Why you should care
Because this is pure sugary, alcoholic goodness.
The sight of a swirling slushie machine on a hot summer’s day is enough to unleash a childlike delight in pretty much anyone. And now there’s a place to satisfy your outer adult as well as your inner child … by adding alcohol. Welcome to Wet Willie’s, a chain of boozy slushie bars — daiquiri bars, if we’re being precise. There’s no better place to indulge cravings for the one-two poisonous punch of sugar and alcohol (and lots of each) — so maybe save a visit for the cheat days. Or don’t.
From the very strong Attitude Improvement flavor (featuring tangy orange with 190-proof grain alcohol and two types of Bacardi rum) to the even stronger Call a Cab (cherry and strawberry with grain alcohol and rum), Wet Willie’s doesn’t hold back on the flavors or the booze. There are no percentages listed on the menu, except a warning that the drinks are stronger than normal bar beverages — and from the first sip you can tell they’re not joking. If it’s still not enough for you, try a swirl that combines the two, along with some strawberry (fruit and rum), piña colada (coconut, pineapple and rum), Monkey Shine (banana and rum) or … you get the picture.
It was impossible to discern the sugar high from the brain freeze from the alcohol buzz.
On my visit to the Atlantic City franchise, the Shock Treatment flavor piqued my curiosity — “a shocking mixture” that “will electrify your senses,” the menu boldly proclaimed — and it soon became clear that the descriptions were not exaggerated sales pitches, but in fact deadly honest warnings. The ice, the sugar, the sour blue curaçao flavor, the Everclear … it was a sweet, sweet hangover in a sip.
Since the first Wet Willie’s opened on St. Patrick’s Day 1990, in Savannah, Georgia, there are now 10 company stores as well as six franchises across the southeastern U.S., with two more franchises opening shortly, says Joe Ann Brandt, wife of co-founder and CEO Bill Dickinson (aka Willie, after whom the chain is named). The pair were both licensed clinical psychologists with postdoctoral degrees before hatching the business plan, flavor names and all, with a friend over the breakfast table. The daiquiri side gig eventually took over their day jobs.
“My husband always used to say, ‘Therapy is great, but liquor is quicker!’ ” jokes Joe Ann. That’s been replaced by the company’s new slogan — “Support global cooling,” which you’ll see on the walls and on the servers’ branded tank tops. “It’s great fun to be able to add a little levity to people’s lives,” Joe Ann says.
At the Atlantic City bar, the procession of slushie machines swirling their drool-inducing sugariness, the colorful, cartoony decor and the general effects of the booze combined to create an all-around psychedelic experience — it was impossible to discern the sugar high from the brain freeze from the alcohol buzz. With the seventh Harry Potter movie playing on the TV next to the one broadcasting a baseball game, the whole thing felt like a particularly trippy dream.
As we left, Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” was playing, and I wondered why it wasn’t playing constantly, on repeat. Maybe it was — two slushies in, and I already had no idea what had happened that evening.