Thursday, August 14, 2008

Clearly, Ice

by Pinky Gonzales

A world without ice implies no cold drinks - and that would be a terrible, terrible world. There of course was a time not too long ago when the world did not have chilled drinks. How did we get 'em? Boston's own Frederic Tudor, a Beacon Hill ice trade maverick dubbed "The Ice King" was Beginning in the early nineteenth century he shipped out blocks harvested from local ponds (such as Walden) and created a worldwide demand. Thanks, Fred!

Ice and ice melt, a.k.a. water, make our cocktails more drinkable. A martini needs to have a little melt, otherwise you're crazy hammered in a minute (unless your name is John Myers.) Ice gadgets for the home make it all more fun. Not everyone can have a Kold Draft machine at their house (let alone their bar), but we can stock up on a few tools & gadgets to enhance cocktail hour. (I mention these in this week's Weekly Dig):

Silicone trays. A company called Tovolo makes soft trays which render perfect, roughly 1" cubes, non-messy, and which look
swell stacked high in a Collins glass. $11.95 set of 2, Kitchen Arts, Newbury St. Note: You can find elsewhere all sorts of novelty shapes too, if you must, ranging from dog bones to Playboy bunnies. I have found some of these shapes exceedingly tricky to remove, however, so be wary.

The Lewis Bag & Ice Crush Kit. A great way to get your frustration out, make your guests chuckle, and have lovely cocktails. Sturdy canvas bag with a wooden mallet. $15,

Manual crushers.
Vintage or retro-new, hand-crank, choppers, tappers, all good. Some nice ones are made by Ice-O-Mat, Dazey, and look for the neat-o Tap-Icer gadget. And speaking of the latter, which is an old tool, the back of a good bar spoon cracks ice held in the hand just as well. Check Buckaroo's Mercantile, Cambridge, for the occasional vintage nugget.

Electric crushers. Less charm, less work. Bought mine at Goodwill for five bucks - same one I used in 1975.

Ice pick and block. Freeze water in a pan, dislodge with spot of hot water, chip away with an old pick. Drop piece into rocks glass. Fill with rye, stir with finger. Satisfyingly toast to Mr. Tudor.

For more on ice, check out what local (welcome back!!) bartender Josey Packard has to say about it here:


Chris said...

Any thoughts on how to best get clear ice at home? I've tried and tried; for months I was running water through my Brita and then boiling it (to remove air) before putting it in the freezer. No dice, still cloudy. For not I've given up on the boiling, although I still use the Brita to improve flavor.

I've been planning to get a couple loaf pans for larger blocks, but I'm afraid that the cloudy effect would be even worse.

JacquelineC said...

Did you see the article in the NYT? Link here in this post...boiling twice, I think. Gourmet Ice.

Loved my square cubes silicone trays. They got unceremoniously dumped when my new reverse-osmosis filtered ice maker came. But they're crescents. wah. I know, should I whine? Smack me, but...I did love those solid square cubes...

the leather district gourmet

Roxy said...

What are your thoughts on the ice cubes that are refreezable. You know the colored-plastic ones? I love the way they look in a clear drink, but i'm not sure they get my drinks cold enough.

Pinky Gonzales said...

Chris -It's a good question. Trusting that your Brita filter is new and your trays are clean, you might further try using distilled water, and boiling twice. With a short google search, this demo was found:

Another tip: Bartender Jeff Grdinich makes clear cubes for his bar program at the White Mountain Cider Co. in NH and advises storing the frozen cubes in an airtight container/baggie/etc. to avoid transmission of freezer odors into the drink later.

Jacquelinec - thanks for sharing the link(s) and the thoughts!

Roxy- while it sounds like it could be fun for novelty's sake, or if for some reason it's imperative you have no ice melt in your cocktail - personally i don't love anything plastic in my drink, unless it's a silly mermaid or marlin that i can easily take out!