Want to impress your guests? Glean these tips and recipes for nicer ice.
Ice has been called “cocktail’s last frontier.” No longer an oversight, ice is actually a crucial component in drinks (witnessed by the popularity of silicone trays, sphere ice molds and crystal clear cocktail ice delivery services popping up in cities all across the country). Sometimes you want it to do more than chill or dilute a drink, so regular frozen water won’t cut it. But by adding herbs, fruit, juices and other ingredients, ice is able to play the role of mixology magician, slowly changing the aroma, flavor and appearance of a drink from the first sip to the last. Presto, change-o!
Recipe courtesy of Torrence Swain, Head Bartender, Bourbon Steak, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Bourbon Steak.
Swain generally makes flavored ice cubes that will allow the drink to slowly develop different nuances as it melts. “I always begin considering how the ice cubes should influence the cocktail and then create the cocktail recipe with the desired effect in mind,” he explains. This Bloody Mary gets its spicy kick and fresh vegetal notes from horseradish and celery ice cubes.
- 1 ½ oz. vodka
- 1 individual sized can tomato juice
- ½ oz. spice mixture (your choice)
- ½ oz. lemon juice
- 1 celery juice ice cube (see Note)
- 1 horseradish ice cube (see Note)
Combine the vodka, tomato juice and spice mixture in a soda glass. Stir, and add the celery ice cube and then the horseradish ice cube. Serve in carafe tableside.
For the celery juice ice cubes:
Combine 16 oz. celery juice and 8 oz. filtered water in a 2-inch by 2-inch ice tray. Allow the liquid to freeze, and remove the cubes from the tray. Place in a large plastic bag and store in freezer before use.
For the horseradish ice:
Cook 1 cup of rice for 10 minutes in the amount of water called for. Drain and reserve water. Combine 12 oz. filtered water, 4 oz. finely grated horseradish and 8 oz. rice water, and place in a 2-inch by 2-inch ice tray. Place in a large plastic bag and store in freezer before use.
Other tips from Swain:
1. Ice cubes should complement the idea of the cocktail, e.g., herb-infused cubes for gin drinks, citrus-infused ones for those with vodka as their base. “But, that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative-- testing the limits of the drinker’s palate is what the craft is all about.”
2. Think outside the tray, with oddball items like cookie cutters, unique glassware or stainless steel containers. “Just make sure that when the ice cube is made, it can be safely and easily removed from the vessel.”
Recipe courtesy of Kathy Casey, Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen
The ice for this drink consists of a cucumber ice rod made by filling long plastic bags (available on amazon.com) with cucumber water, then tying and freezing them. “[They] are an inexpensive way to create a unique ice that slowly enhances the flavor of the drink as it melts,” says Casey.
- 2 oz. Hendrick’s Gin
- ¾ oz. Monin Watermelon Puree
- ¼ oz. simple syrup
- 1 oz. Sun Orchard Lime Juice
- 1 ½ oz. chilled soda water
- Cucumber ice rod (see Note)
- Watermelon wedge and/or cucumber slice or spear, for garnish
Measure gin, Monin Watermelon Puree, simple syrup, and lime juice into a pint mixing glass. Fill with ice, cap, and shake. Add soda to tin then strain into a Collins glass. Add cucumber ice rod and garnish.
For the cucumber ice rods:
Combine 4 pumps Monin Cucumber Concentrated Flavor with 4 cups water. Pour into 6-inch candy ice bags and freeze until ready to use.
Angostura Infused Ice Balls
Recipe and image courtesy of Kathy Casey, Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen
(Use in your favorite Old Fashioned recipe. Makes about 20 Ice Balls.)
- 10 cups water
- 2 tablespoons Angostura Bitters
In a pitcher, measure water and bitters. Pour water in ice ball or large format square silicone molds. Put into freezer. Once frozen, remove ice from molds, store ice in large zip lock bags, and keep frozen until ready to use.
Bubbles In The Garden
Recipe courtesy of Kathy Casey, Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen
This is a delicious and sophisticated punch. For individual service, Casey suggests pre-batching the punch base and then serving it over large format ice cubes frozen in square silicone molds and studded with edible flower petals and mint.
Makes about 11 1/2 cups, serves 16 - 18
- 1 cup clover or wildflower honey
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 ½ cups fresh squeezed Sunkist Meyer Lemon Juice
- 1 750ml bottle gin
- 1 cup elderflower liqueur such as St. Germain
- 1 bottle (750 ml) chilled Brut Champagne or Prosecco
- Sunkist Lemon peel twists, for garnish
In a large pitcher, combine the honey and warm water; stir until well dissolved. Then add the lemon juice, gin and elderflower liqueur. (At this point you can refrigerate the punch for service up to 3 days in advance). When ready to serve, pour the chilled mixture into a punch bowl or large drink pitcher (You could also split it between 2 pitchers and add half a bottle of Champagne to each.) Serve over ice and garnish with lemon twists.
Other tips from Casey:
1. Be sure the mixture for the ice has enough water content so the cubes freeze hard. “Using too much of a puree or other ingredients like syrups can impede the freezing process,” she says.
2. Make cubes from different brewed iced teas, or any type of bitters. “A ratio of 2 tablespoons plus 10 cups water is good to start with but will depend upon the strength of the bitters used,” she advises. “And Monin’s new Concentrated Flavors are excellent to add to water for bold flavor infusions without added sugar.”
3. Seek out tender, rather than firm, herbs. “Herbs like basil or mint...release their flavors more easily in ice than firmer herbs like rosemary.”
4. Soft molds are more durable than hard molds. “We like to use [square] silicone [molds] and also the ice rod/pop plastic bags we found on Amazon.”
The Double Rainbow
Recipe and image courtesy of Camper English, alcademics.com
- 1 oz. vodka
- 1 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
- 4 or so oz. soda water
- 4 dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters
- Lemon peel, for garnish
- Rainbow ice cubes (see Note)
Cut lemon peel into stars. Add all ingredients to a glass filled with ice in rainbow order (2 cubes per color, making a double complete rainbow). Garnish with lemon stars.
For the rainbow ice:
Add food coloring to an ice cube tray, filling with water and freezing.
More tips from English:
1. Freeze coconut water for summer rum drinks.
2. Don’t try to freeze a whole block of ice with additives. “They get pushed toward the middle/sides (wherever the last part to freeze is) and the block will be very inconsistent,” says English. “Instead use the two-inch silicon cube molds at the largest.”
3. Solids like herbs and berries will usually float on the surface and not give you the effect you want. “However, leftover citrus, herbs, and fruit can be cut up and put into a cake ring mold, which will make colorful ice for punches.”
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.