, they had the ferocity of those who have just been released onto summer and are now falling on it like wolves.
Watching them come to an almost cartoonish screeching halt at the ice-cream truck, I had a vivid sense-memory of being that age: standing in late-afternoon light with friends, smelling the new-mown grass and melting blacktop, licking off the sticky trickle of popsicle syrup melting down my arm.
Summer. Remember when you had one, when summer didn’t just mean a hotter commute to work and some extra daylight hours to work in? When summer meant whole months of freedom? Remember how little you appreciated it, you little punk? (I mean, I don’t know about you, but I actually remember saying to my mom after about two weeks of summer vacation, “I’m soooo bored.”)
After a few minutes of marinating in jealousy over those whippersnappers, I got up from the couch and wandered down the street to the van, where, after some deliberation between the Creamsicle and a red-white-and-blue rocket thingy, I bought a Drumstick, that vanilla ice cream treat that has dunked its head in peanuts.
When I unwrapped it, I found it was freezer-burned. Thomas Wolfe was right: You can’t go cone again.
But maybe I could drag those summery novelties into adulthood? There was something pleasurable about the notion of stealing a classic kid’s treat and making it something kids can’t have. Or maybe I just felt that way after watching those kids run by like bohemian gazelles, achieving speeds I now reach only via automobile.
Go suck a push-up pop, munchkins, I thought. I will make something better.
Specifically, after a run to the store for frozen-pop molds, juice and fruit, and a little research into the freezing properties of hard liquor, I had molds full of goodness in the deep freeze: a grapefruit Paloma pop with tequila, lime and a little salt; a bright strawberry-Aperol mix that sang a song of summer; a honey-and-citrus syrup made sophisticated with the deep herbal notes of a little green Chartreuse.
My personal favorite, probably for its absurdity, was the Gin & Tonicsicle. A G&T is a classically adult tipple, and finding a way to put its flavors (though sadly, not its sparkle) into a frozen novelty appealed to me. I was concerned that the flavor of the gin would get lost, given how little I could use and still get a reliable freeze, but I got an assist from a line of sodas called Dry, which makes a juniper berry variation that suggested the notes of gin without diminishing the syrup’s freeze capacity.
I barely hit the tip of the ice pop with those four, and you could make hundreds of variations. So much good summer fruit right now! What about a watermelon-mezcal variety? Something with bourbon and peaches? What about a mai tai stick, with orgeat used as the sweetener?
If you’re feeling like experimenting, just follow the rules: Ethanol freezes at a lower temperature than water, but assuming your freezer is set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (it should be) and you keep your pops’ syrup mix at 10 percent alcohol by volume or under, you (and your popsicles) should be solid. In case you’re not inclined to stop and do complicated math: 2 1/2 cups of liquid is a little more than enough to fill six three-ounce popsicle molds. Assuming you’re working with a spirit that’s around 40 percent alcohol, holding it to no more than one-fifth of your mix (or half a cup) will keep you in the safe zone. Go much higher on the alcohol, and your ‘sicles will end up more slushy. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a slushy, but you’ll have trouble keeping it on a stick. Which is the point here: waving your boozesicle smugly at passing young people, with their big dreams and their emojis.)
When my Gin & Tonicsicles came out of the freezer, it occurred to me: I could also just use one as the ice in an actual G&T.
It seemed a crazy idea, like some weird booze turducken, but now we can use the popsicles to gently stir our G&Ts as we sit on our mortgaged front stoop and watch the tweens roll by. Now, when I see them running for the Good Humor truck, I think yes, yes, you scamps have the whole summer – your whole lives! – still ahead of you.
But we, we have a freezer of our own.
Allan is a Hyattsville, Md., writer and editor.