Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mixed Plate: Great Balls of Ice

There's a lot of obscure, obsessive niches in the food and drink world -- no edible stone goes unturned or unexamined with a fine-toothed food-a-phile comb. Not even ice. Yes, you heard it correctly. Even the lowly cube of frozen H20 can't escape the high-powered microscope of people with waaaaaaay too much time on their hands.

Ice sphera obscura - Photo by Wasabi Prime

When you talk to hardcore bartenders, they'll kick the cocktail nerd drive into overtime to get that perfectly crystal-clear cube of ice. Why should it be perfectly clear? They'll say it speaks to the purity of the water, that the cloudy haze in the center of the ice reflects the water's impurities and mineral content. It sounds so apocryphal, but sure sounds good when a nattily-dressed bartender tells you the tale while handing over a perfectly-made Old Fashioned with a hand-carved sphere of ice keeping the drink perfectly chilled. And yes, there's some incredibly talented folks who can do that.

Ice gems and baubles - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I have not the Jedi skill to carve a chunk of ice into a perfect sphere freehand -- I wish to keep my hands intact and palms un-skewered by sharp objects, so I went for gimmick ice molds. I didn't even need to buy these -- I received the plastic spheres as a gift and already had the silicone "jewel" mold which was also a gift. I had been looking for a reason to try these out and the summer weather and the need for a cool beverage was reason enough. I don't usually do product testing, and this isn't really official "testing," but I did want to see how novelty molds would work.

I boiled some water that had first been run through a filter pitcher, to remove as many of the impurities as possible. I then let the filtered boiled water cool down a bit in a coffee press carafe -- the glass is heatproof, so it was a good holding spot. I filled the molds most of the way up, accounting for a little space for the water to expand when it froze. I let them sit in the freezer overnight before unmolding. I have to say the silicone jewel tray was somewhat pfail -- the open top probably contributed to it, but the little gems had a lot of cracks which made for unsuccessful removal from the molds. Imperfect gems, to say the least, even for the ones that weren't fractured into several pieces. The circular sphere molds worked surprisingly well, in terms of holding their seal -- you fill it from the top but it's a snap-together mold of two halves. I wasn't sure if the water would leak, but they seemed to hold up while freezing. I was able to unmold a sphere for a drink without issue. There were still a few cracks and despite the boiling/filtering of the water, I think at-home freezers just do the job too quickly. I've heard bartenders mention freezers that chill and freeze slowly do a better job of keeping purified water clear during the freezing process. But I'm not going to split hairs on that -- I will say the notion of a large piece of ice that has plenty of surface area to chill a drink does wonders. It melts slowly, keeps the drink very cold and at the end of the day, that's all we want right? Novelty shapes, optional.

Cold drinky? Wasabi likey! - Photo by Wasabi Prime


  1. To my knowledge (and nerding out at the ice seminar at TOTC) cloudiness = air rather than impurities. Boiling, filtering, slower freezing, or even letting the water sit before freezing should help the ice look more clear.

    Nice balls :)

  2. I JUST read about making the balls clear yesterday. It seems like quite a process. Your balls are sparkly, pretty, and need to come visit auntie Linda. Also, I have something for you. YOu'd better claim it soon- my thumb is black, so who knows how much longer I can keep it alive? :)


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