The blender gets a bad rap. Many a mixologist won't allow the appliance behind their bar, thanks to its association with neon-colored slushes, dispensed en masse from Slurpee machines. Sadly, this blanket ban counts out plenty of delicious drinks, including some crowd pleasers (hello, pina colada) that don't deserve the cold shoulder.

If you're looking to make the perfect poolside drinks, or just to beat the brutal heat of late July, you'll do no better than to break out the ice and fruit. Watch out for watery concoctions, though -- just follow these four steps to achieve blended drink perfection.1.) Pick fresh fruit

Alright, there's two schools of thought here. Those in the frozen camp argue that the taste difference is negligible, but pre-frozen fruit will give you better consistency. Fresh fruit fans say that it's all about taste, and fresh fruit always tastes better. We say consistency is usually king in this arena, but you can't beat fresh, perfectly ripe ingredients.

2.) Add the ice last

Great blender drinks are all about consistency. Unfortunately, every different kind of ice will lead to different results, so you just have to pay attention to the process. Begin by combining the liquid ingredients, then the fruit; after the mixture is well incorporated, slowly add ice (use chipped or cracked ice, not whole cubes, for better consistency). Watch closely as the drink blends to ensure that you don't add too much or too little.

3.) Blend slow

Even before you add the ice, keep the blender on a low setting so that you can mind the consistency, and so that you don't accidentally over-liquify.

4.) Use the straw test

The ultimate blended drink should be sippable through a straw, as one long, perfectly-combined, icy slurp. As you're adding your ice, try it yourself at least twice. It's the only proper way to gauge.

When you've mastered the daiquiri, here are some of our favorite signature blends:

Mango Batida

1 cup fresh mango chunks, plus 1 slice for garnish
2 ounces cachaca
2 ounces sweetened condensed milk
splash of coconut milk

Combine the mango chunks, cachaca, condensed milk, and coconut milk in a blender on high for 10 seconds. Add 1 cup crushed ice and blend for 3 seconds. Pour into a rocks glass and garnish with the mango slice.

Blackberry Bramblicious

5 blackberries
1 1/2 oz Gin
1 oz Simple syrup
3/4 oz Fresh lime juice
1/2 oz Creme de Cassis

Combine the blackberries, gin, simple syrup, lime juice, and creme de cassis in a blender and blend for about 5 seconds. Add about 1 cup of ice and blend until smooth. Pour into a cocktail glass.

Recipes reprinted from 101 Blender Drinks by Kim Haasarud. Wiley Publishing, 2010.