Life is way too short to endure substandard cocktails. While reasonable people can bemoan the pretentiousness of the present hipster, bearded, chef-driven, artisinal, epoch we find ourselves in at the moment, let me just say I don’t miss what passed for cocktails in my youth. Here’s how mixology math used to work in the dark ages: Maguerita=tequila+sweet and sour mix. Old fashion=whisky+sweet and sour mix. Mai Tai=rum+sweet and sour mix.
What the cocktail sages of Brooklyn and Silver Lake have taught us is that ingredients matter. Take, for instance, the ice.
What if you could make ice as glorious as a pristine iceberg spotted on a bright and sunny arctic summer day? Isn’t a cocktail as much an experience for the eyes as well as the tongue? Thankfully it’s easy to make clear ice free of cloudy impurities. Here’s how you do it:
1. Take a small cooler and fill it almost to the top with water and stick the cooler in the freezer. Leave the top of the cooler off. The insulation in the cooler will cause the water to freeze from the top down. The minerals and impurities in the water that cause cloudy ice will settle to the bottom of the cooler. Later, you will harvest the pristine, clear ice off the top. I filled my cooler with tap water that I filtered with a counter top water filter. A side note on water filters–our tap water tastes better when filtered–depending on where you live you may not need to filter it.
2. Around 24 hours later take the cooler out of the freezer, run some water over the ice (to help release the ice) and turn the cooler upside down. You should have around two inches of ice on the top of the cooler and a lot of unfrozen water on the bottom which will pour out all over your counter and floor (watch out for this!). The water is a good thing. You don’t want to freeze the whole block as you will have to separate the clear ice from the cloudy ice.
3. If all goes as planned you’ll be left with a block of clear ice. To cut the ice into cubes, score the ice with a bread knife and give the top of the knife a tap with a rubber mallet. I like to make large cubes for mixing old fashions but you can cut the ice into any size you like. Put the cut cubes in a bag in the freezer.
4. Invite your friends over for some high-end cocktails.
One tip: try not to jostle the cooler in the freezer. If you do you might end up with some irregularities that will make it more difficult to cut the ice block into neat cubes.
There’s a thin margin between the gutter and the stars when it comes to cocktails and an extra step such as simple as chilling the glass or flaming the orange twist can make a huge difference. Something as simple as clear ice can elevate a drink from mediocrity into cocktail glory.
For more details, watch the Cocktail Chemist explain how to make clear ice in both blocks, rectangles and spheres: