Cocktail aficionados have long thought about how to decorate their favorite drink – from the garnish to the glass type.
Now they have turned their attention to the modest ice cube. It’s a trend of the smartest bartenders, fanatical about what some call the most crucial ingredient.
After all, why spend money on delicious alcohol and mix it with precision and then top it off with something that looks like it was appreciated with a pack of frozen peas?
From rocks to spheres, shards to icebergs, there are a myriad of ice shapes to choose from these days, each suitable for cooling – or diluting – different types of drinks to enhance the experience.
Helen McGinn shared advice for combining different forms of ice cream with cocktails as bartenders cause the summer trend (file image)
Here, our beverage expert Helen McGinn reveals what’s cool this summer. Remember, the water you use must be fresh (top mixologists even select signature mineral water) and the ice must be kept in the freezer before serving – sweating it in a bucket will dilute your cocktail very quickly.
Welcome to the new ice age. . .
IN GOOD FORM
The classic shape – made by the standard ice cube trays in most of our freezers. These are ideal to throw in the shaker when making cocktails like a Martini (unless you stir yours of course).
If you’re using cubes in a long drink cocktail – one made in a tall glass – fill it with four or five cubes, instead of adding a few cubes at the end.
And don’t worry about a lot of ice thinning your drink, because if you keep the drink colder, the cubes don’t melt and it stays stronger longer. Indispensable when it comes to cocktails.
CURVES TO ENJOY
Helen said ice cream with a curved surface the size of golf balls is best served with drinks in cups like Negronis (file image)
These are almost the size of golf balls, larger than a cube and have a smooth, curved surface.
The scientific part is that, with less surface contact with what’s inside the glass, the ice melts more slowly. Which in turn means that the drink stays strong longer.
These are great for drinks in cups like Negronis, keeping them wonderfully strong and looking great.
Round ice cube molds are widely available if you want to make them at home, but you can also buy them in big bags at the supermarket.
Perfect to throw in a G&T too, especially when served in a balloon-shaped copa glass.
IT’S CRUSH HOUR
The drink expert explained that crushed ice is essential for hot day cocktails, including mojitos, mint juleps, and wine-based slushies (file image)
Crushed ice is essential for making cocktails to sip on hot days, such as mojitos, mint juleps, or wine-based slushies.
And if you want to hurry with your own frosé – that’s frozen rosé – you’ll have to improve your crushed ice game.
You can, of course, put ice cubes in a blender and blow them to smithereens, but I prefer the old-fashioned method. Namely, put ice cubes in a freezer bag, wrap it in a tea towel, and beat it with a rolling pin until crushed (the ice, I mean). You tend to lose less dilution compared to putting it in the blender.
ON THE ROCKS
Helen revealed that messy ice cubes are best paired with short, crisp cocktails like an old-fashioned (file image)
These are actually messy ice cubes. If your refrigerator has an ice dispenser, you may end up with so-called ice stones instead of regimented cubes.
Art of bubble free ice
The buzzword in cool cocktail circles, ‘directional freeze’ is all about controlling the direction in which the ice freezes to ensure it’s clear, without bubbles or cloudiness.
Anna Sebastian, award-winning bar manager at the Artesian Bar in London, says, “This essentially means that there is no oxygen in the ice.
“Do this by freezing a large Tupperware box with water for 24 hours and then cutting off the cloudy piece at the bottom.” Use a large serrated knife while holding it in place with a tea towel. A small ice pick can help.
She adds, “The beauty of this ice cream is that it melts much more slowly while still keeping the drink cold so you can enjoy your drink at a perfect temperature. Plus, it looks great – always a talking point. ‘
Find Anna Sebastian’s premixed cocktails at skywalkercocktail.co.uk. All proceeds from the sale go to sleepers.
They don’t look as neat as cubes, but their often larger size can be a bonus, especially if you have a short, sharp cocktail like an old-fashioned one (whiskey, sugar, bitters and water) in your hand.
This is because they melt more slowly than small cubes. And if there is one thing that should be a short drink, it is powerful. They are also the perfect size (not too big) to throw in a shaker.
Well, not exactly an iceberg, but we’re talking big chunks of ice that work great in jugs with pre-mixed cocktails, summer cups or punches.
Likewise, you can throw one of these in your cup (also called a stone glass) when you drink a sip, like certain gins, rum or bourbon.
Make icebergs by filling and freezing a small tray or container with water, then break it into large chunks with the familiar tea towel, freezer bag and rolling pin, or by splitting with a knife.
A long drink like a Tom Collins – gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and soda served in a tall glass – requires a lot of ice.
But instead of throwing in four or five individual ice cubes, a single long ice shed doesn’t melt as quickly, while looking great in the glass.
If you have a silicone ice cube tray, just cut out a few of the dividers to join four squares in a row. Then fix it normally and make it yourself.
Helen said premixed cocktails and punches work well with really large chunks of ice (file image)
Shivi Ramoutar, chef and author of The Ice Kitchen, suggests pimping your ice cube. As she says, “Why freeze water when you can freeze lots of colorful, tasty and cleverly combined ingredients?”
Here are a few suggestions from Shivi you can try:
- Cut celery into small pieces and put one in each hole of the ice cube tray, along with a few celery leaves. Generously sprinkle sea salt and cracked black pepper in each, add a few dashes of Tabasco and Worcestershire and cover with a splash of lemon juice. For an extra kick, grate a little fresh horseradish. Add the frozen cubes to your Virgo or Bloody Marys.
- Place small pieces of cucumber and strawberry in each hole of the ice cube tray, add mint leaves and small pieces of orange and cover with lemonade. Add these to your Pimm’s.