The Summer is the perfect time to experiment with Ice Drinks. Making special ice and using it to make your own unique drinks.
To me, the art of mixology is a treat for all the senses. When you create
a new cocktail, you think, you shop, you mix, you pour, you taste, you sniff, you view your drink from all sides, you photograph, and you taste again.
So just plopping the same old freezer cubes into a unique, specialty concoction doesn’t make any sense. In fact, there are serious historical, scientific, aesthetic, and taste components to choosing the right frozen liquid to cool down your drink. Let’s look at a few of these elements in more detail.
Ice has been around in some form or another since, well, the Ice Age. More recently, my grandparents used to tell me about having blocks of ice delivered to their homes to keep the food in their “ice box” cold enough to prevent spoilage. As a kid, I remember my dad filling, twisting/emptying, and refilling ice cube trays of frozen water to get ice (and his frustration with the rest of us who used it up and never made more for him). Then came the automatic ice cube maker built into the freezer of our new refrigerator; a water line ran right into the unit and caused it to churn out ice on a non-stop basis (sure the cubes often had a funny shape, a funky flavor, and when the electronic arm-sensor mechanism failed we would have ice spill out all over the freezer and onto the floor, but it was worth it!). From there, it was just a short jump to ice cubes that came right out of a spigot on the refrigerator front to the portable models that can make various-sized cubes from water in under 6 minutes!
MORE: Flavored Ice Cubes
Ice does, in fact, affect your cocktail’s look, temperature, and dilution. Without getting too detailed (and too far into the molecular properties of frozen water), just note the following few factoids:
- Assuming there is no chilling without dilution, if you want a cold drink you have to put up with a little watering down. When you use large spherical cubes, chilling and dilution occur slower; when you go with small rectangular cubes or crushed ice, the extra surface area will lead to faster chilling and faster dilution.
- If you want to make ice that appears perfectly clear, freeze it slowly and without supercooling. The science behind this has something to do with how and where ice crystals form inside the cube. Putting an “intentional impurity,” like a mint leaf or raspberry, in each cube will also help because, while the ice will start crystallizing imperfectly around the “foreign” item, the rest of the cube should form more clearly.
*Remember that other factors, like the starting temperature of the ice, the barware, and even temperature and humidity levels in the room, can all affect the end result.
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Along with the resurgence of interest in the craft cocktail has come an interest in “craft” ice. Upscale cocktail bars are featuring big cubes, small cubes, spheres, chipped ice, shaved ice, flavored ice, “pure” ice, and even dry ice for the occasional “special effect”! The home mixologist can find round, square, floral, and even “shot-glass” shaped ice molds, just to list a few.
Why does it matter?
Think of it this way: there are only a limited number of elements you can change up to create a signature drink. There’s the booze, of course. And the mixers. And the glassware options. Adding a choice of new, fun ice cubes offers another way to “sign” your work.
Each of the featured drinks below employs variations on the traditional ice cube. Feel free to play around and experiment with your own tools and techniques until you find the ones you like. While putting all this attention on ice may seem just a little bit indulgent, once you recognize that as much as half the volume of a cocktail can come from melted ice, it just makes cold, hard sense!
Crushed ice always makes me feel like a kid with a snow cone...even when served in a very grown-up martini glass complete with liquor. Try one of these after a meal and you may never drink your coffee hot again!
When the emphasis is on the ice, the drink itself can be remarkably simple and still impress. Here’s another favorite from my home recipe collection.
The following is a slight variation on the first drink I ever created. The colors, flavors, and simplicity caught the attention of a publicist and helped me launch Mixed metaPours, my signature cocktail business! I think the colored ice cubes made of fruit juices were the key.
Recipe published in JOY of KOSHER with Jamie Geller Magazine Fall 2015 SUBSCRIBE NOW
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