Happy Monday, everyone! Hope your weekend was full of something yummy. Welcome back to day five of "25 Days of Cocktails." Today's topic is one of Andy's favorites: ice.
The average person doesn't think about ice very much. What is there to think about? Fill ice cube tray with water, stick it in the freezer, right? How wrong you are! There is so much more to ice, but for today, we will stick to the essentials.
Ice does two important things in a drink: chill and dilute. Dilution is a good thing. Chilling is a very good thing. The most important thing is to get the right balance of those two things. To learn about how to get the ideal temperature and dilution, stay tuned for days six and seven where we will cover proper shaking and stirring technique!
For now though, we just want to talk about the ice you use. First, half-moon ice that is dispensed out of your fridge is junk. It will work in a pinch, but if you have any alternative, use it. As for alternatives, you have lots of options. The easiest is to use a square ice tray. We are big fans of the silicone 1.25" cube trays. They work really well for shaking and stirring drinks.
If you're feeling especially ambitious, you could try the next level of ice craftsmanship: crystal ice. Fun fact: we stocking more ice than food in our freezer. Crystal ice is simple enough to make once you understand the science behind it. To debunk some myths: it is NOT made from purified water, it has nothing to do with how you treat the water (e.g. boiling it before putting it in the freezer), and it has very little to do with your actual freezer. The trick is directional freezing.
Usually, when you stick an ice tray filled with water in the freezer it is surrounded by cold air, so it freezes from all directions. What you need to achieve to get crystal ice is directional freezing, or freezing from one direction. The objective is to adjust the conditions so that you have cold air coming at the water from only one direction. Sounds complicated. but all you need is a mini cooler that fits in your freezer! (Just don't forget to take the lid off so it isn't insulated all around.) We use a Coleman cooler that's built for holding a 6-pack. When water freezes from one direction, it forces all the impurities and air bubbles to the opposite direction. This leaves you with a crystal clear layer on top, and a cloudy layer on the bottom. Then it's just a matter of cutting off the impure ice, and shaping your cubes!
Warning: now that you know all this about ice, don't judge bars with ugly ice too harshly - in large scale settings, it can be super expensive and/or time-consuming to use crystal ice. But when you dp see it, you will know that the person behind the bar definitely cares about the drink they are handing you.