Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Do you have a chainsaw? No? Well, you can still make pretty good ice at home. Just don't expect perfection.
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Perfect ice is the holy grail of home mixology. You've likely seen it at "serious" cocktail bars: a large cube, stately and sharply faceted and impeccably clear, sitting at the bottom of a lowball glass and surrounded by negroni. Try to replicate it at home, though -- even with a large mold -- and your results will look different: cloudy, likely misshapen.
Here's the thing about ice: its density varies. That sexy, crystal-clear ice cube in your $14 drink is denser than the cloudy stuff in your freezer, which means it's slower to melt. Less melting means less dilution; your drink retains its flavor longer.
In the name of research (and also in the name of drinking), I set off to bravely discover the secret to perfect ice. I had grand plans to talk to every well-respected bartender in town. My freezer would become a shrine to hydrogen and oxygen in their most perfect state! I would make very sexy cocktails.
And then everyone shot me down. Turns out perfect ice is nearly impossible to make at home. Many professionals do it by freezing enormous blocks of ice (think tons), then shaving off the less-clear edges with chainsaws.
There is one way, though, recommended to me by bartender Sother Teague, which requires slowing down the freezing process. Cloudiness comes from air pockets trapped inside ice, which happens when ice freezes too quickly. You can get around this by freezing ice in ice cube molds inside a cooler full of water. Read about it here, try it at home, and let me know how it goes.
Your other option is this: accept defeat and make ice anyways. There are still ways that you can make it clearer, purer, and bigger than you ever have before. Here are your options:
The old "boil it twice, freeze it hot" song-and-dance. You've likely heard of this technique, which promises clearer ice. While double-boiling your water will remove many impurities -- a huge plus -- it won't keep your ice from getting cloudy. If you're going to put in the time and effort to boil, at least freeze it in big molds -- big ice melts less quickly than small ice. And it looks cooler.
The orange juice carton technique This strategy comes from Brandon Pettit, the pizzaiolo at Seattle's beloved Delancey and half of MollyandBrandon. It's a resourceful tip for anyone who wants big hunks of ice but doesn't have fancy trays. Simply rinse out a carton of OJ or milk, then cut it down so it's cube-shaped.
The brownie pan technique Here's a tip from Erik Lombardo, Food52 columnist and bar manager at Maialino in Manhattan. If you pour water into a brownie pan and freeze it, the resulting ice will be cloudy in the middle and clear on the outside. Let the block of ice sit for a few minutes, or run the pan, upside-down, under hot water, then pop out your hunk-o-ice. Slice it with a serrated knife, or chisel a crevice into the ice with something sharp and something hammer-y.
Even if you don't come up with the size or shape of ice you were hoping for, it will still be clear -- and likely look pretty cool. Cheers!
Tell us: Do you have any tips for making good ice? Think these techniques are dumb? Tell us in the comments!