Ah, summer, the season of frozen drinks. But that perfectly blended margarita doesn't just make itself. It requires a machine with enough brawn to crush a pitcher's worth of ice and enough finesse to create a concoction that's neither liquid nor solid, but somewhere in that divine middle ground.

We're talking a mighty serious and sophisticated blender.

Fortunately, the warm-weather months see a wave of such machines on the market. We took a look at seven of them -- most fairly new to the scene -- and put them through the margarita mill. That is, we made a batch of frozen drinks, using mixes from one of our favorite bar brands, Island Oasis (they also make those top-of-the-line frozen-drink machines you see in restaurants). Then, we judged how they delivered on their promise to serve up summer in a glass.

May the best machine win.

The machine:

Margaritaville Key West Frozen Concoction Maker

Price:

$299.99

How it works:

This unique appliance is really an ice shaver and blender (with a 450-watt motor) all in one -- and has potential to make a very smooth frozen drink. Load the ice in a top chamber and the drink mix and alcohol in the blender. The "concoction maker" first shaves the ice, then deposits the resulting sleet-like mass into the blender. Finally, the blender takes over.

The result:

Perhaps too smooth a drink. The ice is shaved to the point that it almost seems to dissolve into the liquid, meaning the resulting margarita is never quite slushy enough. Plus, this is a HUGE machine -- and it doesn't really effectively double as a stand-alone blender. So unless you've got plenty of counter space, we'd pass.

Also of note:

Want to bring the party to wherever you plan to head? An optional travel tote ($39.99) is available. Also, don't let the machine's name fool you: It works for a variety of frozen drinks, not just margaritas. Also, different size versions (the Fiji, the Bahamas) are available.

The machine:

Magic Bullet Platinum Pro

Price:

$99.99

How it works:

This is not just a blender, it's an entire blending system. In other words, it has a blender base (with a 350-watt motor) and a variety of containers to affix to it, appropriate for making anything from a bowlful of guacamole to, yes, a frozen drink.

The result:

Well, maybe the machine would work for that guacamole to accompany your margarita, but the drink itself didn't quite measure up. The problem? The blender isn't powerful enough to properly crush the ice -- we ended up with a few big chunks in our margarita. Plus, the machine is a bit cumbersome to operate if you want to add more liquid or ice to your beverage -- you have to remove the container from the base, do your adding, then re-screw it back. Still, if you want to make a single frozen drink, machine does offer containers that are just the right size.

Also of note:

Comes with an extensive recipe book, which will guide you through making everything from deviled eggs to beef Burgundy with your Magic Bullet.

The machine:

Breville Die Cast Hemisphere Blender

Price:

$299.99

How it works:

In a sense, this is a traditional blender with different speed settings. But it's also a powerful one (with a 1,000-watt motor) with several key features, including a dishwasher-safe, plus-size (two-liter), easy-to-grip container and a sleek die-cast base.

The result:

This makes a good (though perhaps not great) margarita: Ice in the drink was more of a crushed consistency than our preferred slushy one, but at least there were no obvious chunks. Still, the blender brings a smart, contemporary look to any kitchen and the container is highly practical (and seemingly unbreakable). We'd consider this model if we were looking for a solid, all-around blender as opposed to one just for frozen drinks. Another nice feature: It's relatively quiet.

Also of note:

Breville has more affordably priced blenders, starting at $149.99.

The machine:

Rival Icey Cream Machine

Price:

$59.99

How it works:

As its name implies, this is an ice-cream maker, but it also promises to double as a frozen-drink machine. Essentially, it has the same freeze-bowl system as many home ice-cream makers, but the bowl is positioned horizontally and attaches to a spigot. So, after you pour in your drink mix and let the machine run for a good 10 minutes, you can open the spigot and let the margaritas flow.

The result:

The margaritas may flow, but they didn't come out frozen enough in our test. Plus, this machine requires forethought -- if the bowl isn't already chilling in the freezer, you better be prepared to wait 24 hours before you can use it. On top of that, you'll need an extra measure of patience, since it's going to take those 10 minutes for the mix to chill once the machine is in use.

Also of note:

Well, the machine still works for making ice cream -- and that may be its only saving grace.

The machine:

Hamilton Beach Dual Wave Blender

Price:

$79.99

How it works:

On the surface, it's a traditional blender -- and a reasonably powerful one (with two 1,000-watt motors). But there's a lot more going on here. Like the Magic Bullet, it allows you to switch containers -- you can use one ginormous container (80 ounces!) with a spigot or two smaller (16-ounce) ones.

The result:

Performed well for a blender at this price point, perhaps because the "dual wave" action gets the ice properly crushed and blended with the mix. But it's a blender with a good deal of innovation -- we can't think of one with a larger container on the market or one that allows you to make two separate drinks at once (if you use the smaller containers). That said, the blender seems best designed for beverages; if you need a machine that can, say, chop your veggies, you might want to look elsewhere.

Also of note:

You can purchase more of the smaller blending containers through Hamilton Beach.

The machine:

Black & Decker's Cyclone Blender

Price:

$29.99

How it works:

A budget blender that's a tad more powerful (it has a 650-watt motor) than ones we've encountered in the past. The company also touts the "unique contoured jar design and 4-plane blades for the best blending experience yet."

The result:

For $30, it had more ice-crushing capability than pricier blenders we've used in the past. But our margarita was still on the coarse side compared with frozen drinks made with much of the competition. Plus, the container is glass -- we prefer something unbreakable.

Also of note:

Container's lid comes with an attached measuring cup.

The machine:

Vita-Mix 5200

Price:

$449

How it works:

It looks like a blender, but a Vita-Mix is almost closer to a heavy-duty kitchen appliance. With a 1,500-watt motor -- the company boasts that the blades spin at 240 mph -- it's capable of doing everything from kneading dough to juicing.

The result:

We've owned a Vita-Mix for years and there's no doubt it makes a mean margarita. The new 5200 model performed even better -- the ice stood no chance against this machine, all but guaranteeing a smooth drink. This is truly the Rolls-Royce of blenders.

Also of note:

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the newest Vita-Mix has nothing to do with blending. It's the shatterproof "copolyester" container, which is made without BPA (bisphenol-A) content. (BPA is a chemical, commonly found in many household items, that has been suspected of posing a health risk.)

The machine:

Blendtec Total Blender

Price:

$399.95

How it works:

As with Vita-Mix, this is a blender with enough brawn (a 1,500 watt-motor) to qualify as something more than just a blender. And as with Vita-Mix, the company promises the machine can handle a variety of tasks -- just in case you feel like making some bread dough.

The result:

It's a close call, but we think the Blendtec may have an edge over Vita-Mix in that it can cycle at higher and lower speeds (a process that the company calls "Smart-Touch-Tec-nology"), which aids in mixing the ice and liquid. Our margaritas came out with just the right consistency -- like a 7-Eleven Slurpee with an alcoholic kick. That said, the Vita-Mix has some other key features, including that special container and a "tamper" that can be used to assist in mixing, so it still may be the way to go, especially for an everyday machine.

Also of note:

The Blendtec blender comes with a hefty spiral-bound recipe book, with instructions on how to make everything from pineapple bread to tortilla soup to, yes, a frozen margarita.

Charles Passy is a Florida-based writer who covers food, travel, entertainment and consumer culture and products.