Ice, Ice Baby!
Whether a multi-layered cocktail or a humble G&T, good quality ice can make or break a drink.
The ice that’s been floating around the back of your freezer in trays (or bags from the supermarket) for weeks – if not months – really isn’t up to the job of enhancing your drink. If you’re going to go to all the effort of making cocktails at home with quality ingredients then skimping on your ice is not a great idea. When you are paying for the purity of the spring or lake water used to produce your vodka or whiskey, and all the effort of multiple filtrations by the distiller, it goes without saying your standard freezer cube is going to be something of a let down especially when its been slowly gathering odour from that piece of frozen fish that should have seen the trash a long time ago.
Sure, any ice will chill down a drink whether you are shaking or serving on-the-rocks but old, cloudy ice full of impurities certainly won’t add anything to integrity or aesthetic of your drink. You only have to look at the label of a bottle of your favourite mineral water to see the comprehensive breakdown of ‘invisible’ mineral and organic compounds to see that water contains more than just pure H2O.
However – whilst not perhaps desirable – those particles aren’t the main culprit when it comes to creating great ice. The naughty boy is too many oxygen bubbles combined with an imperfect freezing process.
Quality bars work hard on ensuring the ice in their customers’ drinks is of the highest quality and adds to the ‘wow’ factor. To many bartenders it’s an essential part of their craft and a distinct art form.
Some bars buy in their ice daily from commercial companies [cue ‘The Ice Man Cometh’ jokes], or work really hard on ensuring the purity of the water they use and the cleanliness and management of their freezers is as good as it gets.
Serious ice-freaks in some high-end bars work with special freezers that gently agitate the water as it freezes leaving the majority of the ice clear with a thin layer of cloudy oxygen bubbles and impurities at the top of the frozen block that can then be removed.
So, to get the best ice for your drinks at home here are some simple – and achievable – tips for better ice:
Reduce the amount of oxygen bubbles in your water before you freeze your cubes by using pre-purified water created through a process called reverse osmosis (some larger supermarkets sell this bottled); or boiling water in your kettle, letting the water cool, then boiling and cooling again before freezing.
When adding ice trays to the freezer, wrap in clingfilm or a sealable bag to minimise contamination. You can also get rubber ice moulds in spheres or cubes which self-seal from quality kitchen/homeware shops. These not only create cleaner ice but also look pretty cool too.
When making your drink, always use ice straight from the fridge. ‘Wet’ ice that’s been sitting in an ice bucket for any period of time will be inferior and water down your drink quicker than fresh ice.
Choose the right ice for the cocktail you are making. Crushed ice is great in a long drink such as a Mojito or Mint Julep but an Old Fashioned really needs just one big rock of ice to keep the drink cold without adding additional water to the liquor. A G&T tends to work quite nicely with three cubes of ice, keeping both the drink and the ice cold to keep an overall low temperature.
Keep it cool with great ice!