Ice Vs Gin, our inner turmoil
We think about ice a lot. Like, a lot a lot. It’s one of our primary concerns – whether or not we have enough in the freezer come gin o clock in the afternoon. Is this a reasonable thing to be this nervous about? It’s on a par with spiders, snakes and clowns as far as phobia’s go we’d say…
We also think about it in slightly more (or maybe less, given your priorities) practical terms, not only what you can do with it, but what options the home cocktail enthusiast has. Ice is to cocktails what heat is to food – it’s science, precision and enhancement, so the impact is actually far greater that you might have considered. We think it’s probably the most underrated ingredient in the cocktail world, so we’re here to deliver our two cents worth on the subject…
Or should that be: Dilution? A common myth is that less ice in a drink means it dilutes less, but this is a fallacy.
The more ice that is in your drink, the colder it is overall, which means the ice melts much slower as the temperature difference between cube and liquid is less extreme. In other words, because of the colder temperature there is less dilution, so the flavours are not watered down allowing you to enjoy the full flavour for longer. If you don’t believe us – the best examples of this is getting ice and sliced at a festival. The two cubes, a sorry lemon wheel and a plastic cup tends to mean by the time you walk away from the bar, it’s a diluted mess of what was once a promising drink. The rare times you get iced appropriately, the better that drink was. We’ve all been there, you know we speak the truth here.
If you want less dilution – either go for no ice, or a bucket full per glass*.
*This does not apply to fizzy drinks drawn from taps and pumps. More ice means you’re getting about five sips out of your £2.50 coke. Not on.
Big bastard ice
So, if the amount of ice is important to keep it all cold, does cube size matter when it comes to dilution? Most certainly. Bigger is definitely better in this circumstance, as the added mass means the cubes melt far, far slower.
We asked The Ice Co, who supply ice of all shapes and sizes to supermarkets across the UK, to share just a smidgen of their insight on the matter. Their Super Cubes, which comes in at three times larger than a standard ice cube (weighing in at 63g vs the average of 19g), lasts up to four times longer. Not that you’ll need that time to finish your drink, but still… it’s safeguarding.
Does Shape Matter
There’s no other way to say this: round balls look sexy as hell in a Negroni.
But do they melt faster? It’s hard to say on this one, as no one every makes a mini round ball of ice – they’re almost always the size of a fish, which just isn’t the case for normal ice cubes.
In theory, though, yes? No? Maybe? Ice melts faster when there’s a greater surface area exposed. This would mean calculating the exposed area of a sphere vs a cube, and if you’re doing that, you’ve probably missed the point of what makes a good drink in the first place. Honestly, we can geek out like no one else, but if you’re sitting there, G&T in hand, wondering which shape is the best for your drink, we think it’s probably about time you tipped out the gin in your glass and invested in something a little stronger.
Density does matter, though, and density and shape are definitely intertwined. If you’re using a cube moult that makes semi spheres, or – perish the thought – one that makes ice with holes in the centre, you’re inviting trouble (or at least a half arsed drink) in.
It’s also worth noting that tonic, in some ways, relies on ice to really effervesce in a glass. Tonic water contains carbon dioxide molecules and when they hit the ice, the tiny imperfections on an ice cube nucleates the bubbles further. You’ll get perfectly fizzy G&T with or without ice, or with a big block or loads of smaller ones – it’s just that the perception of how fizzy your tonic is will be somewhat lower if you’ve gone for a breeze block compared to normal sized cubes. Our point? Spare the big balls for the Negroni’s, Gin Old Fashioned’s etc…
Clear vs Cloudy Ice
“it is almost impossible to freeze crystal clear ice cubes at home due to the naturally occurring minerals.” So say the good folks over at The Ice Co.
Fair cop on that. It is surprisingly hard to achieve clear ice. You have to enter the realms of directional freezing, which in turn means having to create custom contraptions. This is an endeavour which, in our experience, makes you desperately need the end drink more than ever…
We see the appeal. We dream of the appeal. Going to a high end bar and being able to gaze into a crystal clear ice future is one of life’s great luxuries, but we bid an enthusiastic adieu to notion of doing this at home.
The reason for the cloudiness in homemade ice is a mixture of minerals and air bubbles. As the water freezes it crystallises and tiny bubbles of air form. Examples of minerals that cause the cloudiness are calcium carbonate or a high level of minerals (also known as turbidity if you want to through in some science vocab next time you bore the bar keep about your home efforts). When water is placed in an ice cube tray the water will freeze from the outside in and this pushes the minerals to the centre, thus the cloudiness (and also thus the term directional freezing to avoid this).
SO what to do if you are desperate to increase your #Drinkstagram appeal / appease the snobby cloudy ice brigade? We’ll give you three guesses…
Get some party ice from the supermarket.
Spare yourself the hassle of MacGyver’ing your freezer. Honestly, life’s too short for that. Let the experts do it. They’ve got it all worked out. The Ice Co. make theirs by spraying water into inverted revolving cups; the water takes approximately 20 minutes to freeze and will freeze into multiple layers. As these layers freeze, the minerals do not freeze at the same rate as the water, therefore due to their mass they effectively fall out of the process leaving the ice crystal clear. Pretty cool, no? Ice cool…
Flavour the ice tray…
Onto what you can do at home… Our freezer at Gin Foundry HQ is always well stocked with super cubes (bought in), and a tray of home made cubes, made using left over tonic (we serve one part gin to two parts tonic, so always have part of a bottle or can left). It freezes well, and you can use the cubes in the next drink alongside others, meaning even if they diluted, it’s diluting more tonic so not really changing the flavour dramatically.
Alternatively, flavour the ice tray by adding slices of citrus, flowers or herbs in with the water as it freezes.
It looks pretty, but it also means that your drink evolves over time, and as natural dilution occurs, the cube’s flavour (be it herbal / citrussy etc.) also plays out stronger and stronger – it’s great for Punches over the summer where you want the drink to change and improve over time, not worsen into a watery, flavourless mess.
It is possibly embarrassing and maybe ridiculous that we could care so much about such a basic subject as ice, but it is – as we said – the foundation of a good cocktail. It holds everything together. It is the froth on your Espresso Martini, the perfect “aah” of refreshment in that first G&T of the day, and the delicate clink of a Friday night Negroni.
Ice is an under-appreciated martyr, fading into nothing as it serves to make your drink perfect.
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