Beyond the imaginative drinks, ostentatious garnishes, or playful glassware, half the fun of drinking at a fancy cocktail bar is for the ice: the cubes, spheres, and pebbles that literally add to the cool factor. When it comes to gifting, some people hear “ice,” and metaphorically think of sparkly jewelry, but true cocktail aficionados can get a similar twinkle in their eye for actual frozen water and the devices that create it.
Ice Can Up Your Home Bartending Game
If you can relate, you can up your home bartending game just by considering how you make and use ice in your home set up. Alcohol Professor contributor Camper English, having coined the phrase “directional freezing” with his foolproof and practical process for making crystal clear ice at home, is the leading expert on small-batch cocktail ice for home use, and author of The Ice Book. “Ice both chills a drink and dilutes it, and your choice of ice impacts that rate at which this happens,” says English. “If your ice is made up of lots of small pieces it will both chill and dilute fast, which may be great for a gas station soda from the dispenser on a hot day, but not for an Old Fashioned at home that you plan to spend 20 minutes sipping slowly.”
A serious home bartender should have multiple ice molds in their arsenal as to always have the appropriate ice for the cocktail at hand. To that end, here are several ice molds co-signed by English, as well as a few novelty choices, to help put a personal stamp on your cocktail creations.
All Purpose Ice for Shaken Cocktails:
Cocktail Kingdom 1.25” Square Ice Cube Tray, $8.99
“For drinks that are shaken and require a bit more dilution like a Mojito, standard sized cubes are good enough,” says English, as well as for shaken drinks that will be poured over fresh ice of any shape. “Personally I love the 1.25″ sized cubes you can make in this Cocktail Kingdom tray.” 1 ¼ inch cubes are about the size of what you’d get in a typical plastic ice cube tray, but the symmetrical shape here means your cubes break up more evenly in an aggressive shake, and the food-grade rubber mold doesn’t impart any odors into your ice.
To be sure that no unintended flavors end up in your cocktail creations, “the big thing to avoid is smelly ice,” says English. “Both ice and silicone trays you use to make it absorb smells from both the refrigerator and the freezer, so unless you’re going through your cubes in a few days, store it in a container with a lid, or zip-close bags after it’s frozen.”
Clear Ice for Shaken Cocktails:
Clearly Frozen 10 x 2” Ice Cube Tray, $37.99
Having determined the process for making clear ice at home, this should come as no surprise: “I’m a total ice snob now and I want all my ice to be clear,” says English, “so I make it in a cooler or in clear ice cube trays (such as these.) Then I’ll break it up if I need it smaller.”
If you’re ready to really take your home cocktail game up a notch, clear ice is the goal. The cloudiness in your typical ice cubes basically consists of compressed impurities and trapped air in your water, whereas clear ice has a purer taste, and effectively disappears in your glass, making your cocktail creations shine all the more.
Clear Ice in Large Cubes:
Dexas ice*ology Silicone Clear Ice Maker Tray, $37.63
As per the aforementioned Old Fashioned sipping scenario above, stirred cocktails and spirits on “the rocks” deserve a large cube, or single rock (yet another shared euphemism with diamonds.) A large cube effectively chills your spirit, or maintains your cocktail’s chill, while melting much more slowly than regular ice and therefore not adding more unneeded dilution.
Here, English recommends another clear ice option for big cubes, if the convenience of making two perfect, clear cubes without having to carve up a small cooler of directionally frozen ice is appealing.
Death Star Cocktail Ice Sphere $14.99
Like large cubes, large spheres also serve your stirred cocktails and sipped spirits, and frequently fit more easily into a wide variety of glassware. There are a number of practical sphere molds available, but lest we forget that cocktails should be, if anything, fun, why not consider one from a galaxy far, far away, as with this Death Star option. You can even visit English’s site Alcademics for instructions on how to make a stealth mode (i.e. clear,) Death Star ice sphere.
Pebble Ice for Tropical Drinks:
Lamesa Pebble Ice Cube Tray $22.99
If you’re serious about using clear ice for all of your drinks, “as far as smaller cobbler, cracked, or crushed ice goes you can just smash it up using a Lewis Bag and mallet, or whack it inside a dish towel using a muddler or similar,” says English, who recommends this ice tapper for breaking down large, clear cubes. If you imagine most of your home bartending energy will be spent on Tiki cocktails, however, investing in a pebble tray may be worth your while. You’ll need to carve out space in your freezer both for the numerous ice trays, and for the storage box which is included here, in order to have enough pebble ice on hand for a night of tropical drinking. (Pro tips: make sure to really pack the pebble ice in your cocktail glass for best results, and shake with standard cubes, never the pebble ice itself.)
W&P Cocktail Ice Collection $64
For the center of the Venn Diagram consisting of the people who hear “iced” and think of both diamonds and frozen water, W&P’s silicone molds check both marks, with elaborate designs in prism, ripple, petal, and crystal.
This article originally appeared on Alcohol Professor and was syndicated by MediaFeed.
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