Chicago’s Fanciest Popsicles Help You Beat the Summertime Heat

A childhood treat gets a gourmet makeover

Nearly every American has fond childhood memories of cooling down on a hot day by eating a popsicle that may just drip down your arm. You know the ones. Their white wrappers disguised simple flavors such as "red" or "purple" or "yellow," which was also known as banana. Today's popsicles have gotten a bit of an upgrade thanks to savvy chefs combining the childhood classic with fresh fruit, gourmet garnishes, and even a bit of booze.

At TWO, pastry chef George Kovach uses local strawberries from Seedling Fruit for his strawberry rhubarb popsicle. The pureed fruit is molded, frozen, and garnished with basil powder, fresh and dried strawberries, as well as cardamom-pickled rhubarb. "The popsicle is intended to be eaten like a fun dip," Kovach says about the dessert that offers a double dose of nostalgia. "Who didn't love fun dips growing up?"

Every Saturday from noon to 2 p.m., Cindy's executive pastry chef Jove Hubbard hosts Jove T's Pops Shop in the Michigan Avenue entrance of the Chicago Athletic Association hotel. These frozen confections, available with or without a dash of booze, are created to reflect the whimsy and light flavors found on Hubbard's dessert menu, from strawberry-rose to pina colada.

Hubbard isn't the only one spiking his ‘sicles. At Expat, small-batch boozy push pops are the newest addition to the al fresco-only restaurant. "The idea for the boozy freeze pops evolved from taking a simplistic childhood dessert and elevating it to make it appeal to adults," says pastry chef Hannah Mendelson. "You get the childhood nostalgia with the perks of having them boozy." Her flavors include cucumber-ginger gin pop as well as a tequila-based one with grapefruit and lime.

Gourmet popsicles are the clever garnish for a bubbly creation at The Gwen called the "Poptail." Frozen prosecco popsicle acts as the ice cube in a glass of La Marca prosecco. The drink gets boozier as the popsicle melts. At Fremont, liquor-laced popsicles feature frozen takes on classic cocktails such as a daiquiri, mojito, and margarita. The new-ish River North bar also offers a push-pop version with layers shots of sorbet that have been infused with alcohol and fresh fruit.

"Just like with our tacos at Tallboy, we blend the best and boldest flavors of Mexico to create our signature paletas," says executive chef Tim Hockett. "You will find fruits like mango, passionfruit, lime, and peaches combines with spicy chiles, a fresh bouquet of herbs, or paired with a delicious rum to create the tastiest paletas north of the border." They also offer booze-free versions, because whether you are a kid at heart or an actual kid, a gourmet popsicle may be the perfect summertime treat.

By Sarah Freeman

Chicago Eater

(June 29, 2016)