Summer is when I thrive. The second it’s over 70 degrees, I start itching for the sun, corralling my friends into meeting me under my portable beach cabana that I’ve dragged on a two-hour bus ride from my apartment, or persuading friends with actual patios to throw parties. We all bring snacks and drinks to share, but last year I began making what may be the silliest, overly complicated libation ever created: boozy Otter Pops.
You may have seen the hack on TikTok by now, though it’s been around for much longer; I remember people doing this in college, when finding ways to surreptitiously consume alcohol seemed a matter of national importance. All you do is cut off the top of the tube of an unfrozen pop, pour out some of the liquid, and pour back in a shot or so’s worth of liquor. Vodka always works, but you can also add rum to the citrusy flavors and pretend this is equivalent to a daiquiri. Then, with a hair flat iron set to low-medium heat (you don’t want to burn the plastic), you hold the pop upright, pinch the top back together, seal it with the heat, and freeze it until it’s set.
It’s so stupid! Which is what makes it delightful. There’s something so absurd about going to this amount of effort to not even cook anything, and while hair-dryer chicken has a sort of outsider art chic to it, there is nothing sexy or alluring about the phrase “flat iron,” especially if it’s suffixed by “Otter Pop.” It’s like I’ve taken whatever part of my brain could be devoted to learning how to crochet or French braid and put it into the most pathetic form of bootlegging.
However, there really is a reason to try this out. A roll of boozy pops is far lighter than a six-pack and takes up way less space in your cooler. They’re easy to consume and don’t make much trash. For all the up-front effort, it’s weirdly efficient. Yes, you can technically buy pre-boozed ice pops and not have to break out any hair tools, but where’s the fun in that?
Most of all, making your own alcoholic pops is fun. Summer is about warmth, whether that’s from the sun radiating through the trees or the feeling you get when you look around, vision slightly bleached out from how bright it is, and see friends playing and cooking and relaxing around you. It is about seeking happiness. So if I’ll make my friends laugh by presenting them with dollar-store ice pops that I’ve taken my leopard-print flat iron to — ice pops that taste exactly like regular ice pops with a shot of vodka in them — I can think of no better goal.
Marco Tirado is a freelance illustrator based in Philadelphia.